If you are looking for a long-term diet that helps with weight loss and lowers your blood pressure, the DASH diet may be for you. The DASH diet is not a crash diet for quick weight loss but is instead a diet that is part of a healthy lifestyle that protects your health and heart long-term.
You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet, which is one of the healthiest diets for heart health. The DASH diet is an Americanized version of the Mediterranean diet that is easier to follow because it offers more specific guidelines. Also, the DASH diet is healthy for the entire family. If you are eating a low-sodium diet for heart health you know how frustrating it can be to eat a different meal from your family—not to mention a lot more work to prepare. With the DASH diet the whole family can enjoy the food and reap the health benefits with nobody feeling like they are missing out.
DASH stands for: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is based on a number of research studies that have found a number of health benefits from this style of eating.
Health Benefits of the DASH Diet:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces cholesterol
- Reduces risk for heart disease
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Reduces risk for type II diabetes
- Reduces belly fat
- Reduces inflammation
- Weight Loss
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Prevents osteoporosis
- Prevents cancer
- Reduces risk for stroke
- Improves brain health
- Lowers risk of kidney stones
What Foods are in the DASH Diet?
The Dash diet is a plant-based, high-fiber diet that provides key nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium while reducing sodium. The Standard DASH diet allows up to 2,300 mg of sodium per day and the Low-Sodium DASH diet allows up to 1,500 mg of sodium per day, which is the upper limit recommend by the American Heart Association. A typical American diet can include 3,400 mg of sodium per day or even more!
The diet emphasizes proper portion size and eating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds. It allows for red meat, sweets, and fats in small amounts.
A 2,000 calorie per day DASH diet includes (modify based on your needs):
- 6-8 servings of whole grains
- 4-5 servings of vegetables
- 4-5 servings of fruit
- 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy (yogurts, skim milk, part-skim cheese)
- Up to 6 servings of lean meat, poultry, and fish
- 2-3 servings of fats and oils per day. Avoid saturated fats—which should not be more than 6% of total calories—and trans fats; look for healthy monounstatuated fats like those found in olive oil and avocados.
- 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds and legumes per week.
- 5 or fewer servings of sweets per week
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
These are general guidelines, and you may need to modify for your own health and body size. If you are trying to lose weight, you may need to eat fewer calories. Increasing your physical activity while following the DASH diet will help lower blood pressure and help with weight loss. If you need motivation or inspiration for losing weight, you can follow the BeFit 30-day Fat Burn Fitness Program to get started.