Unlike the other diets that I’ve reviewed on here, this isn’t one that I’ve tried out myself. The reason is that it is not like other diets, where the goal is to lose weight. The DASH Diet has a specific goal for health purposes: lowering your blood pressure. As that does not pertain to me, it wasn’t of any use for me. However, knowledge is power so I did some research on what this diet entails and how it can be useful for those who suffer from high blood pressure.
What is the DASH Diet?
As you could guess by the all-caps, DASH is an acronym. It stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and is meant for those who have high blood pressure. This health issue is at an epidemic level, with more than 1 billion people (and growing) suffering from this issue. While some of the roots of this health problem are genetic, much of it has to do with diet, and this meal plan aims to correct that. Dr. Marla Heller goes into detail on this diet in her best-selling book, available here.
What Does it Entail?
It was observed that individuals who consumed a more plant-based diet seemed to be at less risk of heart disease and hypertension. Using this principle, this diet has a heavy focus on fruits and vegetables. Lean meats and whole grains are also key. In some ways, it is similar to the Mediterranean Diet.
It is advised to eat more lean meats like chicken and fish, along with nuts, legumes, beans, and lentils. Foods that you should avoid include red meats, sugars, salt, and unnecessary fat.
Salt is the biggest restriction. It can clog the arteries and lead to heart issues. It is recommended to stay below 1 teaspoon of sodium per day. In fact, when this diet has been clinically tested, the biggest reduction in blood pressure was observed by the test subjects who had the biggest restriction of sodium in their diet.
In addition to lowering your blood pressure, this diet can have a number of other benefits for your health. Because of the healthy food choices it promotes, it is not uncommon that you lose weight while following this meal plan.
In addition, the increase in fruits and vegetables can provide you the nutrients your body needs to better protect from illness, even reducing cancer risk. Because of the reduction of sugar in your diet, it can also lower the risk of diabetes.
Who Should Follow This Diet?
As mentioned before, this diet is designed for those who suffer from hypertension / high blood pressure. However, studies have shown that it even lowers the blood pressure of individuals who had normal blood pressure to begin with, although the reductions were much smaller than those who had high blood pressure.
While too much salt is bad for you, and this diet should be commended for restricting sodium, there is such a thing as eating too little salt as well. Not having enough sodium in your body can open the door to health issues such as insulin resistance and fluid retention. Some experts have recommended that instead of lowering your salt intake to 1 teaspoon, go for 2 to 2.5 teaspoons. This is a healthy amount and a restriction that can be met by simply removing highly processed foods from your diet.
The DASH Diet can be a simple plan to follow if you want to lower your blood pressure. There are enough people afflicted with this health issue that this diet can be of great use to many. However, it should be noted that there have been no studies that link this lowering in blood pressure to a reduction of heart risk. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t healthy to get your blood pressure back to a normal level.
For normal individuals, this isn’t the diet to follow. It isn’t geared towards weight loss, rather it aims to treat one particular affliction. If losing weight is the goal, I recommend taking a look at one of the diets below instead.