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"Making the DASH in your Nutrition for a Healthy Vascular System"

For some individuals, what you choose to eat affects your chances of developing high blood pressure, or what is known in medical terms as hypertension. Recent studies show that blood pressure can be lowered by following the dietary approaches recommended in the DASH diet eating plan. This is achieved by eating less salt also known as sodium.

While each step alone lowers blood pressure, the combination of the eating plan and a reduced sodium intake gives the biggest benefit and may help prevent the development of high blood pressure. Generally speaking weight loss diets such as Atkins, the Zone diet, Beverly Hills, Scarsdale, Grapefruit, Sugar Busters, Drinking Man's, and countless others achieve fame but then sink because they don't work over the long haul when it come to lowering blood pressure.

As mentioned, there is one exception. It's known as the "DASH" diet which has been specifically developed to reduce high blood pressure. The DASH program is an eating plan proven to lower blood pressure and help reduce blood cholesterol. It can also help you lose weight, particularly in conjunction with regular exercise.

Good news about DASH is accumulating. The original diet was not sodium-restricted but when you combine the plan with a low salt intake, it lowers blood pressure even more, as recent studies have shown. The diet is rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which help control blood pressure. Besides helping to lower blood cholesterol, DASH may also reduce blood homocysteine, a substance that has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. B vitamins help lower homocysteine, and DASH supplies plenty of them.

What's magic about this diet? No magic... mostly common sense. Almost nothing is off limits, except huge helpings of high-fat snacks, desserts, and other processed foods.

The following DASH plan is based on a 2,000-calorie daily intake (you can adjust the number of servings up or down, depending on your weight and activity level). You'll choose from a wide range of fruits and vegetables (8 to 10 servings a day, including juice); grains (6 to 8 servings a day); dairy products (low-fat or non fat, 2 or 3 servings a day); nuts and beans (4 or 5 servings weekly); lean meats, poultry, and fish (no more than 2 servings a day); fats and oils (2 or 3 servings a day); and sweets (5 servings weekly). Serving sizes are small—1 slice of bread; 1/2 cup cereal; 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, rice, or pasta; 1 medium fruit; 85 grams of meat, poultry, or fish; or 6 ounces of juice. If that still sounds hard, imagine this as a day's intake:

 

• Breakfast: 1 cup bran cereal with 1 cup non-fat milk and a medium banana, plus 1 cup non-fat fruit yogurt (no added sugar). Coffee and tea are fine. (Breakfast may even include a bagel and cream cheese.)

• Lunch: 3/4 cup chicken salad (made with a reasonable amount of low-fat mayonnaise) on 2 slices of whole-wheat bread with a tablespoon of mustard; plus a cucumber and tomato salad with fat-free ranch dressing; and 1/2 cup fruit cocktail juice.

• Dinner: 85 grams of lean roast beef with low-fat gravy; a small baked potato with non-fat sour cream and a small amount of reduced-fat cheddar cheese and scallions; 2 small whole-wheat rolls with soft margarine; 1 apple; and 1 cup non-fat milk.

• You get snacks, too: 1/3 cup unsalted almonds, 1/4 cup raisins, and 1 cup orange juice.

Not too bad, really, though there's no room for a Big Mac or chocolate sundae. And by the way... It's easy to get a free copy of a booklet on the DASH diet, with daily menus, simple recipes, and scores of helpful tips for getting used to healthy eating (snack on fruit and raisins instead of cookies, for instance, and choose whole grains instead of refined).

 

 Download the "DASH" diet booklet here.

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