DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet has been clinically proven to reduce blood pressure within 2 weeks of individuals following the diet. It is not only known to help manage blood pressure but is also designed for weight loss program, helps prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers.
Who should follow a DASH meal plan?
In fact, a DASH meal plan can be a part of any healthy diet. It will not only help lower blood pressure but it will offer additional heart health benefits including lowering LDL cholesterol and inflammation.
How does the DASH meal plan work?
The diet consists of foods that are low in sodium and consists of a variety of foods that are rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium are known to help lower blood pressure. The diet is rich in fiber which in turn helps to lower blood pressure and shed the extra pounds which in turn will help to lower blood pressure.
What should you eat on a DASH meal plan?
- Cereals such as hell, brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa are packed with nutrients such as proteins, B vitamins and trace minerals, fiber and antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of several diseases. However, processed grains lack most of the nutrients and should be avoided.
- Include fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, Greek yogurt, paneer in your diet instead of full-fat alternatives. For those who are lactose intolerant, lactose-free milk and dairy products are an alternative.
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc, beans, dals and seeds like sunflower seeds, melon seeds, etc are part of a DASH diet with a healthy diet. They are rich in dietary fiber protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals such as zinc and magnesium, etc. Although nuts contain the healthy fats, it would be wise to eat them in limited amounts as they are high in calories. Also avoid salted or honey roasted nuts for their high sodium and sugar content.
- Lean meat, eggs, poultry and fish in moderation rather than meat with a high content of saturated fat. Processed meats such as bacon, ham, sausages, salami, etc. contain a significant amount of sodium and therefore limit intake. Occasional intake of red meat is allowed.
- Fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in potassium which plays an important role in lowering blood pressure. If you are someone who is not fond of fruits and vegetables, make the change gradually. Add an extra fruit or vegetable to the day in addition to what you are currently running. Prefers a whole fruit over juice. Unsweetened dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries, dried figs, etc. are good travel choices. Make sure there is a vegetable at every meal.
- The diet should be low in saturated fats and total fats. A diet rich in saturated fats increases the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Fats are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and help build the body’s immune system. The use of oils such as olive oil, rice oil, mustard oil should be promoted in every meal and trans fats that are commonly found in processed and fried foods should be avoided.
To make this diet work even better here are some additional tips: –
- Reducing alcohol intake can help lower blood pressure. Therefore, keep your alcohol intake under control.
- Aerobic exercise together with the DASH diet works faster to lower blood pressure.
- Read food labels to choose products that have a lower sodium content.
- Stress can raise blood pressure even if the diet is healthy. Therefore, stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, etc. will help keep blood pressure under control.
- Poor sleep increases blood pressure. So, 7-8 hours of good sleep helps keep blood pressure under control.
- If you are a smoker, then quitting it would help lower your blood pressure.
- Take your medicine as prescribed.
- Limit salt intake to 1 teaspoon a day.
Making a lifestyle change is an effort. It is a long-term commitment that must be made for good health. Making small changes will yield faster results than making dramatic changes at once and losing commitment along the way. Before starting the DASH diet, consult a nutritionist who can help you develop an individual program for yourself.