The DASH diet: Why is it good for our health?
Published 22 Jan 2022 • By Candice Salomé
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was developed in the late 1980s by the National Institutes of Health in the United States. This eating plan helps fight high blood pressure through weight loss, in particular.
So what does the DASH diet consist of? What are its main principles? What are its health benefits?
We explain it all in our article!
Developed in the late 1980s by cardiologists, the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet helps lower the blood pressure and lose weight and reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases.
What is the DASH diet?
The DASH diet was developed in the United States in the late 1980s by some 50 cardiologists whose aim was to lower the blood pressure of their patients.
Supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an American agency attached to the US Department of Health, these cardiologists realized that drug treatments for high blood pressure were unsuitable for patients and could even have an impact on their general health.
So, they drew up a list of dietary measures to reduce sodium (salt) intake, with a focus on weight loss.
The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, which has been proven to have cardiovascular health benefits.
What does the DASH diet involve?
The creators of the DASH eating plan were inspired by vegetarian and Mediterranean diets.
It focuses on a simple, predominantly plant-based diet. It is rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and other micronutrients.
In contrast, processed foods, salt, sugar and red meat are consumed in very limited quantities.
In addition, the DASH diet greatly encourages exercise and practicing sports. It prohibits smoking and regular alcohol consumption.
Thus, the main goals of the DASH diet are:
- To limit the consumption of processed products (rich in added salt and sugar),
- To favour the consumption of raw foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses, oleaginous fruit and seeds, cereal, vegetable fats, lean meat and fish. It also recommends limiting the use of salt when cooking.
The DASH diet: what to eat and in what quantities?
The DASH eating plan is designed to limit the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol in one’s diet. It relies on a high intake of fruit and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, grains, fish, and poultry.
The recommended number of servings varies according to the dietary needs of each individual. The table below shows the portions for an intake of about 2000 calories per day.
When it comes to grains, it is important to choose whole grain foods, which are an important source of fibre. For example, it is recommended to choose brown rice or quinoa rather than white rice.
As for dairy products, it is preferable to opt for skimmed products containing less fat. For example, it is better to drink skimmed or 1% fat milk rather than 2% or 3.5% fat milk. These foods will provide you with a significant calcium and protein intake.
What are the health benefits of the DASH diet?
Lower blood pressure
This diet involves reducing sodium intake by limiting the consumption of processed foods rich in salt.
Studies have shown that too much salt contributes to high blood pressure. Conversely, lowering your salt intake can lower your blood pressure.
The DASH diet recommends limiting your salt intake to 2.3 gr. per day. This is an equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt. In addition, the DASH diet encourages the consumption of green vegetables, which are rich in potassium and also help lower blood pressure.
By limiting the consumption of processed foods (high in salt and sugar) and favouring raw foods, the DASH eating plan allows you to lose weight, but also to maintain a healthy weight in the long term.
As the DASH diet is based on the consumption of foods with a low glycaemic index and provides a sufficient protein intake, it allows you to prevent cravings and avoid snacking.
The DASH eating plan relies on the consumption of sugars naturally present in such foods as fruit, legumes, and cereal, which have a low glycaemic index, thus drastically limiting the consumption of processed foods. This helps prevent the onset of, or control, diabetes.
The DASH diet improves all cardiovascular parameters such as cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers.
Thus, the DASH diet, originally indicated for people diagnosed with hypertension, can be helpful to all people who want to have a balanced diet and lose a few pounds or to those who have a family history of heart disease, vascular disease, diabetes, or excess weight.
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