The DASH Diet: Protecting Your Heart Health

February is Heart Health Month, where organizations promote tips and tricks to reduce heart disease risk. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 out of every 4 people in the United States die because of heart disease. While increasing physical activity, smoking cessation, and weight loss are key factors related to decreasing the risk of this disease, what you eat plays a massive role. So much so that there is one dietary pattern centered on being heart healthy.

The DASH Diet

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is a dietary pattern promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Based on several studies, the DASH diet lowers the risk of heart disease by impacting two factors:
  1. Lowering blood pressure
  2. Increasing the amount of beneficial cholesterol
What the diet emphasizes is limiting high amounts of saturated fat such as red meat and solid fats; decreasing sodium-rich foods like ultra-processed meals; and cutting back on sugar in desserts and pre-sweetened beverages. One main emphasis of the DASH diet is increased consumption of fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains, and protein-rich food items. People on this diet can drink milk, but experts suggest substituting whole fat milk with low-fat or fat-free versions.

MyPlate Comparisons

If you were to compare MyPlate recommendations to the DASH diet, you will see some major differences between the two. These dietary recommendations are based on a diet for adults eating at least 2,000 calories per day. MyPlate
  • 1-2 cups of fruit
  • 1-3 cups of veggies
  • 3-8 ounces of grains (whole grain must be half the amount)
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 2-6 1/2 ounce protein foods
DASH
  • 4-5 cups of fruit
  • 4-5 cups of veggies
  • 6-8 ounces of whole-grain products
  • 2-3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
  • less than 6 ounces of lean meats
  • 4-5 cups of nuts and seeds per week
DASH DietDASH Diet

Now what?

As you can see, there are stark differences between diets! Doubling fruits and veggie intake in a short amount of time can be tricky. As with any dietary changes, it all starts with slow changes. What would I recommend? Fit.Digital has wonderful smoothie recipes like the Immune Booster Smoothie that will aid your body in fighting infections. With up to 4 cups of fruits and veggies, it’s a great way to get on track to a heart-healthy diet. Along with working out more, losing weight safely, and quitting smoking, you have the ability to live a happy and heart-healthy life. Thumbnail credit from Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash
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