The National Institutes of Health in the US conducted two trials that provided convincing evidence that diet could help regulate blood pressure. The combined studies gave birth to the DASH diet. The study conducted in 1997, was called 'DASH' – short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The study established that blood pressure levels could drop substantially with a diet plan that is low in cholesterol, saturated fat and total fats, and consists of vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods. It was discovered that this diet prevented incidence of hypertension and successfully lowered blood pressure in patients. The findings also concluded that the diet worked in bringing down blood pressure as much as any anti-hypertension medication. The diet showed effective results in a short span of 2 weeks. The advantage with the diet was that the positive effects continued even 8 weeks later irrespective of the individual's sex, origin, or initial blood pressure reading.
Another trial carried out 3 years later studied if decreasing salt intake could improve outcomes. Sodium in the salt we eat causes the body to retain water, which in turn raises the blood volume and consequently blood pressure. Excess sodium can constrict the smaller blood vessels that can affect blood pressure. The second study that revolved around salt indicated that the DASH diet when practiced with the reduction of sodium intake, was healthier than either of the approaches, alone.
The DASH diet consists of foods rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fibre. Studies show that foods high in these nutrients have blood pressure lowering properties. The diet also proposes low saturated fat intake. The DASH diet calls for ingesting between 8 and 10 servings of vegetables and fruits daily. One serving is equal to ½ cup of chopped apple. The diet includes consumption of 2 to 3 cups of low-fat dairy products, every day. It is a healthy and natural way of reducing blood pressure.
Here is a look at the broad DASH guidelines that can be followed for menu planning –
• 7 -8 servings of whole grain products every day
• 4- 5 servings of fresh vegetables and fruits every day
• 2 -3 cups of low-fat dairy products, including milk, curd and buttermilk daily
• Fish, poultry and other meats consumption to be limited to 85g per day
• 4 -5 servings of pulses, seeds and nuts can be taken during the week
• Fats must be limited to 2 to 3 tbsp and saturated fats must be completely avoided
• Those with a sweet tooth can enjoy guilt-free desserts 5 times a week
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