DASH Into the New Year for Your Health

If one of your New Year’s resolutions includes improving your overall health, one of the best ways you can achieve that is through a healthy diet. But what exactly does “a healthy diet” mean? Too many people think “eating healthy” means dining solely on rabbit food: carrots, lettuce, and a serving of water on the side. This doesn’t have to be the case. Your concierge primary care doctors at MD 2.0 Jupiter in Jupiter, Florida, prefer to call it “sensible eating,” and the payoffs can be enormous.

Take, for example, the DASH diet, which has been making people healthier for 20 years. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—the DASH diet—is recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) because of its proven effect on lowering blood pressure in both hypertensive and pre-hypertensive patients.

In addition to improving cardiovascular health, the diet has been shown to help prevent cancer, reduce the incidence of diabetes, and improve kidney health. Finally, and not incidentally, one of the “side effects” of the diet is effective short-term and long-term weight loss. For its general effect on health, U.S. News and World Report has ranked the DASH diet the best diet for seven years in a row.

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So what are the features of the DASH diet? Rather than strict rules, it provides more in the way of guidelines. These include: eating more fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts, fish, poultry, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy, and less full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, and sweets. Consumption of less salt (sodium) is also encouraged, but not required. However, many of the recommended foods on the plan are naturally low in sodium, so a good deal of salt reduction occurs incidentally.

The impetus for the research came when medical science was focused solely on the effect of salt on high blood pressure. Researchers who designed the DASH diet wanted to look at the way a diet high in nutrients, not just low in sodium, would impact hypertension. The results were gratifying.

The DASH diet is rich in fiber, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, nutrients which improve the body’s electrolyte balance, thus relaxing blood vessels as well as promoting excretion of excess fluid, both of which result in lower blood pressure. It emphasizes variety, portion size, and natural foods. And by including a good balance of lean protein, it helps satisfy hunger and maintain energy.

The diet was originally developed in the 1990s as part of a research study designed to see whether blood pressure could be reduced through a dietary approach. The results were remarkable. Subjects were able to reduce their blood pressure significantly in just two weeks, and the less salt that was consumed the lower the blood pressure achievement.

Later studies found that the DASH diet also served to lower total LDL and cholesterol, and reduced the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, even years later.

So, if you’re looking for a diet that will improve your overall health as well as your waistline, you can’t go wrong with the DASH approach. There are myriad books available that provide the specifics, and sample menu plans can easily be found on the Internet. And of course, if you have specific questions about incorporating the DASH approach to healthier living, we can help you tailor the plan’s guidelines to meet your calorie requirements based on your weight, height, gender, age, and activity level.

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The Dirty Dozen

One thing that most of us have in common is the desire to live a long & healthy life. Part of reaching that goal includes getting adequate amounts of rest, exercise, fresh air and eating a healthy diet. Our diet is a large part of who we are and really contributes to our current state of health. So what should a healthy diet include? Food from the seven food groups of course, but especially fruits and veggies.

Have you heard the term “Dirty Dozen” buzzing around lately online and in the news? Many people will argue the point that organic produce is costly and when compared to non organic produce, it is all the same. But this is far from the truth. There is actually a list of fruits and veggies known as the Dirty Dozen that we must all look out for. Why? When it comes to non organic produce, there are many pesticides used in the farming process, to kill insects and protect the produce. Although these pesticides are successful at doing that, these from the dirty dozen are the fruits and veggies that are the most contaminated. Some of the pesticide residue still remains even after washing and peeling in some cases.

The fruits and veggies on the dirty dozen list include: Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, celery, strawberries, cherries, spinach, imported grapes, lettuce, potatoes and pears.

What does this mean in terms of health? While eating fruits and veggies do help us remain healthy, eating those from the dirty dozen may actually contribute to a few medical problems. Pesticide residue is ingested when we eat this produce and has been shown to cause certain types of cancer, disrupt reproductive function and affect the endocrine system. In addition to these medical issues, heavy toxicity from these pesticides have also been shown to cause birth defects and neurological problems in unborn children.

If you simply cannot afford organic, you may avoid the dirty dozen altogether and buy certain fruits and veggies that are non-organic, but safe from pesticides. These fruits and veggies have very little to none in terms of pesticide residue, or their outer skins are so tough, this prevents any pesticides from touching their edible parts. These include: eggplant, avocado, asparagus, mango, pineapples, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, sweet potatoes, watermelon, cauliflower and cantaloupe. In the end, making even moderate changes to our diet can make a world of difference in overall health and longevity. We are truly what we eat!