August 24, 2020

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Shrimp orzo with feta
Photo Courtesy: Taste of Home

Eating Pattern Series

This week I will be covering a lesser-known eating pattern, DASH!

The Basics: DASH is an acronym for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. In the early 1990s, the National Institute of Health allocated funds for research to see if there were specific eating patterns that could reduce hypertension (blood pressure) and risk of diabetes over time. The original study only changed the eating patterns that subjects followed, leaving other lifestyle factors unchanged such as sleep and exercise habits. Interestingly, the eating pattern change was enough to lower most participants' blood pressure by about 6 to 11 mm Hg on average. This study was later replicated many times by different researchers and produced similar results each time. This significant finding was enough for the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute to heavily promote this eating pattern since the original findings in the early 1990s.

This eating pattern is very similar to the plant-based pattern we covered last week. Similar to plant-based, DASH heavily promotes fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and dairy products. There is also a recommendation to reduce intake of processed foods. The only difference between the two is the recommendation for daily sodium intake. With DASH, it is recommended to only consume up to 1500 mg of sodium per day. 

Around The World: As this eating pattern was originally developed in the United States, it is most common in the U.S. Over time, the World Health Organization saw the tremendously successful results in lowering blood pressure and now promotes it all around the world. Currently, DASH is ranked as the "best overall diet" to follow for weight loss, decreasing blood pressure, and reducing risk of diabetes. 

Pros: With a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, going DASH is going to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals, strengthening your immune system and improving your overall health. There is also an increase in fiber intake, which can improve your gut health. 

Cons: Due to the heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, access to fresh produce may be difficult for people who live in colder climates. If people decide to reduce their sodium intake when following DASH, it may be difficult at first because sodium is in a lot more foods than you may think. It might also be difficult to keep track of sodium intake if people do not know how to properly read a "nutrition facts" label. 

Potential Health Benefits: Time and time again, DASH has been shown to decrease blood pressure levels even if there are no other lifestyle changes made. There are even more health benefits shown when there is a reduction of sodium intake and an increase in physical actiity when following DASH. Some of these health benefits include lower risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease; there is also a potential for weight loss. 

Recipe: Check out this recipe for shrimp orzo with feta cheese! This recipe only calls for a few ingredients and can be made in less than 30 minutes. This would be a great dinner on a busy weeknight. 

Resources To Learn More: Marla Heller, a registered dietician and author, has written many bestselling books about DASH. Check out her most recent book, The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution, to learn more! 

Be on the lookout for the next eating pattern, Mediterranean! 

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