Obesity has become an epidemic not just in the United States, but around the world. Many diet plans have been developed as a result, with varying rates of success. One diet program that is proving to be effective is DASH – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. DASH was named as the best diet plan for the last eight years by U.S. News & World Report. Apart from hypertension (commonly known as high blood pressure), DASH is also known to fight diabetes, maintain heart health and help lower cholesterol levels.
Formulated by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the DASH diet was initially developed for people who want to take control of their hypertension. But, the diet soon gained traction among dieters, who found it helped them lose weight more effectively. As is known to most who want to lose weight, several nutritional factors that affect blood pressure also influence weight – such as sugar, trans fats and processed foods in general.
What is the DASH diet and how does it work?
The DASH diet works on the principle of cutting down on sodium consumption. You are advised to primarily focus on eating vegetables, fruits, and dairy foods. As far as dairy is concerned, you should choose low-fat options because they have less added salt. You also need to have some fish, poultry, whole grains, and nuts.
The amount of salt you should have depends on the type of DASH diet you are on:
The standard DASH diet – allowed to have up to 2,300 mg of sodium daily.
The low-sodium DASH diet – allowed to have 1,500 mg of sodium daily.
Unlike many other high-profile diet plans, DASH does not squarely focus on eliminating starches. When it comes to losing weight, sustainability is the key. Therefore, for best results, you need to follow a diet plan and continue it for a long time. But the problem when you select a low-carb diet plan is that it becomes hard for you to keep carbs at bay over the long term. However, the DASH diet is more palatable, making compliance easier.
The only restrictions in case of the DASH diet are to avoid sugar, fats, processed foods and sodium. Saying no to processed foods can solve most of your sugar, fat, and sodium problem. The ultra-processed foods an average American consumes in a day contributes 58% of the total calories, 90% of added sugars and 75% of sodium.
There is no doubt that processed foods contain excess salt, which increases the risk of diseases like hypertension, stroke, and heart disease. Cutting down the intake of salt can substantially lower these risks. But, it is not just these diseases that are linked to a high sodium diet – there is a distinct connection between high blood pressure and weight that cannot be overlooked.
What can I eat?! What does a typical DASH diet include?
One of the first questions people ask before starting a diet, is… what can I eat?! The Dairy Alliance and Registered dietitian Sarah-Jane Bedwell combined efforts on a video detailing some menu items that qualify for the DASH Diet.
For moderately active people ages 19 to 51, DASH requires a 2,000 calorie diet per day. This is what the DASH diet menu would read like:
Grains – The ideal scenario is to consume 6-8 servings of grains every day. You should have more of whole grains because they contain nutrients and fiber in abundance. Choose products that display 100% whole grain labels.
Vegetables – Followers of the DASH diet should have 4-5 servings of vegetables every day. Add vegetables such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and other leafy veggies to your diet, as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Fruits – You should have a minimum of 4-5 servings of fruit, as it raises your energy levels and increases the fiber content in your body. You can have fruits such as apples, pears and grapefruit because these are a rich source of fiber and antioxidants.
Meat, fish, and poultry – It is always good to have meat in moderation, and that is what the DASH diet recommends. Meat contains iron, protein, B-complex vitamins and zinc. Have 4-6 servings of lean, skinless meat daily.
Dairy products – Milk and other dairy products contain protein, calcium, and vitamin D in sufficient quantity. However, select low-fat/fat-free products. You should have a minimum of 2-3 servings of dairy daily. Substitute with lactose-free dairy products if you are allergic to milk.
Oils and fats – Fats are essential for the body, as they help absorb vitamins, which helps keep the immune system in balance. Limit your fats and oil intake to 2-3 servings daily. The DASH diet recommends limiting your daily consumption of fat to under 27% and saturated fats to 7% or less.
Nuts, seeds, peas and dry beans – You should have 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds and beans every week. Nuts don’t have a good reputation because they are high in fat, but if consumed as recommended in the DASH diet, they are beneficial, as nuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. You can have cashews, almonds, peas, sunflower seeds, pistachio, beans, and lentils, which are rich in fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
Sweets –You can have sweets, but in moderation – keeping it to five servings a week. If you consider low-fat treats – such as jelly beans, fruit ices, granola bars and low-fat cookies – be sure to read the label for their sugar content, which can be high.
A balanced diet like DASH is planned to keep you feeling full. You have sufficient fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber and enough lean protein that makes you feel full most of the time. DASH also reduces calorie intake, which helps you lose weight quickly. When you feel satisfied with your food intake, instead of constantly hungry, you are more likely to increase your physical activity, which also helps weight loss.
As everyone is different, it is always advisable to follow a customized diet plan. Solutions Weight Loss offers effective, proven medically supervised weight loss programs that are tailored to each individual. Dr. Newsome and our entire team provide comprehensive support to every client in reaching their goal. Contact us today to learn more.