DASH DIET for a Healthy Heart
The DASH Diet, dietary approaches to stop hypertension, can help lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol; two factors necessary to keep your heart healthy. Even if your blood pressure and cholesterol are within normal range the DASH Diet is worth looking at. It’s a healthier way of eating. You’ll have lots of fruit, low-fat dairy and vegetable while limiting fat, cholesterol and sweets. The bonus here, because of the way the diet is configured it can also help you lose weight. The Dash diet is not hard to follow. Start by keeping a food diary and see how you progress.
What to do
Reduce Salt– Too much salt can cause water retention; this puts extra stress on your heart. On the DASH diet you will lower your sodium between 2300-1500mg a day, depending on your health, age, race or medical conditions. Tips to follow:
- Use only low or no sodium foods and condiments
- Limit foods that are cured pickled or smoked
- Limit processed foods because they are often high in sodium.
Select Grains– Eat whole grains like whole-wheat bread and cereals, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta and popcorn. This is a good way to get fiber. Fiber helps lower your cholesterol and also helps to keep you feeling full longer. If you’re following a diet of 2000 calories per day, you should eat 6 to 8 servings a day of fiber. Tips to follow:
- one serving is a slice of bread
- 1 ounce of dry cereal
- ½ cup of cooked whole-wheat pasta, rice or oatmeal
Use plenty of vegetables- Low in calories and fat, vegetables are a good choice because they provide fiber, vitamins and minerals. This is a good way to control your blood pressure. You should have four or five servings of vegetables a day; that’s ½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables, 1 cup of leafy vegetables or ½ cup of vegetable juice if you’re a slow starter, why not begin by adding a salad at lunch and dinner.
Don’t forget your fruit– Loaded with fiber and vitamins fruit is a good choice for your heart. Many fruits have potassium and magnesium which also lowers blood pressure. You should have 4 to 5 servings of fruit every day. One serving is a medium apple or ½ cup of frozen, fresh or canned fruit. Dried fruits also count (1/4 cup). Adding bananas or berries to serial or having fruit for dessert is a good way to increase fruit consumption.
Yougart– Try to get three servings of dairy every day. Low and no fat dairy foods are a good source of calcium and protein. This can help maintain a good blood pressure. You should choose skim or 1% milk, buttermilk or low fat cheese and yogurt. Frozen yogurt is okay as long as it’s low-fat. One serving equals 1 cup of yogurt or milk or 1 ½ ounces of cheese.
Lean Meat and Fish-Meats are a good source of protein and magnesium; the idea here is to choose lean cuts of meat. Skinless chicken and fish are also a good choice. You should limit your servings to six or less in a day. A serving is 1 ounce of cooked meat, fish or poultry. You can also count one egg as a serving. A good rule to follow is have no more than 3 ounces of meat at any one meal. You should also limit egg yolks to four times in a week.
Nut and Legumes- You can enjoy as many as five servings of nuts, legumes and seeds a week. They are rich in magnesium, protein and fiber. Walnuts also have a lot of omega-3 fatty acid. Serving sizes are as follows; 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds or ½ cup of cooked dried beans or peas. You can have a handful of seeds or nuts as a snack, or add beans to your salad and soup.
Limit Fats and Oils-consumption of too many fats can cause high cholesterol and heart disease therefore you need to limit the fats and oils to two or three servings a day. A serving is 1 teaspoon of margarine or vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 2 tablespoons of low-fat salad dressing. For cooking use vegetable oils such as olive or canola oil instead of butter.
Watch the Sweets– This is a limiting game; you should have five or fewer servings of sweets a week. A serving is 1 tablespoon of sugar or jam, 1 cup of lemonade or 1/2 a cup of sorbet. You should try to choose sweets that are low in fat such as hard candy gelatin or maple syrup. Instead of high-fat desserts try having low-fat ice cream or fresh fruit.
Potassium is important- Potassium is another important part of the DASH diet; getting enough may help lower your blood pressure. For this mineral you should not take supplements but get the potassium from the food you eat; aim for 4700 mg a day. Foods high in potassium:
- Potato-926 mg
- Sweet potato: 540 mg
- Banana: 420 mg
- Avocado (1/2) 345 mg
- Cooked Spinach (1/2 cup) to 90 mg