The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a diet plan recommended to individuals looking to lower their blood pressure levels or those at risk of developing hypertension. This post discusses the benefits and limitations of the DASH diet, lists of food included, and some sample meal plans.
The DASH diet was first introduced in 1996 at a meeting of the American Heart Association. Later, in 1997, it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Ever since, its popularity has grown, with many benefitting from the diet.
The diet emphasises consuming food items with blood pressure-lowering nutrients. It is a combination diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, nuts, and seeds. The diet is richer in nutrients such as fibre, calcium, magnesium, and potassium and low in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.
The DASH diet aims to promote a healthy lifestyle that helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other health problems.
Who benefits from the diet?
The DASH diet is for individuals looking to reduce their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Also, the diet is suitable for anyone looking to improve their overall health and prevent chronic diseases.
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Why is the DASH diet beneficial for health?
The DASH diet is often recommended for those with hypertension or a risk of heart disease. However, the diet offers several other benefits too.
Some of the key benefits of the DASH diet include:
- Lower blood pressure: The diet is particularly designed to lower blood pressure. Hence, the DASH diet is an excellent choice for those with hypertension or at risk of developing it.
- Improved heart health: It is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products, which can help boost heart health and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
- Weight management: The diet emphasises healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Further, it limits unhealthy fats, added sugars, and processed foods, which can help with weight management.
- Increased nutrient intake: Rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fibre, the diet is excellent for overall health and wellness.
- Decreased risk of chronic diseases: It may help decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and kidney disease.
- Supports mental health: The diet is rich in nutrients like folate, iron, and magnesium. These nutrients are essential for good mental health and hence can help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
- Easy to follow: The DASH diet is simple, flexible, and easy to follow. Therefore, it is a great choice for those who are looking to make healthier eating choices.
List of foods included in the DASH diet
The DASH diet for hypertension includes foods from various nutrient groups, and the following is a list of foods included in the diet.
- Fruits and vegetables: Aim to eat 8-10 servings of various colourful fruits and vegetables daily.
- Whole grains: Include whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, brown rice, and quinoa.
- Low-fat dairy: Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Lean proteins: Opt for lean meats like chicken, fish, and turkey and plant-based proteins like beans and legumes.
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: Add nuts, seeds, and legumes to your diet for healthy fats, protein, and fibre.
- Healthy oils: Use healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil for cooking and dressing.
- Limited amounts of sodium and added sugars: Limit your intake of salt and added sugars, and choose low-sodium and no-sugar-added products when possible.
- Limited amounts of alcohol: If you drink, limit it to one drink/day for women and two drinks/day for men.
List of foods to be avoided in the DASH diet
The DASH diet emphasises nutrient-dense, whole foods and limits the following:
- Saturated and trans fats
- Refined sugars and sweets
- Red meats
- Processed foods
- High-fat dairy products
- Fried foods
- Fast food
- Artificial sweeteners
- Foods high in added sugars, such as soft drinks and fruit drinks.
Some sample meal plans of the DASH diet
Meal Plan 1:
|Breakfast: Whole-wheat toast with scrambled eggs and sliced tomatoes|
|Mid-morning Snack: Sliced apple with honey|
|Lunch: Spinach salad with grilled salmon, cherry tomatoes, and a balsamic vinaigrette|
|Afternoon Snack: Celery sticks with hummus and cherry tomatoes|
|Dinner: Veggie stir-fry with tofu, brown rice, and a side of fruit salad|
Meal Plan 2:
|Breakfast: Whole-grain waffles with fresh berries and a dollop of low-fat yogurt|
|Mid-morning Snack: Cucumber and carrot sticks with hummus|
|Lunch: Grilled chicken sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and avocado|
|Afternoon Snack: Whole-grain, low-sodium crackers with low-fat cheese and sliced apples|
|Dinner: Baked salmon with sweet potato mash and steamed green beans|
Meal Plan 3:
|Breakfast: Greek yogurt with honey, mixed nuts, and chopped fruit (avoid melons as they are best eaten alone)|
|Mid-morning Snack: A serving of fresh berries|
|Lunch: Tuna salad with whole-grain crackers and sliced cucumber|
|Afternoon Snack: Fresh fruit salad with a handful of nuts|
|Dinner: Grilled chicken breast with brown rice, mixed veggies, and a tossed salad|
Meal Plan 1:
|Breakfast: Oatmeal cooked in almond milk with sliced bananas and chopped walnuts or|
Whole wheat toast with avocado and sliced tomatoes
|Mid-morning Snack: Apple slices with almond butter|
|Lunch: Quinoa and vegetable stir-fry (with peppers, onions, broccoli, and carrots) and Mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette|
|Afternoon Snack: Carrots and cucumber slices with hummus|
|Dinner: Lentil soup with whole wheat bread and Roasted sweet potatoes|
Meal Plan 2:
|Breakfast: Whole wheat bagel with tofu cream cheese and sliced tomatoes|
|Mid-morning Snack: Handful of almonds|
|Lunch: Grilled vegetable sandwich (with eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers) on whole wheat bread and Green salad with sliced avocado and lemon vinaigrette|
|Afternoon Snack: Rice cake with peanut butter and sliced banana|
|Dinner: Vegan chilli with whole wheat tortilla chips and Steamed broccoli|
Meal Plan 3:
|Breakfast: Smoothie made with almond milk, spinach, and chia seeds, along with Whole wheat toast with almond butter|
|Mid-morning Snack: Trail mix with dried fruit and nuts|
|Lunch: Roasted vegetable wrap (with roasted bell peppers, zucchini, and squash) on a whole wheat tortilla and Greek salad with tofu feta cheese|
|Afternoon Snack: Orange slices|
|Dinner: Baked sweet potato with black beans and salsa and Steamed green beans|
Meal Plan 1:
|Breakfast: Idli (steamed rice cake) with coconut chutney and sambar (lentil-based vegetable stew), a glass of low-fat milk|
|Mid-morning Snack: A serving of fruit (banana, apple, or orange)|
|Lunch: Brown rice with tomato rasam (spicy tomato soup), a mixed vegetable stir-fry, and a cucumber salad with a lemon vinaigrette|
|Afternoon Snack: Masala chai (tea with spices and less or no sugar) and a handful of unsalted roasted peanuts|
|Dinner: Baked fish with a tomato-onion sauce, a side of spinach dal (lentil-based stew), and a small portion of whole wheat naan bread|
Meal Plan 2:
|Breakfast: Pesarattu (green gram dosa) with tomato chutney, a cup of herbal tea|
|Mid-morning Snack: A bowl of mixed fruit (papaya, apple, and pineapple) or melons or grapes and oranges|
|Lunch: Quinoa vegetable biryani with raita (yogurt-based side dish) and a cucumber and mint salad|
|Afternoon Snack: Masala buttermilk (spiced yogurt drink)|
|Dinner: Grilled chicken with coriander-mint chutney, a side of cabbage and carrot thoran (vegetable stir-fry), and a small portion of whole wheat roti|
Meal Plan 3:
|Breakfast: Upma (semolina-based savoury porridge) with a side of coconut chutney, a glass of low-fat milk|
|Mid-morning Snack: A handful of almonds and a piece of fruit (pear, guava, or kiwi)|
|Lunch: Brown rice with mixed vegetable sambar and a beetroot and carrot salad with a lemon-tahini dressing|
|Afternoon Snack: A cup of filter coffee and a small piece of dark chocolate|
|Dinner: Eggplant curry with a side of tindora (ivy gourd) stir-fry and a small portion of whole wheat paratha|
Are there any disadvantages to following the diet?
Here are some of the common problems of the DASH diet for hypertension:
- Limitations on certain foods: The DASH diet limits certain foods, such as processed foods, high-fat dairy products, and added sugars, which may make it difficult for some people to follow.
- Expensive: The diet may be more expensive than other diets as it emphasises fresh, whole foods, such as veggies, fruits, lean protein, and low-fat dairy and the hard truth is such healthy foods are becoming more expensive than unhealthy lots.
- Time-consuming: Preparing meals based on the DASH diet can be time-consuming, especially for busy individuals who may not have time to prepare meals from scratch.
- Lack of variety: Though the DASH diet includes a variety of food groups, some people may still find it monotonous due to its restrictions on certain food groups.
- May not suit everyone: It may not be suitable for those with specific dietary needs, such as people with diabetes or food allergies.
- Hard to maintain: The diet may not be sustainable for some individuals as it requires a significant change in eating habits.
Who should not follow?
The following groups are typically advised not to follow the DASH diet:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women: It may not provide enough nutrients needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Individuals with restricted potassium needs: The diet is high in potassium, so it may not be appropriate for people with kidney problems or taking certain medications.
- People with liver or gallbladder disease: It is high in fat, which may not be suitable for individuals with liver or gallbladder disease.
A word from Love4wellness
The DASH diet emphasises whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. In addition, it limits sodium, sweets, and sugary drinks.
The daily meal plan should include three main meals and two snacks and aim to provide about 2,000 calories. Avoid adding excess salt or unhealthy fats to your meals, and choose whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible.
ALSO, the diet lowers blood pressure, BUT if your blood pressure is exceedingly high, it is best to consult a physician rather than following this diet awaiting improvement in blood pressure levels naturally. If you do so, your condition may aggravate, putting your health at risk.
And finally, as with any diet, it is good to consult a registered dietitian or a medical professional to tailor your meal plan to your specific needs and preferences before trying.