DASH Diet – Never heard about it? Maybe you missed something!

We are constantly being inundated with new diets. Each one promises more than the last. Lose 20 pounds of fat in a week, or transform into a supermodel in your sleep. Many of these offer empty promises that usually do not amount to much. Others can even do harm to your health. Usnews.com has been evaluating diets for seven years, based not only on the amount of weight lost, but also on how long the weight loss lasts, how easy it is to implement the diet, and how good the diet is for your health. This year, the DASH-Diet won the race. In this blog post, you will learn what this relatively unknown diet is all about.

DASH-Diet – a completely normal diet?

Fundamentally, the DASH-Diet is also about a healthy way of eating. The main goal, however, is not weight loss. Instead, the goal is the fight against high blood pressure. That is where the name comes from: Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The tremendous weight loss associated with it is a byproduct. It is certainly very healthy. Healthy eating is the decisive factor in preventing high blood pressure, or the treating it, if you already have it. This diet places a high value on the following nutrients: protein, fiber, calcium and potassium. On the other hand, you should specifically avoid foods that are rich in calories or high in fat, as well as too much salt and red meat.

The DASH-Diet does not have any strict rules, and you don’t need any specific groceries or recipes. The importance of physical activity is also emphasized, which helps you regulate your blood pressure and lose weight. However, weight loss is not the primary goal on the DASH-Diet. It is proffered as a possibility, because many people who have problems with blood pressure, are also, in fact, overweight.

 

Infobox: High blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the most common and widespread diseases in modern societies. Blood pressure is the pressure that exists in our blood vessels. The heart pumps blood through our vessels with every beat. Two values are usually measured:

Systolic Blood Pressure: When the heart contracts, it pushes blood into the aorta. From there, the blood spreads through the body. The systole describes precicely the phase in which the heart contracts.

Diastolic Blood Pressure: In the so-called diastole, the heart expands again, and takes in blood. In this phase, the blood still pushes against the walls of our blood vessels, but less so than in the systole.

Blood pressure is measured in mmHg. This stands for millimeters of mercury. Optimal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg (systolic blood pressure/diastolic blood pressure). Anything higher than 140/90 is considered high blood pressure. Healthy human beings have higher or lower pressures at certain times. This is completely normal and depends, among other things, on physical exertion. But if it is high for an extended time, it is considered high blood pressure.

Blood pressure that is too high is dangerous for several reasons. Since the heart has to work too hard and for too long, the heart muscle can weaken over time. Often, consequences of high blood pressure are the stiffening and thickening of the arteries (Arteriosclerosis). This condition can then lead to a stroke, heart attack, weakened kidneys and vision problems.

Nutrition on the DASH-Diet

The following foods are part of the daily meal plan:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • dairy products (reduced fat or fat-free)
  • whole grain foods
  • fish
  • poultry
  • beans
  • seeds
  • nuts

In addition, these nutrients and foods are reduced:

  • salt
  • sweets
  • added sugars
  • beverages that contain sugar
  • fat
  • red meat (i.e. beef and pork)

The daily allowance of food is measured in the form of portions. The number of portions of different foods depends your caloric requirement. The DASH-Diet does not focus only on weight loss. It is also possible to have a nutrition plan that meets your energy needs exactly.

The DASH-Diet recommends about 2000 calories per day for a middle-aged woman who has a moderately active lifestyle. In addition, there are directions for how many portions from each food group should be eaten to meet the caloric goal. For 2000 calories, it looks like this:

 

Food group Servings Examples of servings
Grains 6-8 per day 1 slice bread

1 oz dry cereal

½ cup cooked rice or pasta

Vegetables 4-5 per day 1 cup raw leafy vegetable

½ cup raw or cooked vegetable

Fruits 4-5 per day 1 medium fruit

½ cup fresh or frozen fruit

½ cup fruit juice

Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products 2-3 per day 1 cup milk or yogurt

1 ½ cheese

Lean meat, poultry, and fish 6 or less per day 1 egg

1 oz cooked meats, poultry or fish

Nuts, seeds, and legumes 4-5 per week 1 ½ oz nuts

2 tbsp peanut butter

½ cup cooked legumes

Fats and oils 2-3 per day 1 tbsp margarine or vegetable oil

1 tbsp mayonnaise

Sweets and added sugars 5 or less per week 1 tbsp sugar, jelly or jam

1 cup lemonade

 

Evaluation and scientific studies

The DASH-Diet earned first place from usnews.com in its yearly expert ranking for good reason. It is definitely healthy and provides nutritional principles that can be followed for the rest of your life. Another benefit is that weight loss is not the primary focus. First and foremost, it is about healthy eating. The high percentage of vegetables, fruit and fiber is beneficial, since they all contain the many micronutrients our bodies need to function well. In addition, fiber is also good for colon health and for weight regulation. The reduction of salt and sugar in our nutrition is also a good approach.

A large number of studies have also confirmed that the DASH-Diet is, in fact, very effective in reducing high blood pressure. The reduced calorie version was even more successful. Studies that dealt with the effect of the diet on BMI and waist circumference also showed positive results. In other words, on the DASH-diet, you can lower your blood pressure and also lose weight. Both are important for the health of our hearts.

Regarding fat consumption, the DASH-Diet still seems to be stuck in the old belief that fat is bad for the heart. The diet maintains that consumption of saturated fats, like those you would find in animal products, should be kept to a minimum. The low amount of fat on the DASH-Diet often leads people to go off the diet. It isn’t easy to maintain. Because of this, current studies compared the normal DASH-Diet with a version that contains more fat. As expected, they showed the same positive effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, triglycerides (another type of blood fat) were reduced even more than on the reduced-fat DASH-Diet. So it’s a real alternative.

 

 

Sources

http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/dash-diet

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/dash_brief.pdf

Saneei, P., Salehi-Abarqouei, A. Esmaillzadeh, A., & Azadbakht, L. (2014). Influence of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis on randomized controlled trials. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 24(12), 1253-1261.

Chiu, S., Bergeron, N., Williams, P. T., Bray, G. A., Sutherland, B., & Krauss, R. M. (2016). Comparison of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a higher-fat DASH diet on blood pressure and lipids and lipoproteins: a randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(2), 341-347.

Soltani, S., Shirani, F., Chitsazi, M., & Salehi-Abarqouei, A. (2016). The effect of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Obesity Reviews, 17(5), 442-454.