Make a Dash for the DASH Diet
The DASH diet plan was initially developed to lower blood pressure without medication but since then it has been found to also lower the risk of many other diseases such as cancer, diabetes, renal and heart disease. It has also shown to reduce the waistline and manage weight allowing one to lead a healthier lifestyle. Furthermore, it has been recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health), the American Heart Association, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and U.S. guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure.
So what exactly is it—and what and how much should you consume on a DASH diet?
The DASH diet recommends that daily sodium intake should be no more than 2,300 mg and should eventually be reduced to 1,500mg a day. Most Americans consume up to 5,000 mg a day! Based on a 2000 calorie diet, here is what you should typically consume.
Grains: 6-8 servings a day.
Focus more on whole grains such as whole wheat or multi grain bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, farro, quinoa, and bulgur wheat. Serving size should be no more than ½ cup of rice or pasta and no more than one slice of bread.
Vegetables: 4-5 servings a day.
Include a wide variety of vegetables. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, so include a portion at each meal. For the sake of convenience, frozen vegetables are fine. When cooking, avoid adding too much oil. Stir-frying, grilling and roasting are all better options. Keep portion size half to one cup at each meal.
Fruits: 4-5 servings a day.
Again, a wide variety is best here. Fruits such as apples, peaches, bananas, pears and many others come conveniently packaged and are easy to carry with you. Opt for natural fruits instead of those that are canned or packaged. Fruits also make great desserts.
Lean meat/fish/poultry: 2 or less a day.
A serving is 1 oz cooked skinless poultry or seafood. Heart healthy fish such as salmon and tuna are better options as they are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Low fat or non-fat dairy: 2-3 servings daily.
Because dairy contains a lot of fat, make sure all dairy is either low fat or fat free. A serving is one cup milk, yogurt or 1 oz cheese.
Nuts, seeds, legumes: 4-5 servings a week.
Lentils, beans, peas, pumpkin/sunflower seeds and nuts are all in this category. Even though nuts contain good fats, they are still high in calories and should be consumed weekly and in moderation. Serving size should be no more than half a cup cooked beans/peas, a handful of nuts, and a couple of tablespoons of seeds.
Fats and Sweets: These should be limited.
Strive for more of the healthy monosaturated fats than saturated and trans-fats. Fat intake should be no more than 27 percent of total calories. Reduce or eliminate sugar entirely as it has no nutritional value but all the extra calories!
[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404)-376-5655; firstname.lastname@example.org. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]
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