Is this the best diet ever?
The DASH diet (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a health regime that, if followed correctly, may help to lower your blood pressure, prevent diabetes and improve your overall health.
Benenden Hospital bariatric dietician Katie Peck answers questions on the DASH diet and its benefits.
What is the DASH diet and what's so good about it?
The DASH diet is low in salt and sodium and is designed to lower high blood pressure, improve overall cardiovascular health, reduce weight and prevent diabetes. It’s good because it both has a lifestyle approach and works clinically by being nutritious and good for your heart.
What kinds of foods can you eat on the DASH diet?
Fruit and vegetables, grains (such as brown rice, barley and bulgur wheat), moderate amounts of reduced fat dairy (for example milk and yoghurt), lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans and soybeans), foods rich in magnesium (which is often lacking in the average diet) such as dark chocolate, avocados, unsalted nuts and tofu, and calcium-rich foods like leafy greens, almonds, beans and lentils.
What foods should you avoid?
Avoid foods high in salt and sodium such as smoked, cured, salted and canned meat, fish and poultry, bacon, ham, sausages and sardines. Canned pickles and vegetables, ketchup and mayonnaise are also high in salt.
Can anyone follow the DASH diet?
Yes, although it’s especially good for people with high blood pressure who want to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.
Is alcohol allowed?
Yes, both men and women can have a drink or two per day but no more than that.
Do you have any tips and advice for people who are thinking of starting the diet?
The diet has quite low amounts of sodium, so when you start following it you’ll probably want to monitor your sodium intake to achieve the DASH goal of 1,500mg (the average sodium intake is 2,300mg) per day. One way to do this is to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet by eating lots of plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil and use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour your food. Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month is also good for a healthy heart. Look for food labels that say ‘low in sodium’ or ‘no added salt’ and, where possible, choose fresh over processed food. Also watch the amount of salt you put on your food and into your cooking.
What success stories have you seen?
I’ve seen many clients who had high blood pressure follow the DASH diet with great results. As well as reducing their blood pressure, they lost weight and felt better.
For more information on DASH see dashdiet.org.
Read more on your blood pressure here.
Katie Peck is a nutritionist and registered dietician and gives diet advice to weight-loss patients at Benenden Hospital. She also runs her own nutrition clinic www.pecknutrition.com