Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well
DASH your way to better health
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
You may be thinking about changes you want to make to be healthier. If what you eat is one thing you want to change but don’t know where to start, the DASH diet plan may be just the tool for you.
DASH is short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. DASH was developed by the National Institutes of Health as a way to manage high blood pressure with diet. Research has shown that following the DASH plan will decrease blood pressure in as little as two weeks. The diet is good for anyone, though, because it incorporates healthy foods we all need to eat. It includes foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and fat-free milk and milk products. The plan also recommends a healthy amount of whole-grain foods, fish, poultry and nuts.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the DASH plan as a healthy way of eating. The DASH diet incorporates the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides advice for good dietary habits to promote health and reduce the risk for chronic disease. Following this plan will help assure you are getting the important nutrients you need.
Important nutrients are found in the foods recommended by the DASH plan. They include potassium, calcium and magnesium, which are all associated with lower blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains also have a significant amount of other important nutrients and lots of fiber. If you are not used to consuming large amounts of fiber, incorporate these foods gradually to allow your body time to adjust. Adding high fiber all at once can cause gastric upset.
If you want to read more about the DASH plan, there is a 48-page booklet available for print at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf. The booklet provides lots of tips on how to get started with the DASH eating plan and has actual menus you can follow if you don’t want to plan your own. Another helpful handout that shows how much of each food group to consume each day can be found at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/h_eating/h_e_dash.htm.
The DASH plan can help assure nutrient needs are being met. When you eat healthy, you feel better, and when you feel better you have more energy and are more productive.
Last update: Wednesday, September 15, 2010