The DASH (Dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet is a research based dietary plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the US to to prevent and control high blood pressure or hypertension and recommended a number of health associations and institutes in the United states including:
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health, of the US Department of Health and Human Services)
- The American Heart Association
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure
The diet was designed to be an easy to follow way to reduce high blood pressure through whole foods – without the need for additional medication.
It was developed following research that showed that a low sugar diet could reduce blood pressure in patients just as effectively as well leading medications on the market and was sponsored by National Institute of Health in the US.
Following the development and initial research, there have been several studies which have shown its effectiveness in reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, strokes, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Also importantly the diet has proved to be remarkably effective in helping patients lose weight and improve their physical and mental health and well being. Based on whole foods with an emphasis on taste and quality ingredients it was quickly recognised and became the number #1 ranked diet for 4 consecutive years according to the US News & World.
The origins of the DASH diet
Surprisingly the original DASH diet was not specifically for weight loss – and contained significant quantities of refined grains and starches – not recognised as being harmful at the time.
It was developed to meet the need for an easy-to-follow plan, and was rich in fruits and vegetables, low in fat and nonfat dairy, and emphasizing nuts, beans, and seeds.
As the understanding of the value and effect of different food groups evolved, a number of new studies have into the diet resulted in an optimised version of DASH, which demonstrated even more significant results. Through the reduction in refined sugars and starch and through adding more healthy protein and fats the updated version of the diet yielded even more remarkable reductions in blood pressure and are in line with the latest research into sustainable long term weight loss.
What the diet consists of
The diet consists of meals and snacks that are balanced with wholesome, filling foods with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, together with protein-rich foods which promote a feeling of satiety (feeling full) and supply the required healthy fats and fatty acids such as omega-3’s. The meal plans are designed to limit any surges and resulting crashes in blood sugar associated with high GI foods – and which result in cravings.
Through maintaining steady levels of blood sugar the diet enables you to reduce the risk of developing diabetes – or to help manage the symptoms. It has been shown to reduce body fat, reduce triglycerides and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol – while improving levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
There is still a strong emphasis on protein to support and maintain muscle mass – which has been shown to aid metabolism – while losing weight, to avoid slowing your metabolism.
There are a number of variations of the DASH diet – which follow the original philosophy, but with a slightly different emphasis:
- These include plant-based foundations which emphasise foods high in antioxidants and healthy fats that can reduce the oxidation and inflammation that ages and causes many diseases.
This approach avoids processed starches and sugars to control blood sugar and prevent or manage diabetes and supports healthy gut microbiota.
- There are also accelerated weight loss plans, specifically targeting fat loss, and the management of metabolic diseases, and reducing the risk of developing diabetes.
Who is the DASH diet for?
The DASH Diet plan is both suitable and recommended for the whole family – as an easy to follow eating plan centered around whole foods and the right amount of protein, nuts and grains it is effective in maintaining healthy weight and lowering blood pressure in children as well as adults.
How does it work?
The DASH diet plan includes more of the important nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium found in fruits and vegetables and which help to lower blood pressure. There are often additional benefits with a reduction of sodium or salt in their diet.