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What is DASH diet?

The DASH Diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and is reduced in meats, saturated fats, and sweets

The DASH Diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and is reduced in meats, saturated fats, and sweets. The DASH Diet was originally designed with the goal of reaching a certain intake level of selected nutrients that were hypothesized to benefit blood pressure control. These nutrients include protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. After the DASH Diet was proven to be very effective in blood pressure reduction, it was translated and introduced to the public as a dietary pattern characterized by eight food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy, Meats, Nuts/Seeds/Legumes, Added Fats, and Sweets.

1. Calculate daily calorie needs. There are many online sites and apps that offer calorie calculators. These sites will calculate how many calories one needs to maintain current weight. If weight loss is desired, subtract 500 calories from the calories needed for weight maintenance.
2. Determine the number of daily servings of each DASH food group based on the calorie need calculated in Step 1 above.
3. Learn what is a DASH “serving” in each food group:

• One medium piece of fruit (about the size of a tennis ball • 1/2 of a large piece of fruit (grapefruit, 7-inch banana • 6 ounces (oz.) of 100% fruit juice (limit to one serving per day)
• 1/2 cup chopped fruit or berrie • 1/4 cup dried fruit

• 1 cup of uncooked leafy vegetables • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables
• 1/2 cup non-leafy vegetables (peppers, cucumber, broccoli, corn, etc.) • 6 oz. 100% vegetable juice • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or other stewed vegetables • 1/2 medium potato (about the size of a computer mouse)

• 8 oz. of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese • 1 1/2 oz. of low-fat cheese
• 4 oz. low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream (limit to one serving per day)

Grains (select at least half as whole grains)
• 1 oz. of bread, cereal, crackers, pretzels, etc. • 1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice, cereal (like oatmeal or cream of wheat)

Meat (this includes meat, fish, poultry, and eggs)
• 3 oz. cooked meat, fish, poultry • 3 eggs • 6 egg whites

Meat alternatives
• 3 oz. seitan • 9 oz. tofu • 4 oz. tempeh • 1/2 cup texturized vegetable protein

Nuts, seeds, and legumes
• 1/3 cup nuts • 1/2 cup cooked beans/legumes • 2 tablespoons of seeds

Added fats
• 1 teaspoon of butter, margarine, or oil • 1 tablespoon of regular salad dressing, mayonnaise, cream cheese, sour cream, and dairy cream • 2 tablespoons of low fat varieties of salad dressing and mayonnaise

• 6 oz. sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, juice cocktails, and punches • 1 tablespoon sugar, syrup, jelly, or jam • 1 ounce candy (hard candies, gummy, or sours) or chocolate

Benefits of Dash diet

The DASH Diet has many strengths but its greatest advantage over most other diets is its scientific credibility. Many scientific papers (some cited above) have reported its health benefits—from blood pressure and cholesterol reduction to cardiovascular disease to cognitive function.

All of the benefits of the DASH Diet can be enjoyed by just about anyone. This is because, while powerful, the DASH Diet is essentially very simple. It is a well-balanced way of eating made up of a diversity of foods. Anyone with access to a supermarket can follow the DASH Diet and it is customizable. For those with allergies, or strong food preferences, the DASH Diet can be followed by meeting the DASH recommended servings based on an individual’s preference.

Choosing the right diet is a very personal decision. What works for one individual might not work for another. But the freedom to choose favorite foods within each food group allows individuals to select the foods they like—a definite advantage over more restricted diets. And the DASH Diet can prevent or treat a number of health problems.

The DASH Diet’s safety and efficacy has made it one of the most heavily endorsed diets on the market today. It is recommended by the USDA, the JNC-7 High Blood Pressure Guidelines and the American Heart Association and has been ranked the #1 Overall Diet by US News & World Report every year since 2011. Clinicians recommend the DASH Diet to their patients for its health benefits, and the safety of the diet allows patients to follow it without the need for clinical supervision.

Complications of using Dash diet

Anyone who has tried to change eating habits knows that it is a difficult task. Most are aware that eating more fruits and vegetables is a healthier option than swinging through the drive-thru on the way home from work. However, even setting simple dietary goals such as “I will eat more fruit this week,” takes planning and effort. It takes work and commitment to adhere to a diet. When asked, dieters cite this reason as the number one challenge when starting the DASH Diet.

In addition to the work it takes to eat the DASH way, some people find that the diet’s lower meat allowance is difficult. In the United States especially, typical diets are very meat-heavy. It can take a shift in thinking when first starting the DASH Diet, moving from meat as the centerpiece of the meal, shifting it to more of a side dish, then rounding out the meal with more whole grains and vegetables. Stir-fries and stews with plenty of vegetables are a great way to get around feeling meat-deprived.

Finally, a third barrier that is sometimes reported is the lack of restriction in the DASH Diet. The diet does not require participants to calorie count nor does it “forbid” certain food groups. Also, many of the foods promoted on the DASH Diet, such as unsaturated fats, nuts, and dried fruit and fruit juices are relatively high in calories. People interested in weight loss must consume these foods in moderation. Other weight loss diets avoid this issue by restricting entire food groups. In the DASH Diet, almost any food can be consumed in moderation.

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