The DASH Diet


The DASH Diet
Healthy Living - December 2, 2014
Amy Movius, MD

The DASH diet was originally developed as a dietary plan to “cure” or reduce high blood pressure –aka hypertension - without medication. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. People with high blood pressure who followed this diet lowered their blood pressure within 2 weeks! Whether high blood pressure is an active concern for you or not, the DASH diet is based on simple principles that are healthy for everyone.

1. Eat more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods.
2. Cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat.
3. Eat more whole grain foods, fish, poultry and nuts.
4. Limit sodium, sweets, sugary drinks and red meats.

While the principles above are all well and good, applying them is more challenging, especially during the “food-centric” holiday season. A healthy diet starts with the food you buy. Taking some simple and practical guidelines with you to the grocery story can help:

1. BUY FRESH. Fresh foods usually have less sodium/fat/sugar than processed ones. When you cook with fresh food, YOU control the ingredients, not the processor.
2. SHOP THE PERIMETER. If you think about where products are located in the grocery store, the produce, dairy and meat are on the outside. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some good choices in the center aisles but along the edges is where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products and lean meat.
3. READ LABELS. Don’t purchase packaged foods without knowing what’s in them. Almost all such foods have a Nutrition Facts label that includes information such as fat/calories/sodium content. You should select items with the least of these.
4. Not shopping hungry and making a list of what to buy, though not specific to the DASH diet, can certainly help you stick to it.
The DASH diet calls for a certain number of servings/day of various food groups, as well as limiting total sodium to ½-1 teaspoon per day (2400 mg). Details of this (and what a serving actually is) can be found in the references below as well as many others. Making some small changes in your dietary routine can accomplish much of this without a lot of calculation.
1. Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
2. Use half your usual butter, margarine or salad dressing. Use low-fat or fat free condiments.
3. Add a serving of fruit to meals or as a snack.
4. Drink or use low fat or skim dairy products.
5. Limit meat to 6 ounces/day.
6. May some meals vegetarian.
7. Add more vegetables and dry beans to diet.
8. Snack on unsalted pretzels or nuts, raisins, low-fat yogurt, frozen yogurt, unsalted popcorn, fresh fruits/vegetable – instead of chips/sweets.
The DASH diet is not a fad or a special diet for people with high blood pressure or heart disease. A study last week linked obesity to half a million cancer cases worldwide – unsurprisingly the majority of these cases were found in developed countries. While we are lucky to have an abundance of resources, our population’s health will benefit from a return to a simpler, wholesome and moderate diet.

Obesity Linked to Half a Million Cancer Cases Worldwide. November 25, 2014.
DASH diet: Tips for shopping and cooking.