Why African Americans Don’t DASH

Are our culinary traditions to blame for ignoring the DASH diet?

BHM Edit Staff | Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The DASH diet is healthy even if you have no ailments.

The DASH Diet, developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, was designed to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which is good for your heart. Even if you don't have high blood pressure, you might want to give the DASH Diet a try. It's a healthier way of eating that promotes lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, and less fats, cholesterol and sweets.

A-Number 1, King of the Hill

DASH was recently placed atop a ranking of diets by U.S. News and World Report for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent and control diabetes, and promote heart health, beating out Weight Watchers and The Biggest Loser diet plans. Even better: DASH is available online for free. There are no points to count or weigh-ins to attend.

DASH Is Difficult for African Americans

So why aren't more African Americans, who have soaring rates of hypertension-induced heart disease, adopting this diet? Researchers suggest we don't do DASH for a variety of reasons, including anxiety, depression, level of support from family and friends, and beliefs about health and exercise. But some lay the blame on our culinary traditions.

Even after DASH dietary counseling, African Americans consumed "considerably more meat, sweets and fat, and less fruit," says James A. Blumenthal, Ph.D., professor of behavioral medicine in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, and lead investigator in a DASH compliance study. "Strong cultural influences on food preferences, food preparation and perceptions about eating practices might make it more challenging for African Americans to adhere to the DASH diet."

Modification Is the Answer

But don't worry. Experts aren't suggesting we give up our collard greens and cornbread. That would lead to more resistance. The solution, they say, is modifying traditional recipes to meet DASH guidelines.

Do you agree with the experts about the reasons we don't follow the DASH Diet? Do you follow DASH guidelines, even if you don't have high blood pressure?