The DASH diet is considered one of the healthiest and most sustainable diet options out there. While it was designed for individuals dealing with hypertension, it can help anyone improve their health and lose weight.
DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
Around 108 million Americans live with hypertension, with only 24% of them having their condition under control. Many Americans have hypertension without knowing it, or they know it but find it too challenging to manage.
While a common way of treating hypertension is through medication, many people are wary of using medication that can lead to unwanted side effects. The DASH diet came about as doctors and nutritionists looked for a way to treat or prevent hypertension through diet instead of medication.
The DASH diet is all about eating the heart-healthy foods you’ll find in many other diets
Real-life benefits of the DASH diet
The diet is known for reducing the risk of developing hypertension, also called high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is how much force your circulating blood exerts on your arteries.
It’s broken up into two measurements–systolic and diastolic. The systolic measurement is how much pressure is behind your blood when your heart contracts. The diastolic measurement is how much pressure exists when your heart relaxes (or in between heartbeats).
A healthy range is considered at or below 120/80 mm Hg. The top number is the systolic pressure and the bottom number is diastolic.
When blood pressure gets too high, it can cause heart attacks, stroke, and kidney disease.
The causes of high blood pressure are varied. For some, the causes are largely due to lifestyle factors like lack of exercise, high-sodium diet, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, stress, or being overweight.
And for others, the causes can be due to conditions like adrenal or thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, and other genetic factors.
In a series of studies, the DASH diet proved to be one of the best solutions for overcoming high blood pressure without using medication, even for those who already have high blood pressure.
Researchers have also discovered benefits that go beyond lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet also:
- Helps with weight loss when combined with a calorie deficit
- Lowers the risk of cancer
- Reduces risk of developing diabetes and improves insulin resistance
- Improves heart health and lowers the risk of heart disease and related illnesses
So the DASH diet isn’t only for those at risk of developing high blood pressure or trying to lower it.
This is a diet that anyone who wants to maintain a sustainable healthful diet can benefit from. And even anyone who wants to lose weight can benefit from this diet.
What to eat on the DASH diet
One of the benefits of the DASH diet is that it’s not an extremely restrictive diet. As far as diets go, it’s flexible and considered sustainable for the long term.
The overall goal of the DASH diet is to focus on eating whole and natural foods. Like most diets, the DASH diet requires avoiding most highly-processed foods, especially those that are high in extra salt. High sodium diets contribute to high blood pressure and by avoiding extra salt, those with hypertension can make measurable improvements in short periods of time.
Foods to Eat:
- 6-8 Servings of Whole Grains
- 4-5 Servings of Fruits
- 4-5 Servings of Vegetables
- 2-3 Servings of Dairy
- Fewer than 6 servings of eggs, fish, or lean chicken per day
Foods to Avoid:
- Red meat—it’s not something you can never eat on the diet. But once or twice a week maximum
- Processed meats like pepperoni or salami
- High-fat meats
- Chips, cookies, ice cream, and other snacks that have a lot of added sugar or salt. Just like with red meat, you can have these in moderation–meaning 3-5 servings of a sugary or savory snack per week.
What about alcohol?
As for alcohol consumption, it’s not recommended on the diet. While the Mediterranean diet works some red wine in moderation into the week, the DASH diet does not.
And it comes down to the fact that for many people, the health costs outweigh the small potential gains.
Consuming too much alcohol is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. So when patients start the DASH diet with their doctor, they’re generally advised not to continue drinking.
Wondering if the DASH diet is right for you?
Whether or not you’d benefit from the DASH diet depends on a few factors.
Limiting salt to such a degree isn’t necessary for everyone. Some studies found that limiting salt intake for those with normal blood pressure and salt levels doesn’t have much of an impact. And there seem to be some people who are more sensitive to salt. So even slight increases can lead to increased blood pressure.
These are all reasons it’s beneficial to talk to a doctor before choosing to start a new diet for your health or weight loss goals. They can look at your health history and current health indicators to determine if cutting out certain types of foods
While cutting out saturated fats and processed sugars is considered healthful for everyone, how much you should cut out and stay healthy will depend on your particular situation and needs.
That’s why all of our doctors at Valley Medical Weight Loss go over your health history and your goals to decide on the right path forward for you. When you want to lose weight, there isn’t just a cookie-cutter method. And you deserve the option that will be right for you.
Visit us at one of our locations to start your personalized weight loss journey.