I Will Not Bash the DASH

Okay! So you’ve been on a “more healthful eating plan” for a month. You’ve taken “energizing walks” at least five days each week. You’ve lost a few pounds, but something is missing…the sheer enjoyment of food!

If the above statements are true for you, then we are kindred spirits. I’m hoping that if you read to the end, you will find a renewed resolve and realize that patience is the key!

As I noted in an earlier blog, my husband and I received some less than stellar reports during our annual check ups. My husband had reached a point where medication for high blood pressure had reached its maximum benefits. Along with high blood pressure, his triglycerides were elevated, and his A1C (test for diabetes) was rising. Due to various bad reactions/allergies, he had no other medicinal alternatives. Our doctor suggested that losing some weight and cutting out salt might greatly improve his situation.

Though my hypertension was being well controlled (with medication) and I have not yet shown any signs of Type 2 diabetes, my triglycerides were elevated and the 20 pounds I had lost 3 years ago had crept back on.

With spring on the horizon, a good friend started a blog called “Fat Blasters” to encourage us all to get back on track with healthy meal planning, eating, and exercise. We began with enthusiasm and optimism. Four weeks down the road our enthusiasm is waning and, as my mother would say, the bloom is off the rose!

When considering our health issues and what needed to be done, we began the DASH diet. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” It is largely a low-sodium, high fiber diet. The DASH plan promotes eating significant amounts of vegetables and fruit (8-10 servings per day), with moderate amounts of low-fat poultry, fish, beans, and meat. Since we are also trying to lose weight that means 5-7 oz. per day. Notice I said low SODIUM not low SALT.

Sodium is in almost every food we eat, so the DASH diet promotes obtaining the sodium your body needs to function by eating unadulterated foods, minimally processed foods and no added salt. That means, when TV chefs say sprinkle on a little salt and pepper, you only add the pepper. When you are unable to cook from fresh, any canned product must be very low in sodium or sodium free. Our target is no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day. No, those soups that say “30% less sodium” don’t qualify because they still can pack a whopping 600 mg!

In this month, I have tried 40 new recipes, and have also tried to tweak several family favorites. My kitchen window ledge now contains several small fresh herb plants (parsley, thyme, cilantro and basil). I’ve bought organic fruits and veggies (they really do have more flavor) and I’m using infused vinegars, fresh lemon and lime juices in ways I never imagined.

Here comes the downside. I’ve only found one recipe I would serve to company and 5 or 6 I would ever serve again. Why? They have little to no flavor. Most recipes are either much too spicy for our taste or completely bland. One of the ways that the recipes try to make up for the lack of salt is to add lots of spices including black pepper, cayenne, chilies, and other veggies and seasonings that pack a wallop on the Scoville scale (the measure of spicy heat).

I was speaking to one of my best friends yesterday. The three of us are working on this as a team. She expressed our feelings perfectly, “we are eating for sustenance, but all the enjoyment is gone.” You have to understand, we were brought up in Polish/German, Italian, and Norwegian homes that regularly used butter, salt, olive oil, bacon, eggs, whole milk, sausage, pancetta, ham, and marbled meats. When our moms, and later when we cooked, folks walking in the door, raised their heads and said, “Wow! What smells so good? When will it be ready? My mouth is already watering.”

Today the smells may be appealing, but from the first bite, we can’t deny that “something is missing.” The “something” is enough fat, salt and/or sugar to linger on the tongue that one delectable moment, which spurs you on to take another bite and then another, until you are left with nothing but a memory of the delightful experience of a taste treat beyond compare. I recently made a vegetable lasagna with fresh basil and oregano, carrots, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, whole wheat pasta, a tiny bit of skim milk ricotta and mozzarella cheese. It was aesthetically nothing in comparison to my mother-in-law’s recipe! Her layers of delectable lasagna noodles, mouth-watering three meat sauce, rich Italian sausage, eggs, hearty whole milk ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses were pure culinary bliss!

The toughest part is that the new eating plan is WORKING! My husband’s blood pressure and glucose are staying in target zones. His BP has dropped from numbers in the 170/90 range to an average of 130/70! He has lost 12 pounds and with his current glucose ranges, I’m sure his next A1C will be much lower.  I have lost some weight and my heartburn has improved.

Scientists, dietitians, and nutritionists say that it can take 90 days for taste buds to acclimate to the absence of salt. In a small way, I can honestly say we are trying to kick a bad habit or an “addiction” to salt, fat, and sugar. So we will remain undaunted! I am committed to face one day and one meal at a time! I will approach each new recipe as an adventure in new flavor profiles. I will persevere in my search for meals that are BOTH tasty and healthful.

For now, even though I am seriously tempted, I will not bash the DASH!


2 thoughts on “I Will Not Bash the DASH

  1. Sarah

    I’m finally sitting down to read some of your blog posts, you are really a great writer Mary Kay! Maybe you should consider writing a book!

    I am interested in learning about this DASH diet, I’ve heard of it from Nancy, but don’t know much about it, well now I know a little more from reading this post. But it sounds pretty good. Is there a book you have read or just googled the guidelines for it?

    It is so hard to try to understand what really is the best way to eat. We all know that fruits and vegetables are healthy for us, so those items, especially vegetables, I’d say are unlimited. But everything else is up for interpretation. I just finished reading a book called “Wheat Belly,” and I would have never questioned whether or not whole wheat, or grains in general, are healthy for you, but now I am skeptical. The same goes for any animal protein after reading “Eat to Live,” and fat after reading “Low Fat Lies.” I didn’t realize how much time it takes to sit down and do the research, hence my blog is lacking as of late. But I do believe that each of these doctors and dieticians have good insight, so I am still determined to piece it all together!

    As for the enjoyment of food, I totally get it. Joe feels like he is suffering and/or starving sometimes with my “healthy cooking.” But I also think that taste buds do adjust. I remember in high school I ate terribly, everyday was pizza or burrito and a soda, or sometimes I’d literally have a baguette and an energy drink for lunch. Horrible. But one year I gave up soda for lent, and after those 40 days without it it was actually too sweet for me when I tried it again! And I have God to thank for it! So I rarely have soda anymore, and that small adjustment gives me hope that many other small adjustments can be made as well. And it all adds up. So I think you will find the same with salt/sodium. I believe in you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all the kind words! Yes, over all these years, one never knows what is truly healthy, because five years from now some “expert” will turn the whole thing on its head and there will be new “guidelines.” I really think I have to agree with Oscar Wilde and say, “all things in moderation, including moderation.” A wise physician once told us, “Choose one day each month when you don’t count anything. The rest of the month be careful and eat healthfully.”


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