• Sharn McGowan

A diet so DASH-ing it lowers your blood pressure

What do fad diets and the DASH diet have in common? ... Nothing, besides catchy names!


The DASH diet has been plastered in the media for it's heart-protecting properties - surprise.. these are actually supported by a large body of evidence.


The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet (aka the DASH diet) was originally designed to reduce blood pressure, however it has also shown to reduce cardiovascular risk factors.


There are no 'super foods' or crazy expensive items you can only buy from the small health store 45 minutes away. In fact, you might have all the foods for the DASH diet at home already!


By eating inline with the DASH diet, sodium (or salt) intake is reduced (a large influence on blood pressure) and increase the intake of many vitamins and minerals (yay for micronutrients).


Long story short, the DASH diet can reduce blood pressure within 2-4 weeks (by 6 mmHg systolic and 3 mmHg diastolic if you want the nitty-gritty details). After an initial drop in blood pressure, it maintains the reduction - long-term outcomes, that's what I'm talking about!


In terms of heart health, reduction in total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) meaning a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk by ~13% has also been shown.



The DASH diet is quite flexible, focusing on an overall eating pattern (eating a range of all 5 food groups, including healthy oils and limiting sweet foods over the week).


The general recommendations for following the DASH diet are below in table 1.0, however I recommend making an appointment with us (or an Accredited Practicing Dietitian of your choice) to create an individual plan with, based on your food preferences, general health, goals and lifestyle.


What's a goal if it isn't relevant to you and achievable, right?


Table 1.0: Food group recommendations according to the DASH diet (adapted from: RACGP, 2015)

Types of Foods

Servings

Examples of Serve Sizes

Fruits

4-5 a day

1 medium piece

1/2 cup frozen/canned fruit

Vegetables

4-5 a day

1 cup raw salad vegetables

1/2 cup frozen/cooked vegetables

Low fat or non-fat diary

2-4 a day

250 mL milk

1 cup yoghurt

4 slices of cheese

Grains and cereals

6-8 a day

1 slice of bread

1 cup cereal

1/2 cup cooked pasta or rice

Lean meats, poultry and fish (lean and skinless)

<2 a day

90 g cooked meat (or a palm-size)

Nuts, seeds and legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)

4-5 a week

1/3 cup nuts (or a small handful)

1 tablespoon seeds

Fats and oils

2-3 a day

1 teaspoons of margarine

1 teaspoon of oil

Sweets and lollies

<5 a week

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon jam

250 mL soft drink (non-diet)

Fruits and vegetables contain potassium which is beneficial in blood pressure management. Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats/oils which reduce bad cholesterol in the body, as well as antioxidants which prevent damage to blood vessels. Calcium from dairy is also beneficial to blood vessel health.


So how do we make this relevant and achievable for you over the internet? Here are some handy tips:

- use unsaturated oils and spreads (e.g Extra Virgin Olive Oil and canola spreads) in cooking or on sandwiches

- swap to low-fat dairy items (e.g. hilo milk)

- choose lean meat cuts/removing skin and fat prior to cooking meat

- ensure vegetables are served with every lunch and dinner

- snack on fruit between meals if you are hungry or save them as a dessert

- limit sweets and lollies

- and not adding salt to your cooking or to your plate as it may counteract all your hard effort reducing your blood pressure


The other foods from table 1.0 can be added to the diet as snacks or with your meals.


Please contact Habits for Health if you would like an appointment to help with this.


Happy DASH-ing!




If you would like to know more, please contact us at Habits for Health - https://www.habitsforhealthnutrition.com/contactus


Have a delicious day!


Sharn


References:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2021). DASH Eating Plan: Reducing Blood Pressure Through Diet and Lifestyle. Retrieved from: https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/heart-and-cardiovascular-health/dash-diet-reducing-hypertension-through-diet-and-lifestyle


National Institutes of Health. (n.d.) DASH Eating Plan. Retrieved from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/dash-eating-plan


Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. (2015). DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to prevent and control hypertension. Received from: https://www.racgp.org.au/getattachment/34f4d21d-efe1-425a-ab11-c111868163e8/DASH-Dietary-Approaches-to-Stop-Hypertension-diet.aspx


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