Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Ready, set, DASH!
Don't reach for those running shoes just yet — this DASH is a diet. The acronym stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, but one doesn't need high blood pressure to reap the benefits of this eating plan.
And that's all DASH is — a sensible way to eat daily, for life.
I'm not a nutritionist or dietitian, so I'm offering this story only as a personal account of my experience with DASH.
I was introduced to DASH last summer, when my blood pressure began flirting with the so-called prehypertension range (120/80 to 139/89) and I wanted to stop that train in its tracks, without medication. My doctor recommended DASH, and gave me some information about it.
The basics of the DASH diet are simple: it stresses the consumption of grains (6 to 12 servings a day); fruits (4 to 6 servings); vegetables (4 to 6 servings); low-fat dairy foods (2 to 4 servings); lean meat, fish or poultry (1.5 to 2.5 servings); and nuts, seeds or legumes (3 to 6 servings per week). It even allows for limited amount of fats and sweets (2 to 4 servings a day); and alcohol (no more than one drink a day for women, two for men). These serving amounts are based on a daily intake of from 1,600 to 3,100 calories.
Now I was already a pretty healthy eater to begin with, so fitting DASH into my life was easy. I mainly had to add a few more grains and another serving or two of fruits and vegetables, reduce some of the processed foods I was eating, and try to keep that sweet tooth in check. A checkoff form I found online helped me follow the plan's guidelines.
I never feel hungry between meals when I follow the DASH recommendations, and I have more energy than when I'm eating junk. In combination with daily walking and other exercise, I have lost weight on the DASH diet (without even intending to), and my blood pressure has come down to normal levels.
I genuinely like the DASH plan, and figured that now is a good time to mention it, as we head into that season when locally grown fruits and vegetables become readily available. If you want to give it a try, the local farmers will probably be as happy as your body will be.
It's too bad that the word diet has come to have such negative connotations, because the word simply refers to our daily sustenance. It's about nourishment, not deprivation.