What is the DASH diet?
The “DASH” diet refers to “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” This diet is designed to promote heart health. The general recommendations are to consume fruit, vegetables and whole grains, select low-fat or fat-free dairy and choose lean protein, and limit saturated fat as well as added sugar. Foods selected should be rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as high in fiber and protein. They should also be limited in sodium.
To get started on the DASH diet, it’s important to determine how many calories you need daily as a first step. This will depend on whether you wish to maintain your weight or shed some pounds. You should also discuss medications you are currently taking with your doctor. When you incorporate the changes into your diet, you should also pay attention to other aspects of maintaining your health, such as physical activity and moderate consumption of alcohol. You can get started with the meal plans provided in “A week with the DASH eating plan.” If you focus on following the principles on a day-to-day basis but don’t always follow them perfectly, this is not a problem. Let’s review some of the basic parts of the diet in more detail and give some ideas as to foods to include on your shopping list.
Whole Grains are an important part of the diet. Some examples of whole grains are brown rice, whole-grain bread and whole-grain pasta. Whole grains have been shown to have a prebiotic effect on the gut, meaning that they stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria. Prebiotics have been shown to have beneficial effects on immune and metabolic function in the gut. You can experiment with your air fryer to make whole-grain dishes, such as whole-wheat pizzas.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are also a key part of the diet. These are rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and low in sodium, which all contribute to lower blood pressure. They are also high in fiber. Frozen can be used as well, as frozen fruits and vegetables retain their nutritional value. To cut the fat in your vegetables, use the air fryer for some heart-healthy tasty treats.
Lean proteins should be included in the DASH diet. Some examples are fish and shellfish, lean meat and poultry in small portions, and meatless legume-based proteins like lentils, tofu, chickpeas. Nuts and seeds are also excellent, as they not only contribute protein, but also fiber and heart-healthy fat.
Fats and oils
Healthy fats and oils can also promote heart health. For example, olive oil contains unsaturated fat that benefits the heart. However, it is important to watch quantities, as fat is rich in calories. Air fryer vegetables can be drizzled with a little oil.
Low-fat dairy provides protein, as well as important vitamins and minerals. This includes cheese, which is high in calcium, vitamin D, and protein. You could add some low-fat cheese to pizza prepared in the air fryer as a healthy option.
Sweets and sodium
Sweets and sodium should be limited. Those on the DASH diet should avoid added sugars, as they provide empty calories that do not contribute important vitamins and minerals. Herbs and spices and lemon juice may be selected over salt, as excess salt may contribute to high blood pressure and potentially heart disease.
The DASH diet is one option if you are trying to reduce your risk of heart disease. As it’s a flexible plan, you can select foods that work for you. It’s important to make a plan to learn how to incorporate suggested foods into your diet to be sure you continue to enjoy your food.
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Jinan Banna, PhD, RD is the founder of Jinan Banna LLC and an Associate Professor of Nutrition at the University of Hawaii. Her research interest is in obesity prevention. Jinan helps working women to lose weight so that they can feel confident and energetic by offering free information on her blog, as well as nutrition coaching. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Doctorate in Nutritional Biology. She is also a registered dietitian.