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Kimberly Tenner
December 7, 2016

DASH Diet Review

DASH Diet

The votes are in and it looks like the DASH Diet is #1.

When U.S. News & World Report released their diet rankings, the DASH Diet was named “best diet for healthy eating.” This is the 3rd year in a row the DASH Diet has earned this distinction. This year, it also tied with The Biggest Loser diet for “best diet to prevent and manage diabetes.”

And the news gets better…the DASH Diet is available for free online.

What Is the DASH Diet?

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) designed the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet to combat low blood pressure. According to one developer Dr. Tom Moore, the diet works as well as high blood pressure medication.

DASH Diet participants consume a balanced diet with the following foods:

• Fruits
• Vegetables
• Whole grains
• Low-fat dairy foods
• Lean meat, fish, poultry
• Nuts
• Beans

These foods are limited or avoided:

• Sugar-sweetened foods and beverages
• Red meat
• Sodium
• Saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat
• Processed and “junk” food

The DASH Diet isn’t just for people with high blood pressure. The US Department of Agriculture says it’s an ideal eating plan for all Americans.

Clinical Research

DASHDiet.org lists more than 13 clinical studies involving the DASH Diet. Besides proving the diet reduces hypertension, researchers discovered these added benefits:

• Women who follow the DASH Diet are less likely to have breast cancer and heart failure.[1][2]
• The DASH Diet reduces diabetes risk and heart failure in men.[3][4]
• DASH Diet participants have a lower risk for developing colorectal cancer.[5]
• People who lost weight and exercised while following the DASH Diet significantly improved blood pressure and cardiovascular health.[6]
• Following the DASH Diet helped people maintain weight loss.[7]

DASH Diet Details

The NHLBI presents these daily guidelines for DASH Diet participants to follow:

• Total fat – 27% of calories
• Saturated fat – 6% of calories
• Protein – 18% of calories
• Carbohydrate – 55% of calories
• Cholesterol – 150 mg
• Sodium – 2,300 mg (1,500 mg for people with high blood pressure)
• Potassium – 4,700 mg
• Calcium – 1,250 mg
• Magnesium – 500 mg
• Fiber – 30 g

If you’re like me, you’re still unsure where to start. I need a diet plan to be spelled out for me. Fortunately, the NHLBI does just that. They’ve released a free booklet titled “Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH.”

The Free Booklet

Besides describing the DASH diet in detail, this booklet explains…

• How to read nutrition labels
• Which foods contain the nutrients you need
• How to cut calories
• Ways to avoid unhealthy foods

It also provides…

• Tips for following the DASH Diet successfully
• Meal plans
• DASH Diet recipes to last a whole week

Finding the free booklet is simple. Do a Google search for “Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with Dash.” The downloadable PDF file comes up as the top hit.

Is the DASH Diet Safe?

When the U.S. News & World Report analyzed 29 diets, they weren’t just looking at effectiveness. The DASH Diet was ranked #1 because it’s also very safe.

It conforms to accepted dietary guidelines. The diet is balanced and incorporates healthy foods. The DASH diet also emphasizes foods which most Americans neglect to eat such as:

• Fiber
• Potassium
• Calcium
• Vitamin B-12
• Vitamin D

Is the DASH Diet Easy to Follow?

The DASH Diet is easier to follow than some diets because it doesn’t restrict entire food groups. It’s also easy to follow if you don’t need to make many dietary changes. However, this healthful diet could be a challenge for some.

Why It’s Easy

• The NHLBI and other organizations (e.g. Mayo Clinic) provide numerous recipes
• The free booklet provides recipes for 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners
• Nutrition experts encourage satiety, so DASH dieters won’t go hungry
• These healthy foods fill you up faster with fewer calories

Why It’s Difficult

• DASH dieters give up most fatty, sugary, and salty foods
• Planning meals may be time-consuming and challenging
• Alcohol consumption is limited
• Eating out is difficult since most restaurant meals don’t meet DASH diet requirements
• Healthy foods are generally pricier and harder to prepare than processed, sugary, fatty foods

Other Resources

Marla Heller, MS, RD, composed the best-selling book “The DASH Diet Action Plan.” Her goal was to “move DASH from the research setting to practical advice for real meals in a healthy lifestyle.”

The book is sold on Amazon.com for around $14. It currently has a 4/5 star rating from 154 customer reviews.

Negative reviews said the book is too wordy and repetitive. It doesn’t contain any information you can’t find online. One customer said the 56-page free pamphlet is better than the book.

Positive reviews said “The Dash Diet Action Plan” is easy to read and understand. It provides helpful information about blood pressure, cholesterol, and healthy eating habits. There are meal plans to last 28 days. Also, because Heller compiles the information, you don’t have to do the research.

Positive reviews outweigh negative reviews 4 to 1.

DashForHealth.com is another helpful resource created by the diet creators.

Should You Try the DASH Diet?

If you’re up for the challenge, the DASH Diet is well worth trying. After all, it was named the healthiest diet by a panel of diet, nutrition, obesity, and heart disease experts.

The DASH Diet is easier to follow than more restrictive diets. However, the difficulty varies from person to person. Healthy eaters should have little trouble adapting the dietary guidelines. In addition, the creators simplify the diet by providing resources, tips, and recipes.

If you need to lower blood pressure, lose weight, or become healthier, I recommend following the DASH Diet.

References

[1] Fung, TT, FB Hu, et al. “Low-carbohydrate diets, dietary approaches to stop hypertension-style diets, and the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.” American Journal of Epidemiology. 174.6 (2011): 652-60.

[2] Mittleman, MA, A Wolk, and EB Levitan. “Consistency with the DASH diet and incidence of heart failure.” Archives of Internal Medicine. (2009).

[3] Koning, L, SE Chiuve, et al. “Diet-quality scores and the risk of type 2 diabetes in men.” Diabetes Care. 34.5 (2011): 1150-6.

[4] Levitan, EB, A Wolk, et al. “Relation of consistency with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet and incidence of heart failure in men aged 45 to 79 years.” American Journal of Cardiology. (2009).

[5] Chiuve, SE, CS Fuchs, et al. “The Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets and colorectal cancer.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 92.6 (2010): 1429-35.

[6] Blumenthal, JA, MA Babyak, et al. “Effects of the DASH diet alone and in combination with exercise and weight loss on blood pressure and cardiovascular biomarkers in men and women with high blood pressure: the ENCORE study.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 170.2 (2010): 126-35.

[7] “Comparison of Strategies for Sustaining Weight Loss, The Weight Loss Maintenance Randomized Control Study.” Journal of the American Medical Association. (2008).


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