With high blood pressure or hypertension being the most widespread cause of heart disease and stroke, let us try to understand the ideal eating pattern to prevent and control hypertension.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a flexible and balanced diet plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for our life. This DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that is designed to prevent and control high blood pressure.
The goal of DASH diet is to encourage people to reduce salt in their diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, that help lower blood pressure.
There are two versions of the DASH diet:
- Standard DASH diet.You can consume up to 2,300 mg (or) 1 teaspoon of salt a day. This is meant for anyone who wishes to adopt a healthy food pattern to prevent heart and blood vessel problems.
- Lower sodium DASH diet.You can consume up to 1,500 mg (or) ¾ teaspoon of salt per day. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, swelling or edema of feet or have heart failure this is the salt level that is ideal for you.
Foods to be included more in your daily diet
- Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy
- Lean Meat, Fish, & Poultry
- Nuts, seeds and legumes
Foods to be kept to a minimum
- Sodium (salt)
- Sugar / Sweets
- Fatty meats
- Saturated and Trans Fats
Now, let us see the recommended Daily Servings for the healthy food groups:
- Vegetables: 4-5 servings
1 serving = 250 ml (1 cup) raw green leafy vegetables; 125 ml (½ cup) cooked vegetables
Examples: Broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, mushroom, brussels sprouts, spinach and other greens or veggies etc
Advantages: Vegetables are packed with potassium, magnesium as well as fibre and vitamins.
- Fruits : 4-5 servings
1 serving = 1 medium piece of fruit; ½ cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
Examples: Bananas, apples, grapes, berries, lemons, pineapple, apricots, tomato, oranges etc
Advantages: Fruits are great sources of fibre, potassium, and magnesium and low in fat. They can easily be enjoyed as a snack or a side dish with other main courses.
Note: If you go for canned fruit or juice, make sure no sugar is added.
- Grains (mainly whole grains): 6-8 servings
1 serving = 1 slice whole-wheat bread; 125 ml (½ cup) cooked rice, pasta or cereal
Examples: Bread, wheat, brown rice, pasta, oats, millets etc
Advantages: Always focus on whole grains instead of refined grains because it is low fat and nutrient-dense with many essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, B vitamins and zinc.
- Dairy Products (low fat): 2-3 servings
1 serving = 1 cup of skimmed milk (or) low fat yoghurt
Examples: Milk, yogurt, cheese etc
Advantages: Dairy provides plenty of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. However, aim for low fat or fat-free dairy, since dairy can otherwise be loaded with fat.
- Lean meat, Poultry and Fish: 2 servings or less
1 serving = 3 ounces of lean meat, poultry and fish
Note: The area of your palm covers 3 ounces of meat
Examples: Chicken, fish, egg etc
Advantages: Meat can be a rich source of protein, iron, B vitamins and zinc. Take heart- healthy fish such as tuna, salmon and herring which provides omega 3 fatty acids to reduce your bad cholesterol.
- Nuts, Seeds and Legumes: 4-5 servings per week
1 serving = 1/3 cup nuts; 2 tablespoons seeds;1/2 cup cooked beans or peas.
Examples: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, peas, lentils, peanuts etc
Advantages: Seeds and legumes are good sources of protein, magnesium, and potassium. They’re also protective against certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease due to their phytochemicals content.
- Fats and Oils: 2-3 servings per day
1 serving = 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Examples: Olive oil, canola oil, safflower, sunflower, soybean etc
Advantages: Fat helps your body’s immune system and allows you to absorb vitamins. However, too much of fat increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Keep away from trans fats, found commonly in processed and fried food.
Health Benefits of the DASH diet
- Reduces blood pressure
- Lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol
- Helps in weight management
More DASH Tips
- If you now eat one or two vegetables a day, add another serving at lunch and dinner.
- If you don’t eat fruit now or have only juice at breakfast, add a serving of fruit to your meals or switch out your juice for the whole fruit.
- Opt for low fat or skimmed dairy when you might normally do full fat or cream.
- Snack on nuts, raisins, unsalted and unbuttered popcorn or frozen yogurt rather than salty chips and cookies.
- Use low fat or fat free condiments, and try reducing your salad dressing amounts by half. Home-made salad dressing consisting of pepper powder, lime juice, jeera powder and olive oil is a good alternative to store-purchased dressings.
- Beware of the hidden salt lurking in pre-processed foods like ready-to-eat noodles, papadums, canned foods, ketchup and cooking pastes/powders.