Hypertension occurs when a person’s blood pressure becomes constantly high. The common causes of hypertension include high consumption of salt, fat, or cholesterol, as well as certain health conditions like diabetes, hormone and kidney problems, and high cholesterol. To treat, manage, or prevent hypertension, dietitians encourage people to follow the DASH diet. What are the DASH diet guidelines you need to know to better manage hypertension? Let’s find out.
What is a DASH diet?
DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was developed by researchers in the 90s as a treatment and prevention for hypertension. The DASH diet promotes a lifelong healthy eating lifestyle that can help people lower down their high blood pressure without medication.
As a healthy eating plan, the DASH diet can effectively improve your blood pressure by cutting back on sodium (1500 mg/day) and “empty carbs,” as well as consuming more protein and healthy fats. The DASH diet guidelines encourage everyone to include more fruits, vegetables, lean meat, dairy products, and other micronutrient-rich foods in the diet.
The DASH diet does not only improve hypertension but other chronic diseases like:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Heart failure
- Certain types of cancer
DASH Diet Guidelines
The DASH diet’s main goal is to encourage people to reduce sodium in their diet since excessive sodium intake leads to hypertension. On the other hand, the DASH diet also highlights the importance of healthier food choices like fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, good fats, lean meats, and fish.
This is the usual DASH diet guidelines for someone who’s just starting with the diet:
Vegetables – 4 to 5 servings per day
- 1 cup of raw green leafy vegetables
- ½ cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables
- ½ fresh vegetable juice
Fruits – 4 to 5 servings per day
- 1 cup medium fruit
- ¼ cup dried fruits
- ½ cup canned, frozen, or fresh fruits
- ½ fresh fruit juice
Grains (wholegrain) – 6 to 8 servings per day
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 oz dry cereal
- ½ cup cooked rice, oat cereal, and pasta
Dairy (nonfat/low-fat) – 2 to 3 servings per day
- 1 cup milk or yogurt
- 1 ½ oz cheese
Lean meats, poultry, or fish – Around 2 or fewer servings per day
- 1 oz cooked lean meats, poultry, or fish
- 1 egg
Nuts, seeds, or legumes – 4 to 5 servings per week
- ⅓ cup or 1 ½ oz nuts
- 2 Tbsp peanut butter
- 2 Tbsp or ½ oz seeds
- ½ cup cooked legumes (beans, lentils, or peas)
Good fats and oils – 2 to 3 servings per day
- 1 tsp soft margarine or oil (vegetable, olive, canola, or corn)
- 1 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp light salad dressing
Sweets and added sugars – Around 4 or fewer servings per day
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp jam
- ½ cup of ice cream
- 1 small cookie
DASH Diet Do’s and Don’ts
The goal of the DASH diet guidelines is for you to limit or avoid the consumption of foods that can harm your overall health. Here are the foods you must avoid when you wish to follow the DASH eating plan:
Foods that are high in sodium
Since the main goal of the standard DASH diet is to lessen sodium intake, it is normal that you need to avoid foods that contain too much sodium. Such foods include:
- Fast food
- Table salt
- Highly processed meats (hotdogs and bacon)
- Pre-packaged meals (frozen pizza and other ready-to-eat meals)
Consuming foods that are high in saturated fat not only worsens your hypertension but also increases your risks of heart disease and stroke. Limit or avoid your intake of:
- Red meats (DASH diet recommends lean meats and fish)
- Chicken skin
- Whole-fat dairy products
The DASH diet recommends that you restrict refined, unrefined sugars and sugar alternatives in your diet. These kinds of sugar and sweet treats must be limited:
- Agave nectar
- Maple syrup
- Table sugar
- Sugary and carbonated drinks
- Any foods that contain too much sugar
Although the DASH diet plan does not really get into much detail about caffeine and alcohol, it is still advisable to limit drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks, as excessive amounts of these can increase blood pressure.
These are the things you must do for the DASH diet to become more effective:
- Fill ½ of your plate with vegetables or include vegetables as a side if you’re having sandwiches or pasta.
- Grab on some fresh or dried fruits instead of snacking on overly sweet treats.
- Choose low-fat or nonfat products either for your dairy products, oils, and condiments.
- Make use of herbs and spices as salt alternatives
- Drink fresh fruit or vegetable juices or just plain water instead of having carbonated sodas, energy drinks, and fruit-flavored powdered drinks.
- If you’re looking for something savory, a nice treat you can snack on is vegetable sticks with some dipping sauce or a couple of low-fat or nonfat cheese slices.
- Be creative with your meals and find ways on how to incorporate vegetables into your recipes.
- Limit your meat consumptions by using alternatives like tofu and vegetarian meats.
- Slowly train yourself to eat in smaller portions. It is better to cut back your meals gradually rather than instantaneously.
How is the DASH Diet Different From Other Diets?
DASH diet is one of the most followed diets in the world since its main approach is to manage and prevent hypertension without the need for medication. The Dash Diet guidelines are not that strict when compared to other diets available. It encourages people to eat healthily but does not prohibit them from completely removing the foods they used to eat before.
DASH diet’s main goal is to reduce sodium intake, eat more fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, and control sugar and fatty foods. The DASH diet is not a complicated diet to follow since the ingredient you would most likely use in your meals are easy to find in the market.
You don’t need to worry about getting hungry when doing a DASH Diet since this eating plan includes all sources of nutrients you need like carbohydrates, protein, fats, and others. Unlike fad diets, the DASH diet is easier to maintain as it supports long-term lifestyle changes.
Although the DASH Diet is developed for people who have hypertension, it is also a great eating plan for beginners who are just starting to explore the world of healthy eating and lifestyle. The DASH Diet will not only lower your high blood pressure, but it can also reduce your risks of acquiring other chronic diseases.
To enjoy the full benefits of the DASH Diet, make sure to commit to it, follow its guidelines religiously, and combine it with regular exercise.
Learn more about Healthy Eating here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.