DASH diet: what is it?

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Eating the right diet can significantly reduce high blood pressure. However, the variety of diets and eating patterns is bewilderingly wide. The DASH diet is said to have a positive effect on blood pressure.

Food as medicine

«Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,» is what Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, was already preaching back in ancient Greek times. And he has been proven right to this day. A combination of healthy eating, exercise and stress management has a preventive effect on high blood pressure, is an excellent treatment option when the first signs appear, and is the best supplement to regular medication.

DASH diet for high blood pressure

When it comes to diets, most people think of weight loss, and the number of diets available is bewilderingly high. However, if the primary aim is to prevent chronic illnesses, scientific studies come to conclusive results: when it comes to high blood pressure, the DASH diet is very relevant. It is based in science and has a proven positive effect on hypertension and the prevention of strokes and heart attacks.

How does the DASH diet work?

The ‘dietary approaches to stop hypertension’ developed by the U.S.-based National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute prove that after following the DASH eating plan for 2 months, it is possible to reduce the upper (systolic) blood value by 10mmHg and the lower (diastolic) by 5mmHg. This result is comparable to the effect of blood pressure medication.

These are the features of the DASH diet:

  • lots of vegetables and fruit, low-fat dairy products – less animal fats & sugar
  • reduction of salt consumption to 1 teaspoon a day
  • use of whole grain products

DASH eating plan

This is an example of an eating plan for one person requiring 2,000 calories a day:

Food

Servings

1 serving corresponds to:

Whole grain products
7 – 8 servings
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1/2 cup rice, pasta or cornflakes
Vegetables 4 – 5 servings
  • 1 cup raw leaf vegetables
  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables
Fruits 4 – 5 servings
  • 1 medium-sized fruit
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit
Low-fat dairy products 2 – 3 servings
  • 1 yoghurt
  • 250ml milk
Lean meet, poultry or fish 2 servings or less
  • 80g – 90g lean meat, skinless poultry or fish
Fats and oils 2 – 3 teaspoons
  • 1 teaspoon margarine
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon salad dressing
Nuts, seeds and red beans 4 – 5 servings a week
  • 1/3 cup nuts
  • 1 tablespoon seeds
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans
Sweet products 5 servings a week
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 250ml lemonade / soft drinks

Small changes, big effects

The term ‘diet’ is a little misleading, since those people wishing to lower their blood pressure and benefit from the positive effects of a healthy eating plan are best advised to change their eating habits on a long-term basis. This doesn’t necessarily require a detailed eating plan, since the Mediterranean diet also has a positive impact on people’s health.

  1. Fruit and vegetables at every meal.
    Fresh fruit with oats for breakfast, half a plate of salad or vegetables at lunch and dinner.
  2. Reduce salt.
    From bread to sausages to ready-made meals – salt is hidden almost everywhere. By cooking yourself and widely avoiding pre-prepared meals, you can reduce your salt consumption. There is also another simple trick: cook with herbs, in order to still enjoy flavour.
  3. Use olive oil.
    After all, this is a healthy oil. Other unsaturated fats such as rapeseed or linseed oil are also a good alternative to foods like butter.
  4. Healthy sources of protein.
    Fish and legumes are the best choice, followed by poultry and dairy products.
  5. Exercise and relaxation.
    Start gradually with a short walk after your meal, for example. Or ride your bicycle to work. This is good for both body and soul.


Sources

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