The DASH diet is one promoted by an institute of the NIH, USA for controlling hypertension. The acronym DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, and it has been propagated by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The main ingredients of the diet are fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts, beans, and also includes fish, poultry, certain meats, with a limit prescribed for foods high in sugar, red meat and additional fats.
Blood pressure should always remain around the optimal healthy level and even if it stays slightly above this, i.e. 120/80 mm Hg, there can be various health complications. The higher the blood pressure the greater the health risks. The studies that led to the decision on the foods to be included in the diet were carried out to know the constituents of the diet that affect blood pressure. The DASH study studied the nutrients that occur together in food.
The major finding of the study is that blood pressure is reduced with a diet which is low in saturated fats, total fat and cholesterol. The recommended diet includes foods that are rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium, besides protein and fibre.
The DASH recommendations were based on evaluation of three types of eating plans. The first one was the same as the usual diet of Americans, the second one was the same with the only difference that it included more of fruits and vegetables, and the third eating plan was DASH diet. In all of these plans, there was about 3000 milligrams of daily sodium intake, and there was no specialty foods included in these diets.
The results from the study were more than what was expected. In both the plans that included more of fruits and vegetables as well as the DASH diet, the patients registered notably improvement in symptoms. The DASH diet was especially helpful for high blood pressure patients. The improvements were considerable within 2 weeks of starting the diet. Among the 459 adults monitored in the study, the systolic blood pressures of less than 160 mm Hg, and diastolic pressures of 80-95 mm Hg, as found at the start of the study reduced to be around the optimal levels. About 27 percent of the participants were hypertension patients and among these, those who undertook the DASH diet benefitted the most.
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