The DASH Difference
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When trying to establish healthier eating habits to manage blood pressure or cholesterol, lose weight or just for general health, Cooper Clinic registered dietitian nutritionists agree the best diet is one you don’t realize you’re on. A diet should be easy to follow and not a rigid plan with too many rules.
DASH: “Best Diet Overall”
According to the U.S. News and World Report, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet fits the bill. It has been rated the “Best Diet Overall” for the past six years by a panel of health experts because it is easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against chronic disease. Originally developed with research sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the DASH plan was designed as a medically sound method to lower blood pressure without medication. In the process they discovered it not only successfully lowered blood pressure, but also proved to be an effective way to lose weight.
Facts About Hypertension
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about one in three American adults have hypertension and about 25 percent have prehypertension–defined as blood pressure numbers higher than normal. Hypertension is more typical than the common cold and a lot more deadly. It is a serious health threat because it puts a person at risk for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and other health issues. When someone is diagnosed with hypertension, they are often prescribed medication and advised to make lifestyle changes like increasing their exercise regimen, managing stress and lowering dietary sodium. Dispelling the myth that diets are monotonous and promote deprivation, the DASH eating plan is just the opposite. Instead of promoting what to give up, it promotes the importance of what to add to the diet to make you healthier and it is suitable for the entire family!
The DASH Eating Plan Emphasizes…
- Fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables that are natural sources of potassium and magnesium. Researchers have discovered a diet rich in plant foods can provide adequate potassium to control blood pressure and also supports weight loss. The DASH plan is twice as high in potassium as the average American diet. Potassium also promotes sodium excretion, causing blood vessels to produce more nitric oxide which causes them to relax, and accommodate better blood flow.
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products are important sources of calcium which helps regulate blood pressure and keeps bones strong and healthy.
- Whole grains provide the added fiber to aid in weight loss.
- Fish, poultry and beans are lower in saturated fat, sodium and total fat and protect against heart disease.
- Seeds and nuts are rich sources of antioxidants that may also reduce damage to blood vessels.
With the focus on eating wholesome foods, the DASH plan is naturally lower in sodium, fat, sweets, added sugars and beverages containing sugar. The “diet” promotes eating a certain number of daily servings from various food groups. The number of daily servings depends on the total calories a person needs based on their age and activity level. Consider the DASH Diet a powerful medicine that doesn’t come in a pill!
Resources for DASH
Many excellent resources are available. Two in particular that are co-authored by a Cooper Clinic dietitian, the DASH Diet for Dummies and the Hypertension Cookbook for Dummies, include meal planning, navigating the grocery store and cooking tips. Easy-to-follow recipes that focus on wonderful flavor profiles are so delicious that you won’t feel the need to add salt to make your food palatable.
As with any healthy eating program, the DASH Diet also recommends a physical activity component. For a personalized plan, it is best to consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist who can tailor an eating program based on your medical history, exercise and personal preferences. Eating healthy is a journey that is best traveled with a trusted support system. Let our dietitians help you on your journey.
For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, call 972.560.2655 or visit cooperclinicnutrition.com.
Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services' Cindy Kleckner, RDN, LD, FAND