Updated: Aug 10
The DASH diet was designed to lower blood pressure. It is a low salt diet that can also help you reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. The name DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
In Singapore, as many as 1 in 3 Singapore residents aged 18 to 74 years old suffer from hypertension. Singaporeans consume well above the recommend levels of sodium. According to the government health portal HealthHub “The average Singaporean consumes as much as 3,600mg of sodium daily, which works out to 9g or close to 2 teaspoons of salt. This is almost twice the WHO's daily recommendation of 2,000mg of sodium” (Source: HealthHub)
This is similar to the USA where people eat on average about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day.
The DASH diet emphasises foods that are low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fibre. These nutrients help to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. The DASH diet allows all food types but limits certain items so it is easy to follow and can be adapted to fit your individual needs. Here are some of the foods that are recommended on the DASH diet:
Fruits and vegetables. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Whole grains. Choose whole-grain bread, pasta, cereal, and rice.
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Choose milk, yogurt, that are low in fat. Small amounts of cheese are allowed, although be aware that cheese can be a major source of sodium.
Lean protein. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, and beans. Limit saturated fats.
Nuts and seeds. Eat a handful of nuts or seeds as a snack or add them to your meals.
Here are some of the foods that are limited on the DASH diet:
Salt. Limit your intake of salt to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. Lower levels of sodium, down to 1500 milligrams per day, can further reduce blood pressure.
Processed foods. Processed foods often contain high amounts of sodium, saturated fat, and unhealthy oils.
Red meat. Limit your intake of red meat to no more than two servings per week.
Added sugars. Limit your intake of added sugars.
Alcohol. Limit or avoid alcoholic beverages.
The DASH diet can be adapted to any number of taste profiles. While we have discussed salt consumption in Singapore and the US, many other nation's palates enjoy more salt than is healthy. In China the DASH diet was successfully tested in a multi-city trial. The diet was successfully tailored to local tastes and flavour profiles for ease of adoption.
In addition to following the DASH diet, there are other things you can do to lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health. These include staying physically active, getting enough sleep, managing stress and not smoking. Regular blood pressure measurement is also vital as symptoms are not always visible.
Lastly, if you have any concerns about your health or are under treatment, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle.
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Filippou CD, Tsioufis CP, Thomopoulos CG, Mihas CC, Dimitriadis KS, Sotiropoulou LI, Chrysochoou CA, Nihoyannopoulos PI, Tousoulis DM. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet and Blood Pressure Reduction in Adults with and without Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Adv Nutr. 2020 Sep 1;11(5):1150-1160. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmaa041. PMID: 32330233; PMCID: PMC7490167.