Let me give you the « skinny » on the DASH Diet – the diet voted number one again , five years in a row by Time Magazine. The DASH diet is organically a traditional Caribbean Diet in its truest and purest form. So when we all take our winter vacations this year – we will hopefully get lots of it! Not to say we can’t get very creative in North America we just need to ramp up the fruits and fiber – and veggies and visit the produce aisle much more often.
The traditional Caribbean diet fulfills many of the balanced nutrition guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s rich in seafood, a variety of fruits and vegetables and lean protein while being low in refined grains, sugar and salt. Adopting a low-fat, low-calorie version of the Caribbean diet may help lower your risk of chronic medical problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Soursop (also called graviola), pineapples, dark leafy greens like callaloo — similar to kale or spinach — sweet potatoes, yams, okra, breadfruit, guava, papaya, coconuts, mangoes, cassava, plantains, tomatoes, corn and dasheen, also known as taro, feature frequently in the Caribbean diet. What is so special about these things you may ask? They are loaded with potassium – a mineral that is shown to be critical in the prevention of high blood pressure and stroke. The Caribbean diet is very rich in potassium and minerals as well as fibre. It is also rich in anti-oxidants and pack a nutritional punch. A study published in 2004 in the “British Journal of Nutrition” reported that Caribbean staples like dasheen and cassava have a high glycemic index. The researchers advised eating more white yams instead since they have less of an impact on blood sugar and may help lower the risk of diabetes. Aim to fill at least half of your plate at each meal with produce of different types and colors. Eat them fresh, stir them into soups and stews, or steam, roast or grill them with a small amount of added fat. So what are the characteristics of the Caribbean or DASH Diet?
High in Plant-Based Protein
Most of the protein in the Caribbean diet is supplied by beans and legumes like chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, and kidney, lima, red and black beans. As a matter of fact the staple of Caribbean dishes is the infamous “rice and peas” that is prepared to accompany almost every meal. For more fiber and B vitamins, choose brown rice. The Caribbean diet seldom includes red meat, though when it does, it’s often a small amount of goat’s meat, which is low in saturated fat and calories. In addition, for breakfast the Caribbean diet features a lot of green leafy vegetables like calaloo and cabbage prepared in different forms instead of carb-rich breakfast items like bagels, croisssants and muffins.
Features a Variety of Seafood
To lower your risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol, you should consume at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish or shellfish each week, advises the American Heart Association. A traditional Caribbean diet supplies seafood such as red snapper, conch, shrimp and lobster in abundance, easily fulfilling this recommendation. Avoid fried seafood in favor of steaming, baking or grilling.
Flavored With Spices, Not Salt
The Caribbean isn’t known for being the “Spice Islands” for nothing. The basic Caribbean diet is low in sodium, partly because it relies more on herbs and spices than salt to flavor dishes. Curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and annatto seeds are used, as well as hot peppers like the native Caribbean pepper the Scotch bonnet pepper used in many “jerk recipes”. These spices are also very high in anti-oxidants and minerals. Marinades are another typical Caribbean method for adding flavor. Try marinating fish or lean meat in a mixture of lime juice and zest, a chopped hot pepper, grated ginger and olive oil before roasting or grilling – this is actually the hallmark of the Jerk tradition in the Caribbean – this is done overnight by allowing the flavours to soak in.
Don’t worry we’ve got you covered on preparing rich, tasteful treats full of DASH – flavor! We will be featuring a lot of DASH Diet recipes for 2015 on Aspire-Canada in our “DASH DIET RECIPE SERIES”. So stay Tuned.