Q. I've heard about the DASH diet. What is it and who would benefit from it?
A. The DASH diet can help you control your blood pressure and reduce the risks of heart disease. The DASH Diet (from Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), is considered a lifelong style of eating.
The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free and low-fat dairy foods, lean meat, poultry and fish, and whole grains. It's low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and it's high in fiber, calcium, potassium and magnesium -- minerals that can help regulate and lower blood pressure.
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High blood pressure is twice as likely to strike a person with diabetes as a person without diabetes. Fully 50% of people with diabetes have high blood pressure, and in people with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure may exist before diabetes is diagnosed.
High blood pressure increases the risk of damage to large and small blood vessels. In the case of large blood vessels, this increases the risk of heart attack or stroke; in the case of small blood vessels, it increases the risk of kidney and eye disease.
You can -- you should -- take positive steps to reduce the risk by treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels and by not smoking. Left untreated, high blood pressure could lead to heart attack or stroke.
Food servings in 2,000 calories/day DASH menu:
- Grains: 6 to 8 servings daily (1/2 cup rice or pasta, or 1 slice bread)
- Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings daily (1/2 cup cut up vegetables such as broccoli or 1 cup leafy greens)
- Fruits: 4 to 5 servings daily (1 medium fruit or 1/2 cup fruit salad)
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy foods: 2 to 3 servings daily (1 cup milk or yogurt, or 11/2 ounces cheese)
- Lean meat, poultry, or fish: 6 or less servings per day (1 ounce cooked and less than 4 egg yolks per week )
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 servings per week (1 1/2 ounces nuts, 2 tablespoons nut butter, or 1/2 cup cooked dried beans)
- Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings daily (1 teaspoon soft margarine or oil, or 1 tablespoon mayonnaise)
- Sweets and added sugars: 5 or less servings per week (1 small piece or 1/2 cup serving)