If you’re not familiar with the general health benefits of the DASH diet, you are not alone. It is NOT one of those fad diets that comes and goes, or a quirky diet plan that is touted by celebrities. Quite simply, it is one of the soundest dietary regimens around, based on years of scientific research.
We discussed the DASH diet in a blog several years ago but decided it was time to revisit it, thanks to an article in the April 4, 2017 Washington Post. That article notes the DASH diet is “celebrating 20 years of helping people with hypertension and pre-hypertension lower blood pressure just as well as some medications.”
But wait. What about people who are not concerned about their blood pressure? Is this diet now being promoted as being for everyone? In a nutshell, the answer is yes. The principles behind DASH can apply to almost anyone. Here’s some background to help you understand the benefits.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension program (aka the DASH diet) was developed by the U.S. government’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the American Heart Association to be a balanced eating plan that focuses on:
- Lower dietary sodium intake
- Eating less saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat
- Consuming more fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Increasing consumption of whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts
- Reducing intake of sweets, added sugars and sugary beverages
Do these recommendations sound familiar? My guess is that they will be recognizable to anyone who is even a little bit focused on healthy eating.
While it’s true this program originally focused on lowering blood pressure, there are many benefits from following the DASH diet, per the Washington Post article which states: “The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say the model eating plan for all Americans is the DASH diet, because it outlines a generally healthy diet from which anyone can benefit. Following the DASH diet’s principles will mean you’re eating a nutrient-rich yet not calorie-dense diet that has been shown to be helpful for promoting weight loss and maintenance.”
Health experts in this Washington Post article also note “a growing body of evidence suggests DASH is also helpful for managing diabetes, preventing cancer and improving kidney health.” In fact, “U.S. News & World Report experts rated DASH as the top diet overall for several years, adding to the diet’s credibility and helping to bring it to a wider audience.”
That brings me back to the 2013 blog where we briefly examined the DASH diet, particularly with regards to reducing sodium intake. What we said in that blog is still true today:
“While all the benefits of the DASH diet can result in an improvement in health, my main point in this blog is about sodium intake. Per the NHLBI, the DASH eating plan is much lower in sodium (salt) than the typical American diet.
“The DASH research showed that an eating plan containing 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day lowered blood pressure. An eating plan containing only 1,500 mg of sodium per day even further lowered blood pressure.”
How a Dash of MSG Can Help
Unfortunately, many of us believe that by lowering sodium we are giving up tasty food, and that the lower sodium food will be bland. However, a great “secret” to still enjoying foods with less sodium is to replace part of the salt in favorite recipes with monosodium glutamate (MSG). By way of comparison, MSG contains about 12 percent sodium while table salt contains 39 percent sodium.
In fact, when MSG is used in combination with a small amount of table salt, it can reduce the total sodium in a recipe by 20 to 40 percent – while still maintaining the desired flavor.
So if you decide to give the DASH diet/dietary lifestyle a try, don’t forget that a small amount of MSG may go a long way in helping reduce sodium intake while keeping foods appetizing. For some guidance on how a dash of MSG can enhance the flavor of healthy foods, here are some food preparation guidelines to follow.
Want to learn more? Read “New Scientific Research: Adding MSG Helps Reduce Sodium While Maintaining Good Taste.”