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DASH Diet Meal Plan: What It Can (And Can’t) Do For You

Author: Anna Frinzi

What is the DASH diet? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and has been developed from scientific research as an eating plan to help prevent or lower high blood pressure. This style of eating has plentiful benefits but is limited in some aspects as meal plans can be tough to follow on their own.

Read on to discover what other factors are beneficial to have in order to be successful and make healthy choices that are sustainable.

Risks of high blood pressure

The DASH diet is structured as a balanced meal plan that encourages a heart healthy eating style. This diet is geared towards those who may be at risk of high blood pressure. Blood pressure is defined as the force of blood against the walls of arteries (NHLBI). When blood pressure stays consistently high, it can then be diagnosed as high blood pressure or hypertension. Having high blood pressure is a great health risk as it causes the heart to pump blood harder and less efficiently, which increases the workload for the heart and blood vessels (NHLBI). Over time, this extreme force of high blood pressure can damage the tissues in the arteries and can lead to hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis (Heart).  

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers, the top being the systolic, which is the amount of pressure being exerted against your artery walls when your heart beats (Heart). The second number indicates the amount of pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart is at rest (Heart). Hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm HG or higher and/or use of antihypertensive medication (Appel). Knowing the dangers of high blood pressure, it is important to consider the DASH diet eating plan and how it can help prevent or manage the risk of hypertension.

What is the DASH diet?

This eating plan was designed to assist in managing blood pressure and offers structured recommendations of foods to eat. It encourages eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains and including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils (NHLBI). The DASH diet recommends limiting foods that are high in saturated fats, such as meats, full-fat dairy products, and oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils (NHLBI).

Depending on your calorie intake for the day, there are specific servings recommended for each food group. With a 2000-calorie-a-day DASH diet, 6-8 servings of grains are recommended; 6 or less servings of meats, poultry, and fish; 4-5 servings of vegetables; 4-5 servings of fruit; 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products; and 2-3 servings of fats and oils (NHLBI). A recommended daily serving of no more than 2300 mg of salt is recommended with an emphasis that having even less sodium such as no more than 1500 mg will lower blood pressure even further (NHLBI). For nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas it is recommended to have no more than 4-5 weekly servings and 5 or less servings of sweets per week (NHLBI). With these food recommendations, the DASH eating plan is high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein and fiber. Limiting foods that are high in sodium along with sweets and red meats is recommended in order to help in managing blood pressure. This diet is low in total fat, specifically saturated fat and cholesterol which is beneficial for a heart healthy lifestyle. Read on to find out what benefits studies have discovered about the DASH diet meal plan!

Benefits of the DASH diet

A great amount of time and effort has gone into studying the effects of the DASH diet. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute conducted studies that compared three different intervention groups who all had above-optimal blood pressure and were not taking anti-hypertensive medications (NHLBI). After six months of these interventions, the reduction in blood pressure was the highest in the group who adhered to the DASH diet plan. This greatly exemplified the benefits of following this meal plan and indicated that adults with high blood pressure, even with stage 1 hypertension, can make lifestyle changes to lower their blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease (NHLBI). Check out the study here for further details on the research conducted. With these amazing benefits discovered regarding the DASH diet meal plan, it is important to note the challenges that come along with making a drastic diet change. Consult your doctor before embarking on following the DASH diet plan as it requires medical supervision.

How to change your diet

As beneficial as the DASH diet meal plan is, it can be difficult to make these changes all on your own. That is where Noom comes in with its supportive community and coaching to make behavior changes safely and sustainably. Noom provides a personalized coach, known as a goal specialist, to work with you one on one to set weekly goals and guide you to achieve your super goal. Whether this includes adhering to the DASH diet meal plan or another strategy, Noom is there to help make small changes so these new behaviors are maintainable. It can feel overwhelming to make sweeping lifestyle modifications and having that support from a coach when obstacles or challenges arise is key to a successful weight loss plan.

Make it stick

Along with your goal specialist, you will also have access to a group coach and a community of other Noomers who are on a similar journey as you. The group coach leads the interactions and encourages the group of Noomers to connect, inspire, motivate, brainstorm, and guide one another on the path to a healthier lifestyle. In addition to this group support, the app delivers daily content in a creative way that continues to inspire and motivate you to reach your super goal. This curriculum has been developed by a team with psychology backed research and studies to provide relevant tips and insight into your health journey. Check out Noom today to get started on a path to losing weight for good!  

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