The DASH diet is a popular way to treat or prevent high blood pressure. The “DASH” in “DASH diet” stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and it emphasizes proper portion sizes, a variety of nutrients from whole foods, and very low levels of salt and fat.
The DASH diet encourages the reduction of sodium in one’s diet, requiring the dieter to get the right amount of nutrients, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, to lower blood pressure. The success of this diet means knowing not just the foods on which to focus but also the ones you can’t have. Here are the five food “groups” you should avoid on the DASH diet!
Foods That Are High In Sodium
The DASH diet prioritizes cutting back on dietary salt, as it is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. Chips, salted nuts, and pretzels are the obvious culprits, but salt is a common preservative for smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, poultry, and fish, too. This means that processed deli and lunch meats are all off the table, and table salt should also be avoided. Opt for more herbs and non-sodium seasonings to add some extra flavour to your homecooked meals.
Highly processed foods are those processed, prepared, and packaged foods and drinks you’ll find on grocery shelves. The problem is that these are readily available, easy to make, and cheap; as such, more people are eating them and eating the added salt, sugar, and fats to your diet. These include fast foods, frozen entrées like pasta dishes and pizzas, and bakery products like muffins, buns and cakes.
Saturated fat used to be the main villain in the fight against heart disease, but these days, there are conflicting studies. Lard, oils, and deep-fried foods must be avoided, and to err on the side of caution, DASH dieters should also skip full-fat cheese, cream, butter, and whole milk.
Saturated fats may not be the exact villain we once thought it was, but we now know what sugar can do to the body. On top of all the issues with inflammation and gut health, a lot of evidence supports the link between sugar and increased blood pressure. There may not be a conclusive link between the two, but it’s important to closely read the ingredient labels on packaged foods and skip out on adding sugar to your morning coffee or tea.
When someone is on the DASH diet, red meat isn’t strictly off-limits; however, they should choose chicken and fish over red meat whenever possible. Red meat like beef, pork, and lamb are all very high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and as such, the intake should be reduced.
What Can You Eat On The DASH Diet?
While it seems like you’re cutting out a lot, the DASH diet is not prohibitive. It highlights a high amount of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy foods, and a moderate level of fish, poultry, nuts, and whole grains. There’s so much you can still enjoy, and if you look in the right places – say, Diet & Wellness Health Food Store – you’ll even be able to find DASH-approved alternatives to the foods listed above!