From The Parish Nurse . . . Starting The New Year Off Right

The DASH Diet — proved to improve health . . . It helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and is associated with lower risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, heart failure, kidney stones, and reduced risk of developing diabetes. Sound too good to be true? (Too bad it doesn’t come in the form of a pill— We’d all be taking it, right?) <!–split–>

Well, it’s the DASH diet . . . (No, it’s not about eating on the run . . .) DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is physician-recommended for people with hypertension (high blood pressure) or pre-hypertension. The diet eating plan has been proved to lower blood pressure in studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. In addition to being a low salt (low sodium) plan, the DASH diet provides additional benefits to reduce blood pressure. It is based on an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat dairy, with whole grains. It’s high in fiber, low to moderate in fat, and rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. A healthy eating plan designed for the whole family, the DASH diet has been endorsed by:

  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health)
  • American Heart Association
  • 2010 Dietary Guidelines for American
  • American Medical Association guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid

What’s The Evidence?

There are numerous studies—well designed, published in reputable medical journals—that attest to the value of eating the DASH diet! Just to cite a few . . . In November 2009 the American Journal of Cardiology reported a study of 38,987 men, over a seven-year period, ages 45-79 years, who experienced a 22% lower development of heart failure while eating the DASH diet. In May 2009, the Archives of Internal Medicine reported a 7-year study of 36,000 women who also experienced less likelihood of heart failure. October, 2009 the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology reported a 45% reduction in risk of kidney stones in men and 52% reduction in women who ate the DASH diet. (nearly 242,000 subjects participated in this study!) The April 2008 Journal of Pediatrics reported that teens following the DASH diet were able to lower their blood pressure as well as improve their nutrition by consuming more fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and nuts. Additional studies have shown adherence to the DASH diet and the highly compatible Mediterranean diet reduces risk of colorectal cancer.

Though the DASH diet is in itself not intended as a weight-loss regimen, many people who adhere to this diet also shed unwanted pounds. Folks who combine the DASH diet with an exercise program showed more weight loss and more reduction in their high blood pressure than those who used only the diet or

Do THE Mediterranean DASH!

Both the Mediterranean and DASH diets are family friendly, and can even be applied at restaurants and fast food places . . .

The plan includes:

TYPE OF FOOD                                 1500 CAL. DIET    2000 CAL. DIET

Grains and grain products              6 servings                7-8 servings                   (include at least 3 whole grain foods per day)                                               Fruits                                                          4 servings                 4-5 servings     Vegetables (rinse if canned)         4 servings                 4-5 servings        Low or non-fat dairy foods            1-2 servings             2-3 servings                (check sodium content of cheeses!)                                                                      Lean meats, fish, poultry                  1-1/2 servings       2 servings                       (2-3 oz. each)  (fresh is better than canned or cured)                          Nuts, seeds, legumes                          3 serving/week    4-5 serving/ week       (raw or dry-roasted, no added salt)                                                      Healthy fats, and sweets                  1-2 servings           3 or less servings

Make a habit of reading labels carefully. Look for “no added salt” or reduced salt products (limit yourself to 1,500-2,000 milligrams of sodium per day) . . . Better yet, just use fresh (vs. processed) foods, and don’t add salt!

Back To Basics . . .

That means, pay close attention to serving sizes . . . Since we know most of us need to eat more fruits and veggies, let’s start there:

A FRUIT SERVING:   *1 small piece, or 1 cup berries *one banana *two plums *one small apple *one small peach *six strawberries *15 cherries or grapes *two rings of canned pineapple *4 ounces of 100% fruit juice

A VEGETABLE SERVING:   *1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked *five broccoli florets *3/4 cup tomato juice *1/2 cup spinach *one cup salad greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.) *ten baby carrots *1/2 cup baked sweet potato *1/2 cup green beans

A SERVING OF GRAINS:   *1 slice of bread *1/4 of a bagel *3/4 c. dried cereal *1/2 c. starchy vegetable like pinto beans, peas, corn *1/3 c. cooked pasta or rice *1/2 c. mashed potatoes * 1 6” corn tortilla

A SERVING OF PROTEIN:   *2-3 oz. lean meat  * 1 egg  *1/4 c. cottage cheese *1 Tbsp. peanut butter *2-3 oz. skinless poultry, cooked fish, lean beef or pork *2-3 oz dried beans (black, pinto, fat-free refried)  *1/2 cup tofu

A FAT SERVING: 1 tsp. butter or oil:  *1 Tbsp. light mayo  *1 tsp olive or canola oil *2 Tbsp avocado *1 tsp regular mayo * 1 tsp butter or margarine * 1 Tbsp salad dressing

Want some DASH recipes to get started? Go to

— Your Parish Nurse, Kara