What Is the DASH Diet?

What Is the DASH Diet? | Dr. Ali Ghahary

The DASH Diet – also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – is a diet that is recommended by healthcare professionals like Dr. Ali Ghahary for patients who have high blood pressure – something that affects as many as 4.6 million Canadians (that’s 1 in every 5) to date.

What Causes High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be caused by a number of contributing factors, such as being a smoker, being overweight/obese, lack of physical activity, too much salt intake, and alcohol consumption. Things like genetics, age and stress can all also play a part in elevated blood pressure.

Blood pressure ranges are as follows:

  • Normal: Below 120/80
  • Elevated: 120-129/below 80
  • Stage 1: 130-139/90-90
  • Hypertension: 180 and above/120 and above

Once your blood pressure readings reach the hypertension stage, you should see your physician as soon as possible.

Understanding the DASH Diet

We all know that with dieting comes challenges, and the DASH diet certainly isn’t immune to those challenges one bit. Like any diet, it can be overwhelming, and you might not know where to begin. However, one thing you should always bear in mind when the DASH diet becomes a topic of conversation between yourself and your healthcare provider is that this is a diet specifically designed for those with high blood pressure; therefore it can significantly reduce blood pressure, thus reducing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke; and even if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s a diet that can improve your health in many other ways, too.

When it comes to dieting, especially one with such drastic changes, some healthcare professionals recommend starting slow. For example, including more vegetables during your meals at lunch or dinner, and eating fruit as a snack – just make sure they don’t have any added sugar (canned or dried fruits are particularly bad for that.) If you use butter, margarine or salad dressing, reduce them to something that is fat-free and only use half the serving. You should also opt for dairy products that are skim or low fat, and limit meats to just 6 ounces per day.

There are also specific variations of the DASH diet that have been shown to have the greatest effects on reducing both blood pressure and cholesterol. Those variations are as follows: 11 servings of fruits and vegetables, 4 servings of grains, 2 servings of low-fat dairy products, 2 servings of nuts/legumes, 1 serving of meat, poultry or fish, 2 servings of healthy oils or fats. You can also include 1 additional serving of your choice. To find out more about food servings and portion sizes, click here.

The DASH diet is simple, really. Add more fruits and vegetables into your diet, more low-fat dairy products, and reduce foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated and trans fats.