The DASH diet: healthy weight loss & lower blood pressure
More than just a new diet: Experts consider the DASH diet as one of the best and healthiest in the world. We’ll tell you what’s behind it.
There has got to be a reason why, alongside the well-known Mediterranean diet, exactly one diet has been one of the healthiest in the world for years: The DASH diet.
Are you surprised that you have never heard of it? The term stands for “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension”, comes from the English language, and “Hypertension” stands for high blood pressure.
So, yet another diet? No!
The DASH nutrition was originally developed as a healthy diet to balance and manage high blood pressure.
And what works for high blood pressure often helps against extra pounds, as well. Because in many cases the two go hand in hand.
Leading heart specialists and doctors developed the blood pressure-lowering diet, and nowadays doctors and specialist centers worldwide, recommend it.
Important to know: The English word “diet” is usually misinterpreted, as most associate it with special foods and eating habits for weight loss. However, the true meaning of “diet” is actually “nutrition”.
The goal is a long-term change in your eating routine instead of a short-term fast.
You should pay attention to this advantage!
The DASH diet not only lowers blood pressure values but also the numbers of the scales. The reason is that, very similar to the Mediterranean diet, plant foods are in the foreground.
Also, plenty of nutrient-rich edibles, such as vegetables and fruits, have priority on your menu. You do not season your meals with salt, but with herbs and spices instead. This way, you will largely avoid foods that raise blood pressure.
The rules of the DASH diet at a glance
1- Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings daily. One serving corresponds to e.g. 1 handful of cooked spinach, 1 carrot, 1 handful of salad.
2- Fruits: 4 to 5 servings per day. One serving equals 1 apple, 1 handful of frozen berries, ½ glass of juice.
3- Whole grain: 6 to 7 servings a day. One serving relates to approximately half a cup of cooked whole-wheat rice or whole-wheat pasta, or 1 slice of whole wheat bread.
4- Nuts, seeds, legumes: 4 to 5 servings per week. One serving corresponds to about 2 tablespoons of seeds, such as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons of nuts or 2 tablespoons of cooked lentils, chickpeas or beans.
5- If you eat meat, then poultry or fish only, and a maximum of two servings per week. One serving equals about 75 grams of chicken or turkey breast or salmon fillet.
6- Reduced-fat dairy products: 2 to 3 servings daily. One serving relates to about 1 glass of milk (200 ml) and 30 g of cheese. You are welcome to choose plant-based/vegan alternatives.
7- You should minimize all foods that raise blood pressure as much as possible. This includes red meat, alcohol, sugar, salt (no more than 6 grams daily) and salty foods like snacks and ready meals.
Food without salt? You don’t have to do without well-seasoned food, because there are natural salt substitutes. Here we show you healthy and natural salt alternatives:
Salt decrease: 7 salt alternatives without a bad aftertaste
Little change, big impact
Most diets dictate strict diet plans and issue absolute bans to take effect. Not so with the DASH diet. Researchers found this using data from the well-known Nurses Health Study with over 48,000 participants and the data from 26,000 men.
They compared the results of three similar diets, including the DASH diet. After twelve years, it became apparent that even the smallest change in personal diet in the direction of the DASH diet had a positive impact.
Each approximation of only 20 percent to the ideal of the DASH diet resulted in a reward; a reduction in the risk of death by about 10 percent after 12 years.
The advantage: The DASH diet is good in the long term
Numerous studies now prove the positive effect of the DASH diet on weight, especially in the long term. Because there are no strict prohibitions and the focus is on a diverse healthy, nutrient-rich diet.
Therefore, the DASH diet is easier to stick to over time than other diets, which sometimes involve that whole food groups such as carbohydrates must be avoided.
Intermittent fasting also has this advantage, but only if you eat really healthy during the eating phase.
Scientifically proven effects on blood pressure
As far as blood pressure is concerned, patients can expect an average decrease of 5.2 to 11.2 mmHg systolic and 2.6 to 7.5 mmHg diastolic.
Participants who had the highest blood pressure at the start of the study achieved the greatest effects.
There is another variant of the DASH diet, in which the salt intake is reduced even more, to three instead of six grams a day.
In this case, the systolic blood pressure dropped by an average of 20 mmHg at a baseline value of ≥150 mmHg if, in addition to the DASH diet, saline consumption was limited to 3 grams.
This had an even greater effect on blood pressure than is seen in studies with common antihypertensive drugs.
But even with a blood pressure of <130, 130-139 and 140-149 mmHg, the pressure dropped by 5.3 mmHg, 7.5 mmHg, and 9.7 mmHg due to the change in diet.
More than “just a new diet”
Is the DASH diet one of the many weight-loss programs on the market again? Definitely not!
It has been around for over 20 years and, along with the Mediterranean diet, is one of the most scientifically researched and tried-and-tested nutrition programs.
The balanced, healthy and nutritious diet is ideal for our healthy blood pressure, and losing weight is a welcome side effect!
1- Effects of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Br J Nutr, 2015
2- Association of Changes in Diet Quality with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality, N Engl J Med 2017
3- DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet is an effective treatment for stage 1 isolated systolic hypertension, Hypertension, 2001
4- Effects of Sodium Reduction and the DASH Diet in Relation to Baseline Blood Pressure, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2017
So, now we know that the DASH diet stands for more than just another diet hype out there. You should consider and embrace it permanently and make it part of your life if you suffer from hypertension.
Do you have any questions or would you like to tell us about your own experience with the DASH nutrition? Please, feel free to do so in a comment below. We’re always glad to read from you.