Dash Diet


Making the DASH for good health
Research has shown that diet affects the development of high blood pressure, or hypertension (the medical term). Recently, a study found that a particular eating plan can lower elevated blood pressure.
This fact sheet tells what high blood pressure is and how you can follow the eating plan. It offers tips on how to start and stay on the plan, as well as a week of menus and recipes for some of the dishes.
The eating plan is meant for those with elevated blood pressure. It also is a heart-healthy plan that you can share with your family.
What Is the DASH Diet?
Even slight elevations of blood pressure above the optimal level of less than 120/80 mm Hg are unhealthy. The higher the blood pressure above normal, the greater the health risk.
In the past, researchers had tested various single nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, to find clues about what affects blood pressure.
These studies were done mostly with dietary supplements and their findings were not conclusive.
Then, scientists supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) tested nutrients as they occur together in food. The results were dramatic. The clinical study, called “DASH” for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, found that elevated blood pressures can be reduced with an eating plan low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods. The plan is rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as protein and fiber.
DASH involved 459 adults with systolic blood pressures of less than 160 mm Hg and diastolic pressures of 80-95 mm Hg. About half of the participants were women and 60 percent were African Americans.
DASH compared three eating plans:
A plan similar in nutrients to what many Americans consume
A plan similar to what Americans consume but higher in fruits and vegetables
A “combination” plan–the DASH diet–lower in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol, and rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods
All three plans used about 3,000 milligrams of sodium daily–about 20 percent below the U.S. average for adults. None of the plans was vegetarian or used specialty foods.
Results showed that both the fruit/vegetable and combination plans reduced blood pressure, and has no hard-to-follow recipes. One way to begin is by seeing how DASH compares with your current food habits. Use the ” What’s On Your Plate? ” form. Fill it in for 1-2 days and see how it compares with the DASH plan. This will help you see what you need to change.
Remember that some days you may eat more than what’s recommended from one food group and less of another. But don’t worry. Just be sure that the average of several days or a week comes close to what’s recommended.
Then, check the ” Getting Started ” suggestions and the ” Tips on Eating the DASH Way. ” Finally, use the week of menus –or make up your own–and you’re all set.