A guide to the DASH diet for weight loss

Ever thought about trying the DASH diet for weight loss? The healthy eating plan was originally designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure, but it could also boost weight loss, as a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

Dr Deborah Lee from Fox Pharmacy says: “DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It was initially piloted more than 20 years ago, when it was first realized that blood pressure could be lowered by controlling what we eat.”

Researchers found that high blood pressure was less common in people who restricted their red meat intake and cut back on sodium, fats and refined sugars. Perhaps not surprisingly, a side effect of cutting out these less healthy foods can be weight loss.

So yes, the DASH diet can be effective for weight loss – but don’t expect it to help you drop pounds on its own. For sustainable weight loss you will need to be in a calorie deficit, eating fewer calories than you burn.

Anyone who suffers from high blood pressure will be at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. By limiting consumption of red meat, sodium, fats and refined sugars, the DASH diet aims to reduce the risk of an individual developing hypertension.

So, why does it work? Salt, for instance, makes your body hold onto water. So if you eat too much, the extra water in your blood means there is too much pressure on your blood vessel walls, thus raising your blood pressure.

Saturated fat in turn can boost ‘bad’ cholesterol, which is linked with hypertension. Fatty foods can also increase visceral fat on the body – the really dangerous type of body fat that is stored deep inside the belly, wrapped around the major organs – and this can raise blood pressure by physically compressing the kidneys.

“The DASH diet is low in sodium but high in potassium, calcium and magnesium,” says Dr Lee. “It is also low in saturated fat and sugar – this is what is needed to lower blood pressure and for good heart function.”

The standard DASH diet involves restricting sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day – approximately just one teaspoon of salt.

There is also an option to follow the ‘Low Sodium DASH diet’ whereby sodium is restricted even more, to less than 1500mg per day.

So, what can you eat?

“The diet contains lean meat and fish, low-fat dairy, whole grains, unsaturated fats and fruit and vegetables,” explains Dr Lee. “High fat, high sugar, and high salt foods should all be avoided. This means not eating processed foods, which tend to be high in all these constituents.”

“You will be eating roughly 2,000 calories per day, including six to eight portions of whole grains, four to five portions of fruit and vegetables, two to three portions of low-fat dairy (such as yogurt), and one ounce of low-fat meat or poultry, or one egg. In addition, four to five portions of nuts and seeds should be consumed every week. You should consume five or fewer servings of sugar per week – for example, one tablespoon of jam is one serving.”

Absolutely, says Dr Lee. “In one 2016 review published in Obesity Reviews, featuring meta-analysis comparing DASH with other low energy diets, it was shown to be statistically significantly beneficial for weight loss,” she says.

“DASH dieters lost approximately 3.1lb (over the course of eight to 24 weeks), 0.4 units of BMI (over eight to 52 weeks), and 0.4 inches more of waist circumference (over 24 weeks) than those on other diets. The effect of the diet was greater in those who were overweight and obese, compared to standard Western diets.

“These may seem like small differences. But one of the key issues about weight loss is continuing to lose weight as time goes by and keeping the weight off. These changes were noted after following the DASH diet for up to one year.”

Source : https://www.livescience.com/dash-diet-for-weight-loss

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