And The Winner Is: The DASH Diet

Out of the hundreds (thousands?) of diets that compete for our attention, one has been selected by an august board of experts as the very best.  Ironically, it was not formulated as a weight loss plan.  Instead, it was created by the National Institutes of Health as a way to control high blood pressure.  But guess what?  It is great for losing weight!

This wonder diet is called DASH.  That stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.  Created to control high blood pressure (hypertension), this eating plan limits red meat and sodium and features fruits and vegetables.  It has received support from many prestigious health-related organizations, but a recent article in US News and World Report really gave the DASH diet its first real fame. 

Looking at the recommended DASH eating plan, you can see right away that sodium (primarily delivered as salt) is drastically reduced.  This alone can lower your blood pressure over just a few weeks.  Additionally, red meat is restricted, which will help with your cholesterol.  The diet is said to also help with osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke, too.  Oh, and by the way, you can lose 10-15 pounds over the course of a few months.

The meal guidelines are broken up into six categories.  Whole grains, like whole wheat bread, oatmeal and some cereals, contribute 6-8 servings a day.  Vegetables are 4-5 servings a day and fruits are another 4-5 servings, so this is a real change for the fast-food fans among us.  Dairy (low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt) weigh in at 2-3 servings a day for your calcium, vitamin D and protein.  That’s important because your lean meat (and they mean LEAN) is 6 or fewer servings a day.  Since a serving of lean meat is one ounce of skinless chicken or one egg, for example, so that’s not a lot of meat.  Total meat intake comes out to about six ounces per day.  The diet also recommends 4-5 servings of nuts or seeds per week.  Sweets (one tablespoon of sugar or a cup of lemonade) get only 5 appearances a week.  For the over-21 crowd, the diet allows two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

This diet will dramatically improve your overall health.  Medical studies have shown the DASH diet to have positive impacts on weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol over a period of years.  There are very few diets with that kind of solid medical proof backing them up.  The personal cost is low, too.  The meal plan is broad, so your individual tastes and preferences can be preserved, and it’s easy to put together interesting and varied meals on a budget.  The biggest casualty of this diet is red meat.  For some people, that can be a difficult sacrifice, but on a long-term basis your heart and arteries will thank you.

Could this be the diet for you?  That may come down to how many vegetables and fruit can you eat in a day.  Most people agree that dieting alone can be tough.  Find a friend to diet with you.  Having a diet buddy for sharing encouragement and support can make all the difference.  Don’t have a friend who’s ready to join you and your diet?  Check out and find a diet buddy near you.

Have you tried the DASH diet?  How did it work?  Let us know by clicking on the Comment button.

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