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Daily Bite: Is the DASH Diet Right for You?

June 5th, 2012 by eHealthGuide

The DASH diet, an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is endorsed by the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Research studies have proven that following the DASH diet does lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Improve Your Health

Blood pressure is an indicator of health and wellness. High blood pressure, if left untreated, can cause stroke, heart attack, kidney damage and an array of other serious maladies. 

The DASH diet works most effectively for patients who have prehypertension or moderately elevated blood pressure. Patients with severe hypertension will benefit from the diet, but will likely remain on their prescribed anti-hypertensive medication.

DASH in Action

The average American diet contains about 3,500 mg of sodium a day. The main goal of the DASH diet is to reduce your sodium (salt) intake to 2,300 mg a day on the standard DASH diet and 1,500 mg a day on the low sodium DASH diet. It is also low in saturated and total fat and high in fiber. Following the DASH diet can begin to lower your blood pressure in as little as 14 days. The average reduction is 5 to 9 points over 3 months. Here are the recommended guidelines:

  • Grains (6-8 servings a day): Include whole grain rice, bread, pasta and cereal, not processed grains. Whole grains are fiber and nutrient rich.
  • Vegetables (4-5 servings a day): Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals (especially potassium and magnesium), tomatoes, broccoli, a variety of greens and sweet potatoes are suggested.
  • Fruit (4-5 servings a day): Low in fat and rich in fiber, potassium and magnesium, fruit is beneficial. Avoid high fat avocado and coconut. 
  • Dairy (2-3 servings a day): Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Lean meat, poultry and fish (6 or less servings a day): Limit meat intake. Focus on eating tuna or salmon that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes (4-5 servings a week): Almonds, kidney beans and lentils are protein and fiber-rich.
  • Fats and oils (2-3 servings a day): Although necessary to help vitamin absorption, limit fat intake to reduce heart disease risk.
  • Sweets (5 or less servings per week): Enjoy a treat. Try sorbet, jellybeans or other fat free choices.  

Always check with your primary care physician before starting any new diet or exercise plan.

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