THE D.A.S.H. DIET

Introduction

You have probably heard for years that a high-sodium diet is bad for your overall health and particularly your cardiovascular health.  Even if you know this, do you know why? Very simply put, a high sodium diet is linked to higher blood pressure, and high blood pressure (clinically known as hypertension), is linked to cardiovascular disease.  Before going on a medication to reduce blood pressure, or in conjunction with starting a medication, most physicians will ask you to reduce the sodium in your diet to see if that alleviates the problem.  But what is a low-sodium diet?  The Food and Drug Administration (fda.gov) says the following about sodium in diets:

  • Know the Daily Value. The Daily Values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed each day. The Daily Value for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.
  • Use % Daily Value (%DV) as a tool. The %DV is the percentage of the Daily Value for each nutrient in a serving of the food and shows how much of a nutrient contributes to a total daily diet.

Use %DV to determine if a serving of the food is high or low in sodium and to compare and choose foods to get less than 100% DV of sodium each day.

As a general guide: 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high.

  • Pay attention to servings. The nutrition information listed on the Nutrition Facts label is usually based on one serving of the food. Check the serving size and the number of servings you eat or drink to determine how much sodium you are consuming.

One diet plan to reduce blood pressure that has been well-regarded by physicians and nutritionists alike is the DASH diet.  In fact, the title is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

What Is The DASH Diet?

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The DASH diet was created through research funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to stop hypertension through diet alone.  It is set up in such a way that it is a long-term plan.  In other words, you could happily stay on this diet plan for your whole life as it is neither too restrictive nor skewed toward one or two of the macronutrients.  When you have a diet plan that drastically reduces one of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, or fats) over the long term, you run the risk of being malnourished.  The Dash diet is balanced in the ratio of macronutrients you consume on a daily basis. 

  • Standard DASH diet. You can consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.
  • Lower sodium DASH diet. You can consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

The standard DASH diet meets the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day.

The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg a day of sodium as an upper limit for all adults. If you aren’t sure what sodium level is right for you, please schedule time to talk to your physician about your specific needs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from the following foods:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches (such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and submarine sandwiches)
  • Cold cuts and cured meats (such as deli and packaged ham and turkey)
  • Soups (particularly canned soup rather than homemade)
  • Burritos and tacos
  • Snack foods (such as chips, crackers, microwave popcorn, and pretzels)
  • Chicken (particularly processed & fried chicken)
  • Cheese (includes processed cheese)
  • Condiments such as soy sauce and dips

What Can I Eat and What Can’t I Eat?

First off, always check the nutrition labels on packaged food (or a restaurant meal on their website) for the sodium content.  Knowledge is power and you have this right before you at the grocery store as well as through a smartphone when eating out.  See the list above for common high-sodium foods and naturally, avoid them!  Choose minimally-processed foods when possible and eat more vegetables and fruit every day.


And remember, reducing sodium in your diet doesn’t mean you have to reduce flavor.  Your taste buds will thank you if you use herbs, seasonings, vinegars, citrus juice and condiments in your cooking that are low in sodium but still packed with flavor.  

Can Eat:

  • Whole Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day (on a 2,000 calorie dietary plan – reduce accordingly if you eat less than this)
    Grains include bread, cereal, rice and pasta. Examples of one serving of grains include 1 slice whole-wheat bread, 1 oz dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, barley, quinoa or pasta.

  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day
    1 cup cooked or raw is usually considered a serving

  • Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day
    Examples of one serving include one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit (prefer fresh or frozen fruit and limit canned or dried fruit)

     

  • Dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day
    Examples of one serving is a cup of yogurt or milk, a slice of cheese, and ½ cup of ice cream.  Avoid high-sodium cheeses like cottage cheese. 

     

  • Lean & unprocessed meat, poultry, fish, or eggs: 6 ounces total per day for meat and 2 eggs or less per day
    Cutting back on your meat portion will allow room for more vegetables. Examples of one serving include 1-2 eggs or 3-4 ounces of cooked meat, poultry or fish.

     

  • Nuts, seeds and legumes (beans & peas): 4 to 5 servings a week
    Examples of one serving include 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons seeds or nut butter, or 1/2 cup cooked beans or peas.

     

  • Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day
    Having an adequate intake of good fat in your daily diet is essential to proper nutrition and cellular-level health. The bad fats, however, are to be avoided.  Since the Dash diet’s goal is to reduce hypertension, a daily fat allowance is an important part of low-sodium flavor and nutrition enhancement. 

    Examples of one serving include 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, ½ avocado, or 2 tablespoons salad dressing or olive oil.

    For more information, please visit www.dashdiet.org

    This diet also includes 2.5 hours of exercise each week and it cuts out alcohol, which will improve overall health and expedite weight loss as well.  You can choose whatever exercise you wish but focus on raising your heartrate for a minimum of 20 minutes for each session.

Can't Eat:

See the list below for common high-sodium foods and naturally, avoid them!  Choose minimally-processed foods when possible and eat more vegetables and fruit every day. 

  • Breads and rolls
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches (such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and submarine sandwiches)
  • Cold cuts and cured meats (such as deli and packaged ham and turkey)
  • Soups (particularly canned soup rather than homemade)
  • Burritos and tacos
  • Snack foods (such as chips, crackers, microwave popcorn, and pretzels)
  • Chicken (particularly processed & fried chicken)
  • Cheese (includes processed cheese)
  • Condiments such as soy sauce and dips

Sample Recipes:

Butter Chicken Recipe

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Anti-Inflammatory Omelette

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Pesto Pasta Salad

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Cauliflower Steaks

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Sweet Potato Avocado Toast

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Overnight Oatmeal

Overnight Oatmeal A classic made even easier! Make this the night before for a convenient on-the-go-breakfast. Add in blueberries for a boost of antioxidants. Pin

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Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup This soup is high in potassium and has a rich flavor, plus, its not that hard to make! Enjoy as a main

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Asian Slaw

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Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies (Scroll to bottom to view video) These Black Bean Brownies are dense and packed with protein! This recipe can be a pick-me-up

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White Bean Chicken Chili

White Bean Chicken Chili This chili is hearty without weighing you down! Cannellini beans add fiber and protein, with the benefit of helping to control

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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Tuna Salad Plate Recipe

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Luminaries Parfait Recipe

Luminaries Parfait Recipe Low-carb and low-sugar, this is a wonderful snack or light breakfast option. Try out this parfait with different types of nuts for

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