By: Robyn Flipse, MS, RD Date: 6/22/11
The new Choose My Plate icon released on June 2, 2011 by the USDA/HHS was developed to replace the food pyramid in order to make it easier for consumers to both visualize and apply the recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The simplicity of filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables may signal a true turning point in the quality American diets if adapted.
But for the 127 million Americans age 18 and older who have high blood pressure or are prehypertensive, making the new plate more DASHing can provide some added health benefits.
The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a clinically proven eating plan to help lower blood pressure in those with hypertension and to help prevent its development in those with prehypertension. While lowering sodium intake is an important part of DASH, following the eating plan without lowering sodium intake can begin to improve blood pressure in just two weeks, making it an important option to those having difficulty adhering to a low sodium diet.
Both the DGA and DASH emphasize eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat or nonfat milk products, lean meats, poultry and fish, unsaturated fats and oils, and fewer added sugars. Both also recommend less saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in the diet and moderate use of alcohol. The key differences between the two eating plans are that DASH has a separate food group for Nuts, Seeds and Legumes (dry beans) and a daily requirement from this group, plus a stronger emphasis on foods high in potassium, magnesium and calcium.
A simple way to make your plate more DASHing is with the addition of nuts, seeds and beans. The DASH food plan recommends eating nuts, seeds and beans 4 to 5 times per week depending on caloric level, with one serving equivalent to 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons seeds or nut butter and ½ cup cooked dry beans.
Nuts and seeds are available whole, sliced, and chopped or made into flours, meals and butters. They come in their natural form, with or without shells, and can be toasted or dry roasted. Dry beans are sold unhydrated in bulk or bagged and ready-to-eat in cans. Canned beans are available a low sodium version or you can drain and rinse regular canned beans to lower the sodium content by as much as 40 percent.
The International Tree Nut Council represents almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts, while pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and flax are among the most popular edible seeds The US Dry Bean Council includes adzuki, black, blackeye, cranberry, garbanzo, great northern, kidney , lima, navy, pink, pinto, small red and white beans among the many varieties available, while lentils and split peas also included in the legume group.
Recipes including nuts, seeds and beans are found in every cuisine and enjoyed for the texture, flavor and variety they provide in addition to their nutritional benefits. Including more nuts, seeds and beans can be done with a simple shake, toss or stir. Try to visualize these suggestions when using ChooseMyPlate at your next meal:
· Spinach salad topped with pistachios instead of croutons
· Yogurt and raspberry parfait sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts
· Chicken, fish or tofu crusted with a crumb coating made with sesame seeds
· Whole grain couscous tossed with pine nuts and chick peas for added texture
· Broccoli florets and red pepper strips stir-fried with almonds for added crunch
· Crushed tomatoes and cannellini beans combined for a hearty sauce for pasta
· Banana muffin batter blended with walnuts for nuttier flavor
· Cornbread mixed with pecans to make a true Southern stuffing for a turkey
· Fresh salsa fortified with rinsed, canned black beans to top baked potatoes
· Shrimp salad with cashews and minced dried apricots served over bibb lettuce