Nutrition and the DASH Diet

Photo by Ella Olsson

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that’s designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet plan was developed to lower blood pressure without medication in research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Interestingly, this diet also incorporates the nutritional advice I provided to patients as a Naturopathic Doctor.

Here’s what’s involved:

What food can you eat on DASH Diet?

  • Whole grains: six to eight servings a day: Research shows whole grains are great for your heart, so choose whole-wheat bread over white for your sandwiches and morning toast, and get creative with “ancient” grains like quinoa and teff. Remember this also applies to grains used for pasta – avoid white pasta and look for whole grains instead!

  • Fruits and vegetables: four to five servings daily: So snack on an apple or other crunchy fruits ideally (softer fruit tend to have more natural sugar content) and order a side salad instead of chips with your lunchtime sandwich. Fibre will help your heart – and help keep you full.

  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy: two to three servings a day: best choice would be yoghurt in my opinion – no soft cheeses as they have high fat content.

What foods should you limit on DASH Diet?

  • Meat protein: 6 (or fewer) ounces a day is recommended: Chicken, fish and lean red meats are OK, just keep the portions in check (a modest quarter-pound turkey burger and a few slices of sandwich meat will get you to your limit).

  • Salt: 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day: A low-salt diet is critical for reversing hypertension, so get to know the spice rack to keep your taste buds engaged as they adjust. Best to use natural sea salt rather than table salt too!

  • Alcohol: Alcohol can elevate blood pressure and damage the liver, brain and heart, so if you drink at all, do so in moderation – that’s one drink a day for women, two a day for men.

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