High blood pressure, often called the “silent killer”, doesn’t always show obvious symptoms but can lead to severe health problems like heart attacks or strokes.
To combat this, scientists have worked on various strategies.
One of the most successful approaches is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH for short.
What is the DASH Diet?
DASH isn’t a fad diet but a lifelong approach to healthy eating.
It was created after researchers noticed that people who consumed a plant-focused diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and low-fat dairy, had lower blood pressure. Here’s what’s been discovered:
Emphasis on Nutrient-rich Foods: According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the DASH diet emphasizes foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
These nutrients play a key role in reducing blood pressure. This means more greens, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Limited Salt Intake: Salt, especially the amounts found in most processed foods, has been linked to high blood pressure.
A major DASH study found that combining the standard DASH diet with reduced salt intake further lowered blood pressure. The DASH guidelines suggest limiting salt intake to less than a teaspoon a day.
Rich in Whole Grains and Lean Protein: Instead of munching on processed foods, DASH recommends whole grains like oats, brown rice, and quinoa.
It also encourages lean proteins like fish and poultry, as found in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Reduction in Saturated Fats and Sugars: The DASH diet also suggests cutting back on foods high in saturated fats like fatty cuts of meat and full-fat dairy.
Sugary drinks and sweets should be consumed in moderation, as they can contribute to weight gain and high blood pressure.
Evidence Backing DASH
The DASH diet has been extensively studied and for good reason. Here’s what the research says:
Lowers Blood Pressure: The primary goal of DASH is to reduce blood pressure, and it does this remarkably well.
The aforementioned study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that participants following the DASH diet had significant reductions in their blood pressure within just two weeks.
Reduces Heart Disease Risk: High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease. By reducing blood pressure, DASH also reduces the risk of heart disease.
A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirmed that people following the DASH diet had a much lower risk of heart disease than those on a typical Western diet.
Weight Management: Although not specifically a weight-loss diet, the nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods recommended in DASH can help in weight management.
A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association highlighted weight loss as an added benefit for some people following the DASH diet.
How to Get Started with DASH
If the DASH diet sounds like a good fit for you, here’s how to start:
Gradual Changes: Suddenly changing your diet can be challenging. Instead, try incorporating more DASH-approved foods into your meals gradually.
Watch Your Salt: Reducing salt can be tricky, especially if you eat processed foods. Start by checking food labels and opting for low-sodium versions.
Plan Your Meals: A little planning can go a long way. Consider meal prepping or making a weekly menu to ensure you’re sticking to DASH guidelines.
The DASH diet offers a scientifically-backed approach to reducing blood pressure and promoting overall heart health.
Remember, it’s not about strict restrictions, but making healthier food choices for a better, longer life. Before starting any diet, especially if you have health concerns, always consult with a healthcare professional.
Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.
Copyright © 2023 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.