Healthy Eating “DASH”
Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure.
For an overall eating plan, consider the DASH eating plan. “DASH” stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” a clinical study that tested the effects of nutrients in food on blood pressure. Study results indicated that elevated blood pressures were reduced by an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.
A second clinical study, called “DASH-Sodium,” looked at the effect of a reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure as people followed either the DASH eating plan or a typical American diet. Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both the DASH eating plan and the typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those eating the DASH eating plan at the lowest sodium level (1,500 milligrams per day).
The DASH-Sodium study shows the importance of lowering sodium intake whatever your diet. But for a true winning combination, follow the DASH eating plan and lower your intake of salt and sodium.
Getting Started with DASH
It’s easy to adopt the DASH eating plan. Here are some ways to get started:
>If you now eat one or two vegetables a day, add a serving at lunch and another at dinner. If you don’t eat fruit now or have only juice at breakfast, add a serving to your meals or have it as a snack. Use only half the butter, margarine, or salad dressing you do now. Try lowfat or fat free condiments, such as fat free salad dressings. Gradually increase dairy products to three servings per day. For example, drink milk with lunch or dinner, instead of soda, alcohol, or sugar-sweetened tea. Choose lowfat (1 percent) or fat free (skim) dairy products to reduce total fat intake. >
Treat meat as one part of the whole meal, instead of the focus.
>Buy less meat. If it’s not there, you won’t eat it. Limit meat to 6 ounces a day (two servings)–all that’s needed. Three to four ounces is about the size of a deck of cards. If you now eat large portions of meat, cut them back gradually–by a half or a third at each meal. Include two or more vegetarian-style (meatless) meals each week. Increase servings of vegetables, rice, pasta, and dry beans in meals. Try casseroles and pasta, and stir-fry dishes, having less meat and more vegetables, grains, and dry beans. >
Use fruits or lowfat foods as desserts and snacks.
>Fruits and lowfat foods offer great taste and variety. Use fruits canned in their own juice. Fresh fruits require little or no preparation. Dried fruits are easy to carry with you. Try these snack ideas: unsalted pretzels or nuts mixed with raisins; graham crackers; lowfat and fat free yogurt and frozen yogurt; plain popcorn with no salt or butter added; and raw vegetables. >