DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a way of life; it is a healthy eating habit aimed to treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet reduces your sodium intake while allows you to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods that help lowers blood pressure. If used properly, it can also be used to reduce and maintains weight.

One of the highest causes of hypertension is SALT. Salt is sodium chloride and is used in many processed foods. In fact, even so-called processed “health” foods contain large amounts of salt, since salt is a flavor enhancer. For reference, one teaspoon of salt holds 2,325 mg of sodium.

The Dash diet regimen lowers the salt intake through five basic steps:

    1. Do not add salt when steaming, boiling, or cooking rice, pasta or hot cereal
    2. Do not add salt while cooking
    3. Rinse canned food contents (if possible) with water, before cooking or eating
    4. Buy and use sodium-free flavorings and spices
    5. Buy processed foods that clearly label, “no salt added,” or “sodium free.” (Check the nutrition content table that is mandatory, to see what the sodium content is, some foods might state low sodium content, and still have more than you expect.)

It might take time to adjust your palate to the new taste level since salt increases the tongue’s perception of other flavors. It’s always best to introduce the DASH diet slowly into your system, a gradual reduction in salt rather than an immediate plunge will make this diet a lifetime habit rather than a momentary lapse.

The original DASH diet, designed to fight hypertension sets 2,000 calories per day eating plan based on portion sizes. If you want to reduce weight, you have a 1,600-calorie diet plan too.

The Dash diet is not a passing fad or a seasonal diet. It is aimed at becoming a natural way to eat. What is exceptional about the DASH diet is it supports eating a variety of nutritious foods that support your daily living style and provides proven methods for reducing toxic substances while reaching your personal goals. It also reduces the burden on your wallet, as well as increasing your exposure to natural food sources, rather than processed or “fast” foods.

Strategies for a successful Diet

1. Gradual Change
Do not plunge into any diet, including the DASH diet. Gradually immerse yourself in the system, taking it step by step and allowing your tongue to adapt to the new taste levels. It also allows you time to acclimatize yourself to the new dietary sources and preparations. Increase your whole grain intake while reducing your dependence on white flour based foods and bread. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Reduce your dependence on salt by finding other ways to flavor your cooked meals.

2. Rewards
Rather then rewards yourself with food, or taking an occasional “quick” bite out of the diet plan. Make your reward a non-food treats such as a movie, a book or meeting a friend. Try to get as many friends and colleagues, and family members involved in your process. This doesn’t mean you need to persuade them to diet with you, although that would be an exceptional booster for both of you. It means having support around you as you slowly set off on your new eating habits.

3. Fitness
Physical activity helps reduce hypertension. By combining fitness with the DASH diet, you will succeed in reducing your hypertension as well as managing your weight-related targets. This does not mean you need to hit the gym weights every day or run a treadmill for hours. It means you must plan your weekly fitness routine to reach the daily optimum goals in your life gradually. If you already work out on a regular basis and want to build muscle or define your body, then make sure your diet to provides you with the calories you require.

4. Support
If you are taking the DASH diet for health reasons, such as reducing hypertension. Make sure your doctor or dietitian knows about it. Once you are on the DASH diet, any changes you make must be discussed with a professional.

Blood Pressure Changes
The DASH diet will reduce your blood pressure quite significantly over time. Within two weeks you could reduce your pressure by a few points, and up to 14 points after a few months. Since the DASH diet is a healthy way to eat, it will affect more than your blood pressure; it will also help you with weight and body fat levels, act as a preventative measure against cancer and osteoporosis, fight heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Sodium Level
Since most natural products contain sodium at various levels, it is important to manage your intake according to the DASH portions. There are two levels of the diet, a standard, and the lower sodium intake.

  • DASH standard: 2,300mg sodium per day. This is the recommended intake set by the US Dietary Guidelines.
  • DASH low sodium: 1,500mg sodium per day. The American Heart Association suggests that the daily income of sodium should be 1,500mg for US adults.

These two versions will reduce your intake of sodium significantly since the average US diet contains a minimum of 3,400mg of sodium a day.

It’s time to break down the diet into actual foods and amounts. Both DASH versions require a high daily intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and weekly intake of certain fish, poultry, and legumes. It also allows for and encourages the intake of nuts and seeds a few times a week. The diet allows for red meat, sweets, and fats in small amounts.

The 2,000 Calorie Plan

Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day
This includes bread, cereals, pasta, and rice. A serving as defined by the diet is 1 oz. of Cereal, half a cup of cooked rice and 1 slice of whole wheat bread. It is preferable to eat whole grain since they contain more fiber and nutrients than refined or processed grains. When choosing products look out for labels that claim it is 100% whole grain.

Since whole grain is low in fat, try not to cook them with fatty additives such as cream, butter, margarine, and cheeses.

Grains are naturally low in fat. Keep them this way by avoiding butter, cream and cheese sauces.

Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day
Apart from the fact that fresh (or frozen fresh) vegetables are extremely healthy and full of vitamins, fibers, and minerals, they also provide a wonderful variety of flavors and textures that processed vegetables cannot provide. Also, processed vegetables tend to lose their vitamin content when boiled and preserved. Vegetables can be served as main courses, side dishes and snacks, and some vegetables should be eaten raw for their full flavor and effect, others require cooking, preferably steaming or boiling to make them edible and digestible.

A serving of vegetables can include 1 cup of raw green leaves or green vegetables or half a cup of raw carrot or cooked vegetables. When creating a daily serving of food, try to cut down on the meat content and double the vegetables.

Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day
Fruit is best eaten raw, although cooking them is part of our daily culinary activity. From fresh fruit to pie and savory dishes, fruit is used for its powerful tastes and high fructose content. Due to fruits high sugar content, they are also high in calories, so while fruit provides us with many vital vitamins and minerals, they can also be fattening as well. Coconuts are the exception since they have a high content of vegetable oils.

When preparing fruit, keep the peel if possible, apples, pears and such are best-eaten whole, citrus fruits must be peeled, and melons, pineapples, and exotic fruits are usually all peeled. Berries are high in anti-oxidants, so try to add them to your diet as often as possible.

Regarding canned fruit, just make sure what is the added sugar content. When a can of fruit sits in syrup, this means that the producers have added sugar water to the content.

Dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day
Dairy means milk, and milk comes from three main sources: cows, sheep, and goats. There are differences between each type, and the taste is also significantly different. This is best noticed when buying cheese. All dairy products have different amounts of lactose, so if you are lactose intolerance, only buy dairy products that are labeled “lactose-free.”

Milk, yogurt, and cheeses are all sources of calcium, vitamin D, and proteins, as well as fat. So, when you consider your daily input of dairy products, count the oil content, which significantly increases the calories. A typical serving can be one cup of skimmed or low-fat milk, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt and one and a half oz. of part-skim cheese.

Fat-free chess tends to be bolstered with salt to give flavor, so be careful when choosing this product.

Lean meat, poultry, and fish: 6 servings or fewer a day
The differences between meat are vast, although they all contain high sources of protein, vitamin D, iron, and Zinc. The variety of poultry, beef, and lamb provide an excellent source of culinary imagination. The DASH diet prefers low-fat sources such as chicken, turkey, specific cuts of beef and lamb. All fishes have different levels of fat, but their fat is healthy, and some contain large quantities of Omega 3 and 6. The beauty of meat is the variety of ways they can be added to your diet, as well as beef that can be eaten raw. Raw fish is known to us as sashimi, but that doesn’t mean you have to make a Japanese inspired dish to eat raw fish.

The best way to prepare the meat you buy is to trim the fat off, try to grill, bake, roast or broil rather than fry and barbecue. The four fish you should concentrate on are Tuna, Salmon, Herring, and Cod.

Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week
For those unfamiliar with the word Legume, this means beans. This category includes natures flora based proteins. In fact, some of these provide higher percentages of protein per serving than any meat or fish. Although they also provide higher contents of natural vegetable fats too. Most of these amazing produces include various natural molecules that fight cancer and cardiovascular disease, and if you can find ways to replace meat with soya bean substitutes since soya has many amino acids and proteins that provide a fat-free substitute for meat.

Servings are usually small due to the high-calorie value, and a typical serving will be a third of a cup of nuts, two tablespoons of seeds and half a cup of cooked beans or peas.

Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day
Fat is an important part of any diet, totally removing fat will be detrimental to your health. There are good fats and bad ones. The issue is concentrating on maintaining a low good fat content in your diet. The DASH diet maintains a balance of calories with no more than 30% from natural oils and fats. A typical serving (addition balanced in your daily diet) would include 1 teaspoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and two tablespoons of salad dressing.

You have to avoid trans-fat, these are industry produced fats where hydrogen is introduced into the oil to make solid margarine. Try to avoid margarine completely; there are better solutions for spreads and cooking that include olive oil and butter.

Sweets: 5 servings or less per week
The beauty of DASH is that you can still indulge every now and then with your favorite source of sweet. A typical example of serving is a tablespoon of sugar, Jam, and Jelly, half a cup of sorbet, or a cup of lemonade.

Just make sure you chose low fat or fat-free combinations when buying your sweets and crackers. If you can abide the taste of artificial sweeteners, go over from sugar to them. Coca-Cola Max is healthier than original Coca-Cola. However, switching to water, or natural fruit juices and even low-calorie non-carbonated drinks are better. Try to eat sweets that have no artificial colors.

Alcohol and caffeine
There is no restriction on coffee. However, there is a restriction on alcohol due to its high-calorie content and its adverse effect on your kidneys. It is best to limit drinking alcohol to two shots or cups a day, and preferably to remove alcohol from your diet completely. One exception is a dry red wine which is considered to be good for cholesterol, and two glasses a day would be a beneficial addition to the diet. Try to limit your caffeine intake and don’t drink “energy drinks” that are full of unwanted chemicals and extremely high doses of caffeine.

When you take medication, you must consult with your doctor before entering any dietary plans.

Tips for a Better Diet

  • Save time by buying freshly cut vegetables from a grocery store.
  • Keep a stock of frozen vegetables to save time if you cannot buy fresh vegetables every day
  • Double your daily servings of vegetables
  • Add berries to your breakfast cereals
  • Buy nonfat fruit-flavored yogurt with artificial sweetener for a snack or breakfast
  • Since all nuts are healthy, use them as a salt-free energy and protein boost
  • When shopping for vegetables and fruit, consider the ready to cook or eat bagged fruit and vegetables, they save a lot of preparation time.
  • Turn your coffee into a healthy latte and add 8 flow ozs., skim or fat-free milk.
  • Smoothies are a great way to drink up plenty of fresh goodness. Try mixing different fruits to get that processed-sugar free smoothness.
  • Fresh fruit and colorful vegetables can color up your plate, making the meal more appealing.