DASH for Your Health

These days, DASH (Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension) is more than just a relay race, it's a set of dietary recommendations that can prolong your life!

Original DASH Found to Lower High Blood Pressure Results from the original DASH study showed a diet low in fat, high in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products can reduce blood pressure to the same degree as medication.

How much more produce and dairy do you need? According to the original DASH, eating four to five fruit servings (bananas, oranges, raspberries, for example), four to five vegetable servings (carrots, spinach, sweet peppers, broccoli) and two to three low-fat dairy servings (nonfat milk, low-fat or nonfat yogourt), along with limiting total fat to no more than 26% of calories can lower blood pressure dramatically.

In all participants (those with and without hypertension) the DASH diet lowered systolic pressure (the top number) an average of 5.5 mm Hg and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) 3.0. In men and women with hypertension, the reductions were even more striking: 11.4 in systolic readings and 5.5 in diastolic pressures. "That can be enough to bring some people out of the category of high blood pressure into one of normal pressure," says leading hypertension expert Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine, epidemiology and international health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and chief investigator of the nationwide study of diet and blood pressure called DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Such reductions are also enough to prevent high blood pressure.

Overall, says Dr. Appel and other DASH researchers, we could reap big returns if everyone simply doubled their intake of fruits, veggies and low-fat dairy and cut dietary fat. How big? Some 27% fewer strokes and 15% less artery-clogging heart disease, they estimate.

Newer analysis of this data suggests DASH also cuts your risk of developing heart disease.

DASH Cuts Heart Disease Risk
Findings published in the July 2001 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveal the DASH diet significantly reduces:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol both of which lead to artery-clogging plaque.

DASH Diet Reduces Homocysteine
In addition, the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, published information revealing that the DASH diet:

  • Reduces homocysteine, an amino acid that, when it is elevated, appears to increase the risk of heart disease.

How Can You Reap Benefits? Now the question is how can you reap these benefits? The basics of the DASH diet are similar to recommendations you may already know:

  • Eat more plant-based foods paired with smaller amounts of lean protein such as chicken or fish and heart healthy vegetable fats.

However, the DASH diet goes a step further, including:

  • 8 to 10 servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day.
  • 2 to 3 servings of low fat dairy foods per day
  • Nuts, seeds or beans 4 to 5 times per week.

The DASH way to Lower Blood Pressure

Following the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension) diet may help you lower your blood pressure and lose weight. As you follow this dietary approach, remember to follow these simple guidelines:

  • 4 to 5 vegetable servings daily, where one serving is 1 cup leafy vegetable, 1/2 cup cooked vegetable, 6 ounces vegetable juice
  • 4 to 5 fruit servings daily, where one serving is 3/4 cup fruit juice, 1 medium fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
  • 7 to 8 grain servings, where one serving is 1 slice bread, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 cup dry cereal, 1/2 cup cooked grain (such as rice) or pasta
  • 2 to 3 servings of low-fat or skim milk products dairy foods, where one serving is 1 cup skim milk, 1 cup yogourt, 50g low fat cheese

Every Day Tips
As you DASH for your health, we suggest these tips:

  1. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables gradually by doubling the portion of any you choose.
  2. Try baked fruits topped with a sprinkle of nuts, cinnamon, and low fat yogourt for a dessert.
  3. Sneak grated or pureed vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, bananas or apples in to muffins or quick breads.
  4. Blend 1 cup low fat yogourt, 1 cup frozen fruit, 2 tablespoons almonds and a dash of fruit juice for a refreshing smoothie.
  5. Use beans and/or nuts to provide protein for a meatless meal 2 or 3 times per week.
  6. Use low fat plain yogourt for a base for fruit or vegetable dips.
  7. Double the amount of vegetables you include in casseroles or soups.
  8. Carry small amounts of dried fruits for an energy burst during a long workout.