There’s no time like the present to tie together the link between a healthy heart and a healthy diet! For the third year in a row, a team of 22 health and nutrition experts at U.S. News and World Reports has placed the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) at the top of its list of this year’s Best Diets, praising it for its safety, nutritional virtue, and practicality.
This is a timely issue because every February organizations like the American Heart Association and medical centers like the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center team up to remind us all to prevent heart disease by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
Rigorous studies have shown that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure, blood sugars, and triglycerides, while it increases the “good” HDL cholesterol. And the results of long-term studies of DASH have been associated with lower risk of the following disorders: stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, several types of cancer, and kidney stones.
Put simply, the DASH diet relies heavily on fruits and vegetables and only a little on animal fats, sugars, and salt. The DASH diet is based on longstanding multi-site studies that have shown that foods high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium but low in sodium are effective in lowering blood pressure, naturally.
A free copy of the DASH Diet manual is available through the website of the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Parsing through this 64-page NHLBI booklet can be laborious, but I’ve boiled down its key action steps for you in this post, below.
On average, your DASH diet strategy should provide you, ballpark, with the following nutrients: 1,500-2,000 calories, 1,500-2,300 milligrams (mg) sodium, 450-500 mg magnesium, 4,500-5,000 mg of potassium, and 1,200-1,500 mg of calcium.
What foods should you eat? Based on 1,500 calories, here are some guidelines on average portions and proportions for each day. Remember that on some days you might end up with more than the recommended amount of nutrients from one group and less from another, but don’t worry. Just try to keep the average of several days close to your DASH eating plan.
|Food Group||Daily Servings||Serving Size|
|Grains and legumes||5-7 servings, of which at least 3 are whole grain. Focus on beans and other legumes||1 oz. cooked cereal (1/2 cup)|
|Vegetables||4-5||1/2-cup cooked; 1-cup raw|
8 oz. milk products (includes soy and almond milk)
|Healthy fats||3 or more||
seeds and nuts (1 tbsp. or 1/2 oz.)
|Meat, fish, poultry||Approx. 2-3||3 oz. cooked (lean choices)|
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