Monthly Archives: July 2013

June, With Fewer Grains of Salt

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First, an update on my life.  If you read my last post (or know me), you know that I just moved to Boulder, CO.  Life here is pretty great so far.  You might say it’s Coloradical. I’ve spent the last month hiking, doing yoga, going to concerts…and that’s about it. You may be asking why I have been neglecting my blog if I’ve had so much time on my hands, and the answer is simple.  I live in Boulder, CO, and I don’t want to spend any time on my computer (if you are unfamiliar with the area, do a Google image search, and you’ll see why).  But don’t fret.  I have still been true to the experiment, and I’ve been following the DASH diet for the last month (minus the last nine days, as it’s now July).

Background

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) aims to reduce blood pressure and improve vascular health (my favorite topic).  Check out http://www.dashdiet.org for more info. The stars of the DASH diet are really fruits and vegetables, though emphasis is also placed on incorporating lots of beans and legumes, switching meat to lean meat, dairy to low or nonfat dairy, and making at least half of your grains whole grains.  Sounds like an overall healthy diet, right? Right.

In making these simple changes, what ends up happening by default is that you reduce your processed food intake, thereby reducing your sodium intake (fun fact: the majority of sodium in our diet comes from processed foods.  What we add from the salt shaker accounts for very little of our intake).  Additionally, by switching to all the whole foods mentioned above, you increase your intake of other vasoprotective minerals including potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

The goal of the DASH diet is to reduce sodium intake to 2300 mg/day (though the DASH-reduced sodium diet recommends 1500 mg/day for people with suboptimal blood pressure….which is 70% of the American adult population).  The average American consumes about 3700 mg/day (thanks, processed foods), but the reduction to 2300 mg/day isn’t difficult if you eat whole foods.  Even with this minor change, you can still see a reduction in blood pressure because you are increasing your intake of all the other vascular protective minerals, thereby counterbalancing the impact of sodium.  In fact, studies have shown that individuals who are moderately hypertensive who follow the DASH diet can show reductions of up to 6 mmHg in their systolic blood pressure after only 14 days.  These results are equivalent to that of the primary hypertensive medication on the market, ACE inhibitors.

The cool thing about the DASH diet is 1) there are absolutely no gimmicks, extra money, or bullshit promises involved, and 2) although the diet was originally designed to treat moderate hypertension, so many more benefits have been shown over the years.  It is now recommended for improving overall cardiovascular risk, reducing insulin resistance, reducing the risk of diabetes, and is a great tool for weight loss as well.  It’s one of the few diets that has stood the test of time and can easily be maintained over the long haul because it focuses on incorporating MORE into your diet (fruits, veggies), and consequently, reducing some of the less healthy options.

My Experience

To be honest, this was probably the easiest month for me, which was one of the reasons why I chose it now – I wanted something that would be fairly straight forward as I transitioned into my new life.  The biggest challenge for people as they transition into the DASH diet is to cut out processed food.  This isn’t much of an issue for me since I don’t eat much of that stuff these days.  My typical diet roughly follows the DASH recommendations, though I did focus on cooking more with spices and avoiding mindlessly adding salt to dishes as well as eating more fruits and veggies.  While it wasn’t a far cry from my actual diet, it was nice to have goals to focus on.  In doing so, it made my diet much healthier than normal. Here are some tips on how to easily incorporate the DASH plan into your life:

  • 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day keeps the heart disease away: To reach your fruit and veggie goal, eat at least one serving of F or V at every meal.  Also, replace all snacks with F or V.  For me, the easiest way to do Part 2 was to either just eat a piece of fruit or to eat baby carrots, sugar snap peas, or bell pepper slices with hummus (I don’t like veggies by themselves).
  • Spice up your life: Instead of immediately adding salt as your go-to season, try other spices first.  Cumin is my personal favorite spice, and garlic/onion powders are other good spices when you’re looking for a more savory flavor.  Fresh herbs also go a long way in adding flavor.  The DASH plan has also come up with the brilliant idea of marketing their own spices and marinades, Mrs. DASH.  These are sodium free flavor enhancers, and boy, are they tasty.  If after you have added all these other spices and still need a little somethin somethin, add a pinch of salt– you don’t need much.(Another fun fact: most of our taste buds serve some sort of survival mechanism.  Sweetness cues our brains that something is probably nutrient rich, like fruit, whereas bitterness is indicative of poisonous things, causing us to spit them out.  The love of saltiness, on the other hand, is not something that we are born with, and is instead a taste we grow to love.  I imagine the introduction to salt began when we started salting our meats as a preservative.  That tasted good and we love it.  However, we have not evolved to need/love it, and we can teach ourselves to love it less.  I’ve been working on this, and I have found that the less I eat salty foods, the more overpoweringly salty and terrible they taste when I do eat them, french fries excluded.  Give it a try!)
  • Hop on the whole grain train:  If you eat a lot of bread products, do whole wheat (beware of “multigrain” products.  While many are in fact made of multiple whole grains, others are simply multiple refined grains put into one product and are no better than their refined counterparts.  The ingredients list will tell you if they are whole or not).  Try whole grain pasta (many people hate it, I like it better), brown rice, quinoa, etc.  Get creative.
  • Skip the salt (another way): Buy canned vegetables/beans/sauces with no salt added.  They taste pretty meh, but you can always add your own salt.  Chances are that you’ll add less than what the saltier packaged counterparts include.

Final Stats

 

Goal/Normal

Baseline Data

Vegan

Paleo

WW

GF

Smoothies

DASH

Anthro
Weight

121-60

127.5

127.5

128.5

124

120

124

123.5

BMI

18.5-24.9

20

20

20.1

19.5

19

19.5

19.5

PBF

21-32

21.4

21.2

20.6

21.3

18.5

19.0

?

WC

<35

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

27.5

?

HC

38.5

37.5

38

38

38

38

?

W:H Ratio

<0.8

0.71

0.73

0.72

0.72

0.72

0.72

?

Blood Pressure

<120/80

113/77

101/69

105/72

110/70

93/65

92/68

91/68

Diet
Total kcal

2000-2200

1975

1809

1965

1900

1850

1980

1865

Protein (g)

77.5

57

100

75

78

80

70

Protein (%)

Oct-35

16

12%

20

16

17

17

15

CHO (%)

49-52

51

39-50

47

54

52

54

52

Fiber (g)

at least 25

26

42

32

27

29

33

30

Fat (%)

20-35

29.5

44-54

47

30

31

29

33

Sat Fat (%)

<10

7

8

8

7

7

7

8

Sodium (mg)

2300

2587

2138-2527

2132

2370

2250

2320

2147

Potassium (mg)

4700

3479

3959-4109

3742

3628

3658

3925

3874

Fruit/Veg (servings)

5-9

3-7

8-12

6-8

5-7

6-8

8-10

7-9

Cost

192.59

206.38

120.97

128.57

135.42

127.32

 

Since I moved, I haven’t had anywhere to measure my body fat or waist/hip circumference.  I’m not sure if my new lab will have those tools available; if not, that information may no longer be included.  I’m pretty sure nothing has changed, though.  Other than that, no real changes, other than my fat intake went up a few percentage points…. just in time for me to follow a low fat diet plan for July! I have kissed peanut butter, avocadoes, and pasta drenched in olive oil goodbye (ish).  So far, so OK…see you later this month! (But realistically, see you in the beginning-middle of August.  I suck at having a blog).

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