The purpose-created Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is designed to help you lower your blood pressure naturally, as part of an overall plan to reduce your risk of deadly heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the developed world, and unlike the second leading cause—cancer—there are concrete steps one can take to dramatically reduce the risk of falling victim to this killer.
That’s because many of the risk factors for heart disease are actually under our control. They include engaging in adequate exercise on a routine basis, avoiding obesity, and eating a healthful diet. Simply cutting added sugars from the diet, for example, can slash your risk. Adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—and eating less processed and red meat—can also affect your risk profile significantly. Too much sugar and too much consumption of meat have been linked to poorer health. Conversely, replacing these foods with more healthful alternatives can be beneficial.
Bigger is Better
Recent research suggests that for people seeking to lose (or control) body weight, eating a big breakfast, a more modest lunch, and having the lightest meal of the day at dinner time is an eating pattern associated with better weight loss and control. It seems we fare best when we consume the bulk of our daily calories early in the day.
This flies in the face of most Americans’ experiences and practices. We tend to eat breakfast on the run, if at all, and save the big meal for the end of the day. There is a better way. Why not try eating the majority of your calories in the morning, and give yourself time to enjoy your feast?
Here’s an important tip: Never, ever, skip breakfast. It’s counter-productive, because it sets you up for overeating later in the day. Here are some other important tips that can add up to better health success.
Banish Sugar- and Artificially-Sweetened Beverages
Wave bye bye to soft drinks. Even zero-calorie ones. Or perhaps, especially no-calorie, diet soft drinks. In recent years, consumption of these “diet” drinks has been linked to greater weight gain, not less. And more recently, researchers have noted a link between intake of these beverages and a greater risk of both stroke and dementia. That includes Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, you read that right: artificially-sweetened drink consumption is associated with a significantly greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Even sugar-laced soft drinks aren’t that dangerous.
At the same time, other research has linked sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. The upshot seems to be this: Stop drinking any beverages that have been sugar- or artificially sweetened, and switch to water, tea or coffee. Incidentally, drinking coffee has recently been associated with longer life. Another recent study concluded that long-term consumption of coffee is linked to a “modest decrease in risk” of developing hypertension. There’s no need to fear caffeine, either. Yet another study recently noted that moderate caffeine consumption, even in the absence of coffee drinking, is linked to a reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
To design the DASH breakfast that works best for you, keep several points in mind. There is an emphasis on reducing sodium intake. That means you should limit table salt during cooking, and use restraint at the table. However, not everyone is “salt sensitive,” and thus not everyone will experience blood pressure reductions due to limitations on salt in the diet. Boosting fiber, and cutting added sugars, however, should help keep blood pressure in check no matter who you are.
Sample Breakfast Menu
1/2 C. instant oatmeal, or steel cut oats cooked from scratch, flavored with 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 mini whole wheat bagel with 1 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
1 medium banana
1 C. milk or yogurt
Honey/Yogurt Dipping Sauce with Fresh Fruit
fresh pineapple chunks
1 8-oz. container plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt. Add 2 Tbsp. honey or agave syrup. Add 2 tsp. lime juice, plus 1/2 tsp. lime rind. Stir well.
Thread fruit onto bamboo skewers. Serve with dipping sauce.