Fad diets can seriously damage your health and provide only short-term weight loss. But what happens when a diet is developed by scientists? Meet DASH - designed to treat hypertension, this diet can also help combat fatty liver disease!
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The acronym DASH means Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension; it was created by the U.S. Heart Institute and awarded the title of the healthiest eating program in America in 2014. Such recognition is not surprising: after a month on Dash, blood pressure can fall by over 10 points! What’s more: new research shows that it is great for your liver, too.
What does liver have to do with hypertension?
DASH was created to treat high pressure, but in fact fatty liver and hypertension often stem from the same causes: obesity, unhealthy diet, excessive consumption of carbs, fats, and alcohol, too much sodium and processed foods, and a lack of fiber. Recent research that DASH can be a very efficient treatment for fatty liver.
To eat or not to eat
DASH limits the intake of sodium, trans fats, and sugar, replacing them with healthier alternatives. It doesnt’t have to be boring, though: check out some delicious DASH recipes here.
- Whole grains. Even if you don’t suffer from hypertension or fatty liver, you should try to switch to whole grains: studies show that they promote metabolism and weight loss.
- Vegetables and fruit. This is the basis of DASH: a good intake of fiber promotes digestion and helps control the level of liver enzymes. If your have fatty liver, however, you should avoid sugary fruits, such as watermelons, pears, and mangoes.
- Sodium. The safe daily amount of salt is about 2300 mg, or one teaspoon, but most people eat much more (check your canned and processed food labels – the sodium contents may shock you!). With DASH, you should try not to put salt into rice and pasta – it may seem bland at first, but you should know that a 2016 study linked salt intake to fatty liver disease!
- Dairy. This is a tricky one: the original DASH prescribes a lot of low-fat or no-fat milk and yogurt. However, a new large-scale review suggests that dairy fats are completely fine for you! Keep in mind that cheese can contain loads of salt, though.
- Processed foods. Avoid! Ham, artificial sliced cheese, biscuits – all these things are full of trans fats and salt.
- Legumes. As we have written recently, beans are a wonderful source of iron and protein.
- Meat. Choose lean meat (or at least cut off the fat) and roast or stew it instead of frying. Make sure to eat healthy fish, such as salmon and sardines. Don’t eat more than 180 g (6 ounces of meat per day: if it seems like too little, combine small pieces of meat with veggies in delicious stir fries or one-pot stews.
- Sugar. DASH only allows a few servings of sweet things per week: better replace them with fruit.
Is DASH worth the trouble?
DASH is far from the most restricting diet out there, especially if you go for the higher-fat variety, but you may still lack your cake, cheese, and BBQ ribs with sauce. If you suffer from fatty liver or hypertension, though, it is worth it: you can save yourself much greater trouble later, such as cirrhosis (permanent scarring of the liver) or even liver failure. If you suspect you may have fatty liver, get a blood test (remember – it has no symptoms). If your enzymes are not great, try DASH for a month and see what happens: not only will your liver thank you, but you may shed some pounds, too! It is a diet, after all, just a very healthy one.