By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
The DASH Diet is an abbreviation for “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertention” Diet…and in a nutshell, that’s exactly what it is! The DASH diet has been extensively researched to identify its effect on managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels to prevent heart disease.1
What are the components of the diet?
The DASH diet is based on studies that found a specific eating pattern that may reduce blood pressure.1-3 The diet includes eating foods that contain nutrients that contribute to heart health, such as magnesium, potassium, fibre, calcium, and protein. Reducing sodium and bad fats is also emphasized in this diet.1-3
With a focus on wholesome foods – DASH provides these nutrition recommendations:4
- Eat plenty of fruits & vegetables
- Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Eat whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts
- Limit red meat consumption
- Choose fish & poultry as your protein sources
- Cook with vegetable oils vs. animal based fats
- Reduce foods high in sodium
- Avoid processed foods, added sugars and sugary beverages
A deeper look at this diet…
Daily nutrient goals are set for those who follow the DASH diet. As you will see, this diet really focuses on limiting your saturated fat intake and cholesterol – which means eating less animal fats and processed foods.2 Also – the sodium recommendation of 2,300 mg is about 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Total Fat – 27% of calories2
- Saturated fat – 6% of calories2
- Protein – 18% of calories2
- Carbohydrate – 55% of calories2
- Cholesterol – 150 mg2
- Sodium – 2,300 mg [1,500 mg ideal!] 2
- Potassium – 4,700 mg2
- Magnesium – 500 mg2
- Fibre – 30 g2
If you wish to follow the DASH diet to manage hypertension – consult with a Registered Dietitian to build an individualized nutrition plan for you based on your caloric needs.
Chicken & the DASH diet
As an example, when following a 2000 calorie diet, DASH recommends eating 6 or less servings per day of lean meat, poultry and fish (1 ounce = 1 serving).2,3 Skinless chicken has wonderful nutritional qualities that make it a great staple food for the centre of your DASH meals. It is low-fat, high in protein and low in sodium. The best part? It’s versatile so you can add it to recipes and get creative in your cooking!
DASH Inspired Recipes
Even if you don’t want to follow a strict form of the DASH, you may still want to cook some of the following chicken recipes inspired by this diet. They are low in fat, high in protein and contain a good amount of fibre.
Chicken Arugula salad: this is a great recipe that is perfect for a light lunch.
Simple Tip: If you want to really cut back on the fat, leave out the shredded coconut and add more vinegar to the dressing and less oil!
Cauliflower Lentil Chicken Soup: You can’t go wrong with this one! Super healthy, with the added health benefits of lentils that contain soluble fibre to help lower cholesterol!
Simple Tip: Boil your lentils rather then buying canned. This will help lower the sodium. Also – using no-salt-added canned tomatoes is a good idea. Just bulk up the other spices in the recipe and remember: you can always add a pinch of salt to taste later!
Chicken and Barley Soup: This recipe is great option for a warm heart healthy meal!
Simple Tip: To boost your potassium – add sweet potatoes to this recipe. Or enjoy the soup with a salad filled with plenty of vegetables (broccoli, tomatoes, etc.) and a slice of whole grain bread for added fibre.
Heller, M. (2014). The DASH diet eating plan. Retrieved December 17, 2014, from http://dashdiet.org/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2006). Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure With DASH. Retrieved December 17, 2014, from www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/new_dash.pdf
Eat Right Ontario. (2014). A DASH of healthy eating can help control blood pressure. Retrieved December 17, 2014, www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Heart-Health/A-DASH-of-healthy-eating-can-help-control-blood-pr.aspx