It’s June already!
With summer beach season and wedding season coming up quickly, I’m noticing that a lot of people are trying to find quick weight loss solutions. If you’re like many, your first instinct is to hop online and see what that best new diet is. You might find that U.S. News evaluated and ranked diets and that the DASH diet was rated the best diet overall. So what’s it all about and is it really any good?
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This eating plan was actually developed to help prevent high blood pressure and lower it if you already have it. Weight loss is just a bonus.
Let me tell a little about high blood pressure and why you should care before we get into the details of DASH.
High blood pressure (or its fancy name, hypertension) affects 1/3 American adults and another 1/3 of adults have prehypertension. Having prehypertension means that you have an increased chance of developing hypertension. If you’ve had your blood pressure checked, or check it yourself with one of those fun machines at a pharmacy, anything between 120/80 and 140/89 is prehypertension and higher than 140/89 is considered hypertension.
High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes your heart work too hard and is hard on your arteries and other parts of your body. It can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and blindness so it is worth paying attention to.
The good news is that it can be prevented and treated by following the DASH plan or a similar healthy eating plan, being active, drinking moderately if at all, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Research has shown that diets low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber help to lower blood pressure. The DASH eating plan is also lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol than the typical American diet which makes it heart-healthy and weight-friendly.
But the cool thing is that in order to follow the DASH plan, you don’t have to memorize a list of foods that you can and can’t eat.
You just have to focus on including fruits, vegetables, low-fat/fat-free dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. These foods are naturally rich in the nutrients that help to lower blood pressure. The plan naturally limits sweets, sugar-containing beverages, added salt, fats, and red meats.
The number of servings you need from each food group depends on the number of calories you need each day which depends on your age, sex, activity level, and weight loss goals. Whoa! Let me know if you need help figuring out your calorie needs.
For example, if you need 2000 calories, each day you would eat:
- 6-8 grain servings
- 4-5 vegetable servings
- 4-5 fruit servings
- 2-3 fat-free or low-fat milk servings
- 6 or less servings of lean meats, poultry, or fish
- 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes per week
- 2-3 servings of fats and oils
- 5 or less servings of sweets per week
Just to give you an idea of what this looks like, a 2000 calorie day could look like this:
- 1/2 cup oatmeal with cinnamon
- 1 mini whole wheat bagel with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1 medium banana
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1/3 cup unsalted almonds
- A sandwich with 2 slices whole wheat bread, 2 slices of chicken breast, 1 slice of reduced fat cheddar cheese, 1 large leaf of lettuce, 2 slices of tomato, and 1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
- 1 cup cantaloupe chunks
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup fat-free fruit yogurt
- 1 cup cooked spaghetti with 3/4 low sodium marinara sauce and 3 Tbsp parmesan cheese
- A spinach salad with 1 cup spinach leaves, 1/4 grated carrots, 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms, and 1 Tbsp oil and vinegar dressing
- 1/4 cup corn
- 1/2 cup canned pears
- 1/4 cup dried apricots
Wow that looks like a lot of food to enjoy and still lose weight!
- DASH has a lot of scientific research to support its effectiveness
- It is endorsed by the American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Mayo Clinic
- You don’t have to buy special foods or supplements
- The guide is free to download here and if you want to read more, there are plenty of books available
- It is heart-healthy and helps to lower high blood pressure
- It is diabetes friendly
- DASH foods are filling – making it easier to lose weight
- Enjoyable exercise is encouraged
- You do need to keep track of servings you eat from each food group
- You may find foods with less salt to be flavorless at first. Try adding herbs and spices like Mrs Dash
What you need to know
Check with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian like me to see if the DASH is right for you. If you want to know more, you can download a free guide here but let me know if you need help making it work for you.