The Dash Diet Explained

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Most of us have been on popular diet plans. Weight watchers, slim fast, the Mediterranean diet and the South Beach diet are ones that pop into my mind.

Clean eating can even be considered a diet plan if someone follows it loyally to lose weight and get healthy. Each of these diets targets a different area of the body. They each have different methods of boosting metabolism to burn those unwanted calories. And then, there is the dash diet. This diet’s key focus is to lower your blood pressure and strengthen your heart. It looks like a great diet plan, but there are several things you should know.

First, DASH stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension.” Specifically for this diet, it is important to realize that weight and blood pressure are often connected with one another. Blood pressure is normal when it sits at or below 120 / 80, while 120-139 / 80-89 may put you at risk for prehypertension. When your blood pressure is 140+ / 90+, it is time to see a doctor. In addition, when a person is overweight, this often puts them at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease or stroke.

In order to bypass this risk, keep your body mass index (BMI) in check. A person’s BMI goes off their height and weight. For instance, a woman that is 5’6” and 130 pounds has a BMI of 21. The target BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. The chart considers those that have a 25-29.9 BMI obese, but you may not want to gain weight if your waist is high on your body. Also, 30 BMI or higher is considered obese. You may consider trying to lose some weight, in order to lower your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

The DASH diet is not too much different than if someone were to just eat healthy. It presents itself on a 2,000 calorie / day diet. Keep in mind the calories with change, depending on how physically active you are throughout the day. This includes any type of exercise from jumping jacks to running around the neighborhood. Moreover, DASH increases the amount of grains that you eat day to 7-8 servings, which seems like a lot but introduce variety. You can have items such as bread, cereal or rice to keep you excited about the diet.

The fruits and vegetables on DASH are about what everyone else eats at 4-5 servings each day. Most of what you can have on the diet are raw or fresh produce. You may also have vegetable juice if you are craving something different. Two things surprise me about this diet, however. The first is that it allows for 2 servings of protein. My spouse and I are following the clean eating diet, and we have much more protein than 2 servings. Also, it allows for 5 servings of sweets per week. I have never seen a diet include this, but everything in moderation, I suppose. It recommends you snack on jelly or jam, lemonade or jelly beans.

The DASH diet is not designed for weight loss, but the low-calorie foods are going to help you reduce your weight. It teaches you how to control your portions. A standard portion is the size of our fist, but many of us eat much more than this. Also, DASH will teach you how to make better food choices. Choose low fat or fat free foods to reduce fat in foods, for instance. Do your best to limit foods with added sugars such as pies, cookies and soda. Also, drink plenty of water. Water not only hydrates your body, but it pushes the fat cells and helps you lose weight.

Similarly, it is important to read the nutrition label on all the food packages. You want to look at the servings first. If you eat more or less than a serving, you will have to subtract amounts from other areas on the food label. For example, if the serving size is ½ cup and each serving is 60 calories, two servings is 120 calories. Also, be aware of how much sugar, carbs, cholesterol and sodium is in the package. These are nutrients that you do not want a lot of in your food. In contrast, look at the protein, vitamins and fiber because you want these to keep your body healthy.

Furthermore, do your best to reduce salt and sodium. Both of these play a large role in keeping your blood pressure stabilized, while it assists in keeping your weight down. In order to reduce salt and sodium, consider rinsing canned foods such as tuna. This reduces the sodium and makes it healthier. Likewise, choose foods that are low in sodium. These may be soups, cereals, crackers and so on. If you make this one change, your blood pressure may be down to normal before you know it. It could literally change your life!

One of the best factors of the DASH diet is that it promotes exercise. It encourages those who follow the diet to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Regardless, you should be doing this whether or not you are on a diet. Physical exercise keeps your bones and muscles strong. It adds years onto your life, and makes you more vital in those elderly years. Such things as memory, joints and mobility will be much stronger at 80 if you incorporate this now.

If you are considering this diet, talk it over with your doctor first. This is especially important to do if you are on blood pressure medicine. You do not want anything to affect how your medicine works in your body. Do your research first and make sure it is the right diet for you. There is a massive amount of diets out there. There are fad diets that do not work, and there are diets that help people get to their goal weight. It is important you realize what is right for your body. If you want more information on this diet, check out this helpful PDF: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf

8 Comments

  1. Kelly Bailey

    This seems like an interesting diet. I may end up trying it out.

  2. Lynn

    Five servings of sweets per week? Now that sounds like a diet I could handle! Too many diets seem to restrict me from eating certain things, and when I find myself craving things that I can’t have then it becomes easier for me to just give up. It’s nice that this diet realizes the importance of “everything in moderation,” because asking me to completely eliminate something that I love is just not going to end well.

  3. Heather Smith

    Thank you for explaining the DASH diet so thoroughly. I trust most diets that involve healthy eating–I like that this teaches self-control when it comes to eating, especially food portions!

  4. Jenny

    The sweets included in this diet are probably there so that you don’t lose interest in the diet. A lot of these diets are so strict that people end up getting bored and drop out of the diet. The sweets would ensure that you still get some yummy things to eat! It makes perfect sense.

  5. Nadia Kyler

    The BMI of 30 or over indicates being obese always confuses me. One does not really need to be too far overweight to have a BMI of 30. I always used to think that only people who were quite huge were obese. I like the idea of a diet that takes cravings into consideration. This diet looks like it would be much easier to follow than most. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Cindy

    What if you are slightly over weight but have low blood pressure? Would this diet help with that? I struggle with finding foods because I have to eat a lot of salt to keep my blood pressure up but when I do eat salt, I retain water and often times, I am sore and tired from it. Such a pain in the butt!

    • Glydel

      Low carb = low cal. That’s why it works. Plain and simple. When you reovme one whole macronutrient from your plate, you reduce your calories by approx 1/3rd. Was nothing to do with food type. You can lose weight eating pasta, or rice, or yams. So long as you run a calorie deficit. I eat lean protein, carbs, fat. I just eat less and I exercise more. I lost 30 lbs in 4 months and kept it off 2 yrs now. Eat from smaller plates. Ur eyes see a full plate, but ur eating less. Go walking too

  7. Karen J.

    I’ve read so much lately about eating clean foods. It seems fruits and vegetables and grains are really here to stay. I’m glad that Americans are finally wising up about their diets. I think we could all add years to our lives if we just ate better foods. My worst temptation is sugar. I’ve tried to eliminate it from my life, but with limited success. I’m glad to see that this diet allows some sweets. I think that knowing I was allowed one small treat a day would go a long way towards not getting discouraged. Thanks for a well written and informative post.

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