There are many diets that receive attention -- from the 21 Day Fix diet, to clean eating diets, to Paleo, to Whole30. However, the diet that is most deserving of attention, seldom receives it. The evidence is in and the best diet for your heart, health and even weight loss is….
The DASH Diet
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) - A diet low in salt and rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein. While emphasizing less sodium, sweets, added sugars and beverages containing sugar, fats and red meats, the DASH diet is rich in calcium, fiber, magnesium, protein and potassium.
Hypertension is defined as high blood pressure (higher than 140/90 mmHg) in which long-term force of blood may cause health problems over the long term. Hypertension can exist for years with no symptoms while blood vessel damage is occurring. Approximately one billion people worldwide are affected by hypertension, with 50 million of these individuals in the United States. High blood pressure hardens artery walls, can cause the brain to hemorrhage or the kidneys to function poorly. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can cause heart and kidney disease, stroke and blindness.
Exercise for Your Heart
One of the most important things you can do for your heart is to be physically active. The recommendation is 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. Lawn maintenance, a brisk walk and housework can all contribute to heart-healthy activities. The 30 minutes can even be split throughout the day so incorporate those stairs into your day and park farther away from your destination and walk the rest of the way. The important thing is to reach at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity each week and progress to five hours each week over time.
Flexible Eating Approach
The DASH eating plan allows a flexible approach so you can make gradual changes over time. These easy tips can make it a routine:
- Add a serving of vegetables at lunch or dinner and add fruit to a meal or have it as a snack
- Substitute fat-free or low-fat dairy products for full-fat dairy
- Limit lean meats to six ounces a day (each three ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards)
- Include two or more meatless or vegetarian style meals each week
Lifestyle changes made by following the DASH plan will put you on the road to preventing and controlling high blood pressure. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, along with physical activity, will have many positive benefits on your health. Once you get started and feel the results, and even lose some weight, you will certainly be motivated to continue the DASH lifestyle.
Written by: Aimee Amacher, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern