If you’ve been struggling to lower your blood pressure, your doctor may suggest starting the DASH diet. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and promotes foods that have been shown to lower blood pressure. But how does the diet work? Here’s everything you need to know about how the DASH diet’s foods can improve your heart health.
The DASH diet incorporates many healthy foods to lower blood pressure. | Magone/iStock/Getty Images
The diet is rich in fruits and vegetables to provide specific nutrients
Fruits and vegetables are key to a healthy lifestyle, so it’s no surprise they show up in this diet. Depending on the type you’re eating, you’ll get a slew of vitamins and minerals that have been proven to help the heart. A diet heavy in both fruits and veggies has been shown to reduce heart disease risk, lower your blood pressure, and even reduce the risk of certain cancers. They’re low in calories, too, which means filling up on them will help you lose weight. Since weight often goes hand in hand with blood pressure, the DASH diet wants you to pile your plate high with leafy greens and sweet fruits.
It incorporates only low-fat or nonfat dairy
Dairy products are important to a well-balanced diet, but they can be heavy in fat. The DASH diet only incorporates low-fat or nonfat dairy products in its recipe suggestions, so you’ll get the benefit of dairy without the risk of added fats. Low fat milk contains calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which studies have shown can help improve one’s heart health and lower blood pressure. These nutrients are also found in fruits and vegetables, but the DASH diet aims to give you plenty of them in the effort to improve your heart health.
It suggests low-sodium foods
This one is huge. The DASH diet goes beyond low-sodium foods, but the low-sodium factor still plays a big role in its recipes. A low-sodium diet has one of the biggest positive impacts on heart health. Too much sodium causes the blood cells to retain water, which makes it more difficult for them to travel through the body. This results in the body working harder to push blood through and leads to thicker artery walls. Over time, those thicker walls can become too thick, causing blockage. A low-sodium diet is a major key to lowering blood pressure. The American Heart Association suggests people eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day, and the diet follows those strict guidelines.
It focuses on whole grains to reduce simple sugar intake
Eating too much sugar can have a negative impact on heart health as well. Harvard Health reported that eating a diet high in added sugar led to a greater risk of dying from heart disease. Heart disease encompasses several problems with the heart, including high blood pressure. Eating a diet rich in added sugars won’t do your heart any favors, so the DASH diet promotes a low-sugar diet. Whole grains are technically sugars, but they’re broken down much slower by the body, so they don’t cause the risky spike in blood sugar that refined grains, such as white bread or rice, cause.
The DASH diet involves several factors that all work together to effectively lower one’s blood pressure without medication. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure lowering your blood pressure the natural way is a safe option.
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