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How a DASH Diet Can Protect Your Heart

Researchers discovered that a low-salt DASH diet can protect your heart three ways, lowering measures of strain, injury and inflammation.
How a DASH Diet Can Protect Your Heart
Fresh kale and broccoli microgreens on top of a vegetable salad

The DASH Diet—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—has been shown to lower blood pressure. Numerous studies since 1997 have demonstrated its effectiveness against diabetes and depression as well. In addition, following a DASH diet can protect your heart, according to a new study.

The DASH Diet Can Protect Your Heart:

First, let’s be clear on what the DASH diet is. This dietary approach involves lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Low-fat dairy products are encouraged, along with fish, poultry, nuts and legumes. Processed foods, especially sweets, fats and red meat are minimized. Such an eating plan results in meals that are high in fiber and low in sugar.

How Does a DASH Diet Affect Cardiac Health?

A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrates that the DASH diet can lower cardiac inflammation (JACC, June 1, 2021). The scientists conducted a controlled trial in which they provided meals for the 412 participants. As a result, they had complete control over what people were eating. Half of the volunteers got a DASH diet while the remainder followed a controlled diet. The scientists also varied the sodium levels in the diets to see whether a low-salt diet increased the benefit of following a DASH diet. 

The results of the study show that a DASH diet can protect the heart in three different ways. The vegetable-heavy diet by itself lowers levels of high-sensitivity cardiac troponin I, which is a measure of cardiac injury. (Elevated levels of troponin may indicate a heart attack, for example.) People following the DASH diet also had lower levels of hs-CRP, an indicator of inflammation. In contrast, the low-sodium diet alone increased hs-CRP modestly.

Combining a DASH approach with sodium limitation also reduced N-terminal pro–B-type natriuretic peptide, a measure the scientists used to indicate cardiac strain. Consequently, it appears that a vegetable-rich DASH diet can protect the heart, especially if it is also low in salt.

Learn More:

You may wish to listen to our Show 1051: How Do Vegetarians Get All the Nutrients They Need? Another resource is this wonderful recipe for Lentil-Nut Loaf from Harvard’s Dr. Walter Willett and his wife, Gail Pettiford Willett. You will also find a delicious recipe for Lentil and Roasted Bell Pepper Salad, from Dr. Christopher Gardner of Stanford University. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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