DASH Diet: Understand How Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Can Help

DASH diet is proven to help in loweing high blood pressure. Here is all you need to know about this diet.

Chanchal Sengar
Reviewed by: Swati BathwalPublished at: Dec 25, 2020Updated at: Dec 26, 2020Written by: Chanchal Sengar
DASH Diet: Understand How Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Can Help

Over one billion people worldwide are affected by hypertension or high blood pressure and the numbers are increasing rapidly. As opposed to what most of us believe, not just the elderly but children are also suffering from hypertension. This is why the patients of with hypertension have almost doubled in the past two decades. Hypertension brings along the risk of many other serious illnesses like heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, diabetes, to name but a few. DASH diet is the biggest-ever research den by nutrition science on hypertension. Since diet plays a crucial role in managing health, DASH diet or dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet was found to aid patients with high BP. Through this article, we would uncover all the aspects of the DASH diet its effectiveness in managing hypertension.

What is DASH Diet?

DASH or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet is a special diet plan designed for patients with hypertension. The role of this diet is to manage hypertension and prevent other chronic ailments that are associated with it. Hypertension patients shall follow this diet to treat hypertension and reduce the risk of heart diseases. There are various key elements in dash diet but ‘low sodium’ policy is the highlight. This is because sodium(salt) is catastrophic for blood pressure. High intake may shoot up your BP and may even get you hospitalised.

DASH diet mainly consists of lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Salt, fat, added sugar and red meat are strict Nos in this diet. This diet was designed after studying the health stats of people who follow a plant-based diet. It was found that vegetarians and vegans were less likely to get hypertension and the reason was found to be their diet. 

DASH diet cuts down salt intake.

  • Those who have hypertension should not have more than one teaspoon of salt(1,500mg) a day.
  • Healthy people who are following this diet to keep their heart healthy are allowed to have only 2,300mg sodium a day.
salt intake

NOTE: Not just regular salt but all kinds of salt including rock salt, Himalayan pink salt, sea salt, etc. have sodium content. Cutting down on salt means that you need to reduce your intake of any and every kind of salt.

Indian diet includes the use of more salt and therefore, hypertension patients should work on their diet to prevent the consequences. Let us tell you the potential benefits of DASH diet. 

Also Read: Winter Hypertension: Can Cold Season Affect Blood Pressure?

Is the DASH diet healthy?

Read the advantages of DASH diet to stop hypertension below and decide whether this diet is healthy, effective or not. Not only blood pressure control but there so many other wonderful benefits of this diet in terms of general health and wellness.

1. Lowers blood pressure

The first and most important benefit of following the DASH diet is lowering the blood pressure. There are two numbers of blood pressure-

  • Systolic blood pressure- blood pressure reading that comes when blood passes through the vessels when your heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure- The blood pressure when heart is at rest.

The normal reading would be- 120mmHg systolic and 80mmHg diastolic. High blood pressure is considered when systolic reading is above 140mmHg and diastolic reading is 90mmHg. 

blood pressure reading

DASH diet helps in lowering blood pressure in both healthy and hypertensive people. Interestingly, it was found that even if people didn’t limit their salt intake, their blood pressure lowered. And when they reduced salt intake, BP fell further. Those with the lowest salt consumption saw the most growth in terms of reduced blood pressure. This shows that this diet can effectively bring down blood pressure count. Also, restricting salt intake can aid in lowering blood pressure.

2. May also help you lose weight

Before proceeding, we would like to give a little disclaimer. Talking about weight loss benefits, we aren’t promoting this diet as a weight loss diet. Kindly do not compare this with other diets as DASH diet is particularly designed for high blood pressure.

Weight gain and hypertension is a dangerous combination. If you have fluctuating blood pressure problems, you need to control your weight. The higher the weight, the higher your blood pressure would be. Thus, weight loss is linked to lowering blood pressure. In a nutshell, DASH diet not only helps in controlling hypertension but also brings down weight significantly. This diet restricts calories as you are supposed to cut down sugar and fat from the diet. Thus, all you need to do is follow a calorie-deficit diet like this one.

3. May reduce the risk of cancer

While there is no scientific evidence to prove this but some studies suggest that those who followed DASH diet were less likely to get breast and colorectal cancer.

4. Reduces risk of diabetes

As we mentioned in the beginning, hypertension increases the risk of diabetes. Following DASH diet for hypertension thus also reduces the risk of getting type-2 diabetic by improving insulin resistance in the body. Cutting down sugar intake would automatically cut down diabetes risk.

Also Read: Obesity And Type 2 Diabetes: Know Why Being Overweight Makes One Prone To Type 2 Diabetes

Is DASH Diet Effective for everyone?

This diet indeed is the best for people with hypertension but we wanted to find out if it also helps other people. The main rule of DASH diet is reduced salt intake. Since sodium causes blood pressure fluctuations and also other health issues, it is better to reduce its intake. However, there is no solid evidence that shows the effectiveness of this diet on people with normal blood pressure.

The Ideal DASH Diet plan

If you are wondering about the exemptions on DASH diet, here is the food guide for you. Apart from limiting salt intake, you are supposed to restrict some food groups as they do have natural salt in them. Only some specific food groups are allowed on this diet that too with specific servings.

Also Read: Dietary Guidelines For Hypertension With These Expert Tips

Whole Grains

You can have all whole grains and whole-grain products but with a limit. It is best to follow a 2000-calorie plan. This means you should have only 2000 calories per day. This might be difficult in the beginning but as you start following, it would come into practice. Examples of whole grains you can have are:

  • Whole wheat
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice

Vegetables

vegetables in DASH diet

Nearly all vegetables are allowed in the DASH diet. Considering calorie restriction, the best veggies to have when on this diet are:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Bottle gourd

Fruits

Whole fruits contain natural salt and sugar that won’t harm the body much. By eating a lot of fruits, you can control your urge to have salt. Eat fruits like:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Berries
  • Mango 
  • Pineapple

NOTE: Try to avoid canned fruits and vegetables and have as much fresh food produces as you can.

fruits in DASH diet

Dairy Products

You can have low-fat dairy products in this set. The best examples are:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt

Lean Meat

Red meat is restricted from this diet. You can only have lean meats, chicken, fish and egg.

Also Read: Can Mindfulness Aid Hypertension or High Blood Pressure?

Some Tips by Dietitian

  • Remove the salt-shakers from the table to reduce your urge.
  • Allow 3 weeks for your taste buds to develop the new change and stick to the plan.
  • Dehydration also causes salt craving and may affect your BP. Therefore, stock up on water at regular intervals.
  • Avoid outside food as it has got sodium in them. It is better to have home-cooked food following all the recommendations.

This was DASH Diet for your all. This diet is very simple to follow but produces great results in terms of lowering blood pressure. Those who have hypertension or those who are at risk of high BP must follow this diet for better health and living.

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