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By Stephenie Karony

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

DASH diet
simple way to
eat healthier

Question: What is the DASH diet?

Answer: It's a simple diet created by the federal government, designed to lower high blood pressure through foods you eat.

The DASH diet doesn't require giving up all your favorite foods, taking special substances, using exotic ingredients or spending long hours in the kitchen preparing meals.

DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. It was first referred to as the combination diet. The DASH diet proved to be the best of three diets tested by the National Institute of Health for their ability to lower blood pressure.

The DASH diet shaved 5.5 to 11.4 points off the test subjects' systolic pressure and 3 to 5.5 points off their diastolic pressure. This diet is particularly effective for African-Americans and people with existing hypertension.

The DASH diet consists of foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It contains lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The goals of the DASH diet are to lower dietary fat and cholesterol, while increasing levels of fiber, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

A 2,000-calorie per-day DASH menu will contain 4-5 servings of vegetables, 4-5 servings of fruit, 2-3 servings of lowfat or nonfat dairy foods, around seven servings of grain products (preferably whole grain) and no more than two small servings of meat a day, as well as 4-5 small servings of nuts, beans and seeds per week. Even though I don't have high blood pressure, I pretty much follow the DASH eating plan.

If you don't eat meat, I don't recommend that you start; instead substitute legumes and fish for the meat entrees.

High blood pressure is a silent disease; there aren't usually any symptoms. This is why I don't recommend the currently popular, high-protein, high saturated fat diets.

Eat as close to the DASH diet as you can, even if you don't have high blood pressure. You'll be healthier for it.

Q: Does decaf coffee raise cholesterol levels and increase my risk of heart disease?

A: That's a good question and, as yet, there's no final answer.

In the well-publicized Nurses' Health Study, 85,000 nurses who drank regular and decaffeinated coffee did not show an increase in heart disease risk.

That was an important finding because some of the test subjects drank six or more cups a day. Other smaller studies have also found no connection between drinking decaf coffee and elevated cholesterol levels.

Why is there still no final answer? Because decaffeinated coffee hasn't been as extensively studied as caffeinated coffee.

In most studies, decaf and regular coffee have been looked at together.

Other factors may also be at work. For instance, how is the coffee brewed?

Filtered, caffeinated coffee does not raise cholesterol, but unfiltered coffee (brewed in a French Press pot, for example) does. It might turn out that the brewing methods affect decaf in a similar way, but no one has investigated that yet.

Another consideration is the type of coffee bean. Robusta beans may tend to raise cholesterol; Arabica beans do not.

It's probably pretty safe to drink one or two cups of decaffeinated, filtered coffee a day. Just watch what you put into your coffee.

Half and half, cream, whole milk, and even 2% milk are loaded with cholesterol. If you train your taste buds to like 1% or skim milk, you'll be doing your body good.


Health Events

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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