So what is DASH? Well, first off it’s a diet (or “eating plan”), and secondly it’s backed by the US government, which makes it a diet to be seriously reckoned with. It might even be heralded, as the mother of all diets, such is its potential as a model plan for healthier eating for those with health problems, or obesity issues, or simply for those who are looking to adopt a more balanced regimen.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or high blood pressure to use the ‘normal peoples’ term), and comes with recommendations from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute which is part of the US government’s National Institute for Health department (NIH). Essentially, the DASH dietary meal plan concentrates on promoting the importance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. It also includes meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and beans, while at the same time limiting sugar-sweetened foods, “junk food,” heavily processed products, sugar-derived beverages, red meat and added fats.
Nothing unusual there you might say? Almost all good diets put the accent on the mineral-fiber-vitamin goodness of fruit, veg, and whole grains combined with the heavy exclusion of nutritionally poor foods, yet the big difference is the NIH studies were the most thorough, and in-depth, and wide-ranging attempts to analyze dietary matters, the likes of which had never been done before to such an extent. They also factored in salt, which was found to be a major cause of high blood pressure.
The result is a low sodium diet that has been proven to greatly reduce high blood pressure, while at the same time being at a controlled calorie level of 1,699 to 2,000 making it a diet suitable and beneficial for everyone.
But principally, the NIH were looking at ways to improve the life of 50 million Americans who were known to be suffering from high blood pressure, because the higher the blood pressure, the greater the chance of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. It is this prevalence that prompted the NIH to act, and hence the DASH research began in 1992 featuring 5 of the top study centers in the States including John Hopkins University (Baltimore); Duke University Medical Center (North Carolina); Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research (Oregon); Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston); and Pennington Biomedical Research Center (Louisiana).
Six years of work by teams of physicians, nurses, nutritionists, statisticians and researchers led to the publication in 1998 of the government’s official guideline booklet entitled “Your Guide To Lowering Your Blood Pressure With Dash: Dash Eating Plan.”
Another crucial aspect of the DASH diet menu, as mentioned earlier, is the attention it gives to salt (sodium). That’s because salt was found to be linked to high blood pressure. This was a major breakthrough for the DASH research team because it added another link in the chain when it came to analyzing the physiological effects of the composition of different foods we consume on the human body. The average salt consumption in America was found to be at 4,200 milligrams per day for men and 3,300 for women. These figures are dangerously high and way over the maximum safe amount as recommended by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program which was 2,300 milligrams per day. In fact the DASH Diet team research went on to prove that anyone reducing their salt intake to 2,300 milligrams per day could also find they were reducing their blood pressure.
However, the Institute of Medicine has set the bar even lower and recommend a daily intake of salt at just 1,500 milligrams per day. The Institute says that this figure provides an adequate amount of salt for people per day, and is one that everyone should aim to achieve. As a result of the studies, the DASH team created a variety of menu plans/menus based on their findings, all of which contain either a maximum of 2,300 milligrams of salt, or the lower 1,500 milligram level. Along with the lower levels of salt, the DASH diet was designed to be rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and protein, concentrating on whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts, while being low in fat and red meat, sweets, and sugar-coated beverages.
And voila! There it is – a suitable diet for all!
But it is this revelation about salt that ultimately makes the DASH diet not only beneficial to the 50 million or so US citizens who are ranked as living with high blood pressure, but also a key contribution to assisting people with weight problems. All the DASH diet menus are also fixed so that no more than 2,000 calories are taken on board during any one day, another reason why the DASH diet meal plan has become the government’s favorite model in its drive to encourage its citizens to address their health and well-being.
Yet, having said that, there is one thing missing from the DASH Diet Plan, and that is exercise. Whether you are thinking of embarking on the DASH diet to get your blood pressure down, or as part of a bid to lose weight, including some form of regular exercise is a must to achieve any meaningful success. That’s because regular exercise has been proven to improve heart, and lung fitness, lowers blood fats, enhances mental health and general well-being, and helps decrease the risk of diabetes, cancer and other diseases, as well as curbing the rise in blood pressure.
Simply put – if you want to get healthier and fitter, there is no substitute for a well-balanced diet and a regular regimen of exercise. But sorting this out on your own is not always easy. We sometimes need that outside push, and guidance, and advice.
That’s where www.changingshape.com can help, because their team of expert nutritionists and fitness coaches will provide all the advice and guidance you need to achieve a balanced diet and exercise routine to suit your individual needs. At changingshape.com you get customized workout schedules built around your work patterns or social calendar or domestic life.
With changingshape.com you receive your own personalized nutrition plans, your own meal planner, thousands of food exchanges, fast food options, the opportunity to create your own shopping list, and meals based on your food preferences (vegan, vegetarian, “heart healthy”, low-carb), and your very own online coach who will help design your specialized exercise program and planner based on your preferences (home workout, gym). Your coach will also ensure no time is wasted and that all frustration is banished, as they instruct you in the art of making results last, with full guidance and continued support.
In the ever changing world of America, with the health of its citizens a prime concern for the nation, implementing the DASH diet for individuals relies on the knowledge and expertise of people like changingshape.com.
So if you are looking to make a dash to get on the DASH diet NOW but don’t know where to start, you can make the best of starts by clicking on www.changingshape.com to get your diet kick-started.
So don’t let the blood rush to your head…come to changingshape.com instead!
Matthew Johnson (Google+) is a certified personal trainer, nutrition expert and an on-line fitness consultant that started ChangingShape.com back in 2001.