The DASH Diet for Hypertension. . – Post bookshelf: a tastier diet to lower blood pressure

The DASH Diet for Hypertension. . – Post bookshelf: a tastier diet to lower blood pressure – book review

Ted Kreiter

by Thomas Moore, M.D., et al. 264 pages, The Free Press, $25.00

Until recently, all diets for hypertension focused on one not very savory objective: banishing most salt from food. Then along came the new DASH diet, and options for lowering blood pressure suddenly got better and tastier.

Instead of focusing solely on sodium, DASH researchers from eight prominent medical institutes took a different tack. They believed that a low-fat diet rich in three other minerals (potassium, magnesium, and calcium) also could do the blood pressure-lowering trick. In one of the largest studies of its kind, the DASH team demonstrated that a diet high in low-fat dairy products and vegetables could reduce blood pressure independent of salt consumption, exercise, and weight.

The DASH diet, indeed, lowered blood pressure, most markedly in people with elevated pressures of 140/90 or higher, and by an average of 11.4 systolic and 5.5 diastolic.

“The results were beyond our wildest expectations,” writes Dr. Thomas J. Moore, a Boston University and Harvard Medical School faculty member who served as chief author of the new book, The DASH Diet for Hypertension. “Our diet lowered participants’ blood pressures as much as a typical blood pressure medication, and it did so quickly–within 14 days of beginning the diet.”

The American Heart Association labeled the DASH diet “one of the most important scientific discoveries of the year” because of its potential to help millions of Americans reduce their dependence on blood pressure medication.

The DASH Diet for Hypertension outlines the diet plan and offers a 14-day menu guaranteed to lower blood pressure without drugs.

It should be noted that salt reduction remains extremely important for those on the DASH plan. After their initial study, researchers conducted a second in which sodium reduction was included. Subjects did even better, lowering their blood pressures substantially more. Now the DASH guidelines also include lower sodium for best results. In addition to lowering their blood pressures, DASH subjects also reduced their cholesterol levels by an average of 7 percent and their blood homocysteine levels (a heart disease risk factor) by an average of 7 to 9 percent. They also lost weight.

For most people, switching to the DASH diet requires substantial adjustments in eating habits, but DASH nutritionists have made the process easier with a variety of tasty recipes (i.e., Fettucine with Chicken and Vegetables, New Orleans Red Beans and Rice, Apple Crisp, Sweet Potato Pie). The diet allows you to-continue eating your favorite foods, including meats and desserts.

Researchers admit they don’t know exactly how the DASH diet works to lower blood pressure. “It may be that the combined nutrients in the DASH foods work together to create an effect greater than the sum of their parts,” they write. They do know that simply adding supplements of the active ingredients potassium, magnesium, and calcium’ does not have the same blood pressure-lowering effects, although these supplements may aid health in other ways.

The DASH diet is for those who already have high blood pressure, as well as those in danger of developing high blood pressure. If this diet were adopted by the majority of Americans, the authors note, the result would be a 15 percent decrease in coronary heart disease and a 27 percent reduction in the number of strokes in our population.

Included with the diet plan are informative chapters detailing how to lose weight with the DASH diet, how to add exercise to help boost DASH results, and how to follow the DASH diet in your grocery shopping and when eating at restaurants.

A section entitled “Understanding Blood Pressure Reading” should be required reading for everyone.

Questionaires of DASH subjects show that the diet makes them feel better and more energetic. The authors believe those who have tried it will want to continue the DASH diet for the rest of their lives.

Who Needs the DASH Diet?

The DASH diet is for you if you have:

* high blood pressure

* blood pressure in the “high-normal” range

* a family history of high blood pressure

* the desire to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and cancer

* the goal of preventing age-related blood pressure

* a wish to get off blood pressure medications or to lower your dosage

* an interest in feeling better, mentally and physically

Of course, if the above conditions apply to someone in your family or anyone close to you, then the DASH diet is for them, too.

–From The DASH Diet For Hypertension.

Dine and DASH

The heart-healthy DASH eating plan includes the following diet:

Grain 7 to 8 servings/day

Vegetables 4 to 5 servings/day

Fruits 4 to 5 servings/day

Low-fat or fat-free dairy 2 to 3 servings/day

Meat/Fish/Poultry 2 or less servings/day

Nuts, seeds, dry beans 4 to 5 servings/week

Fats and oils 2 to 3 servings/day

Sweets 5 servings/week

DASH Diet Recipes

Baked Catfish

(Makes 6 servings)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan


1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

2 pounds catfish fillets

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt

Preheat oven to 450 [degrees] F. Mix flour,

breadcrumbs, paprika, pepper, and

Parmesan. Cut fish into 5-oz. pieces.

Coat with yogurt and dredge in

flour-crumb mixture. Place on sheet

pans lightly sprayed with nonstick

cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes.

Per Serving (5 ounces):

Calories: 216

Sodium: 173 mg

Fat: 5 gm

New Orleans Red Beans

and Rice

(Makes 6 servings)

1 cup dried red beans

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice

2 teaspoons Cajun Spice Mix

(recipe below)

3 cups water

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as


1/2 cup chopped celery

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup seeded and chopped green

bell pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (8 oz.) unsalted tomato sauce

Cook beans the day before, following

package directions or your

usual procedure, but with no salt.

Drain and cool until ready to use.

Cook rice in water with no salt

added until tender, about 20 minutes.

While rice is cooking, prepare

remaining ingredients.

Spray medium stockpot with

nonstick cooking spray and heat.

Add onions, celery, green pepper,

and garlic; cook 2-3 minutes. Add

drained red beans, tomato sauce,

Worcestershire sauce, Cajun Spice

Mix, brown sugar, hot sauce, and

salt. Lower heat, cover, and simmer

15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine bean mixture with warm

cooked rice and mix well.

Cajun Spice Mix: Mix together

1/4 cup paprika, 2 tablespoons dried

oregano, 2 teaspoons chili powder,

1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon

freshly ground black pepper,

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard. This spice

mix is used in several other DASH


Per Serving (1 cup each without rice):

Calories: 194

Sodium: 544 mg

Fat: 1 gm

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