The DASH diet helps to lower blood pressure. Learn how to put it into practice by increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, meats, and low-fat dairy and nuts.
What is the DASH diet: the key to reducing hypertension?
An estimated 1 billion people suffer from high blood pressure, a silent killer that kills 9 million people worldwide and increases the risk of cardiovascular events.
This dietary pattern is based on getting the amount of sodium in the diet below 3.3 g for the normal DASH diet and 1.5 g for the low-sodium DASH diet. In addition, the content of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, minerals that potentially improve hypertension, will increase.
Keys to the DASH diet: How to put it into practice?
The DASH diet, whose firm aim is to reduce blood pressure, proposes a very healthy diet “whose basic recommendations include eating healthy, not gaining weight and reducing daily salt intake.
The experts agree in detailing the key aspects of this method in the following assumptions and recommendations:
- Increase consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit, preferably in season. Therefore, it is recommended to include at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
- Increase the intake of dairy products as they are an important source of calcium and protein. However, it is always essential to choose non-fat and low-fat dairy products to reduce lipid intake and not increase body weight.
- Include whole-grain cereals, as they are the main source of natural fiber. Whole-grain rice and pasta are good choices for our usual recipes.
- Include nuts and seeds in your regular diet as they provide good quality vegetable fats and magnesium. A handful of any nut a day, such as walnuts or almonds, and seeds, such as flaxseeds, are very good for our health.
- Prioritize the consumption of legumes as they are the main source of excellent quality vegetable protein. It is a mistake to confuse pulses with fatty carbohydrates; experts recommend eating two to three pulses a week.
- Increase your fish, poultry, and lean meat intake, always choosing the lowest-fat cuts and species. It is advisable to choose a higher intake of white fish and poultry, such as chicken, rabbit, or turkey, and to choose the least fatty cuts.
- Reduce consumption of red meat and favor lower-fat cuts. The recommended intake is one or at most two portions per week.
- Reduce your intake of processed or pre-prepared products and sweets, baked goods, and sugary drinks as they cause harmful sugar spikes, and add saturated fat and empty nutrients.
- Avoid alcohol consumption, as repeated alcohol consumption has been shown to increase blood pressure.
Other recommendations to complement the DASH diet
In addition to these dietary and nutritional recommendations, the DASH diet also includes some lifestyle recommendations to help keep blood pressure under control:
- Increase daily physical activity: like diet, is not only heart-healthy but also reduces the risk of chronic disease, Walking briskly for 30-45 minutes daily is enough to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Give up tobacco and alcohol: The two risk factors that could prevent the most fatalities and illnesses are quitting smoking and consuming less alcohol, which is where arterial hypertension comes into play.
- Maintaining an ideal weight: Avoiding obesity and maintaining an ideal weight is an essential rule to get blood pressure under control.
Cooking tips for the DASH diet
To follow the DASH diet correctly and get all its benefits, you should also follow these cooking tips:
- Control the amount of salt when cooking: less than 3 g/day, i.e., one teaspoon.
- Replace salt with spices used to flavor food (e.g., vinegar, pepper, saffron, paprika, garlic, onion, lemon, etc.) and aromatic herbs (thyme, parsley, fennel, oregano, bay leaf, etc.).
- Choose natural canned fish (with 0% salt in the ingredients).
- Avoid adding meat or fish stock or bouillon cubes to dishes.
- Cook with techniques that do not add too much fat: grilling, braising, baking, boiling, en papillote… Avoid frying, battering, or breadcrumbing.
- Drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day (8 glasses a day), including herbal teas.
- Add 30 g of bread, preferably wholemeal, unsalted, to lunch and dinner.
- Choose a piece of fruit for dessert at lunch and dinner.