Consistently Ranked One of the Best Diets: The DASH Difference
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are resolving to find a way to a healthier lifestyle. More than 45 million Americans go on diets every year. If you’re like me, you’re wary of all the fad programs out there screaming for attention to lower sugar and carbs, detox the body and severely restrict intake. But for the eight years in a row, the DASH diet was named the best diet overall by U.S. News & World Report in its annual rankings - and if not "the top" diet, it has consistently ranked as one of the top diets. We can rest easy knowing there’s a valid, science-based diet that focuses on eating wholesome food, is easy to follow and is nutritionally complete and sustainable.
The Benefits of DASH
DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was originally developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to help lower blood pressure without medication. The landmark trial was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997.
- The research shows it not only achieved the goal to lower blood pressure, but other aspects of health improved as well, such as aiding in weight loss, controlling blood sugar in diabetes and reducing cancer risk.
- In one 2010 study, published in the AMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, adults were assigned to one of three approaches: DASH, DASH plus exercise and weight loss classes, and a control diet where participants maintained their usual eating habits. After four months, those in the “DASH plus” group lost an average of 19 pounds, while the other groups either lost a little or gained weight. Subsequent studies all showed similar results.
How Does DASH Work?
Many diet plans are too difficult to adhere to long-term. The DASH focus is sustainable because it adds foods instead of depriving dieters.
- DASH emphasizes dairy, which is high in calcium, potassium, magnesium and high-quality protein.
- DASH focuses on including fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and fiber.
- DASH includes whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans – also rich in antioxidants, magnesium and fiber.
- DASH allows small servings of lean cuts on beef, pork, chicken, lamb and seafood.
- DASH limits added sugars and fat, which helps with weight loss and reduces inflammation.
DASH and Dairy
DASH clinical trials compared versions of the diet with and without low-fat dairy (one or two servings daily). Blood pressure reductions were still reported without dairy, but the dairy group had a more significant reduction in systolic pressure. Adding an 8-ounce glass of dairy has 30 percent daily value of calcium, 11 percent daily value of potassium, 16 percent daily value of protein and 5 percent daily value of magnesium. Even those with lactose intolerance can include lactose-free milk like Lactaid brand milk; low-fat Greek yogurt; and harder cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, colby and Monterey Jack.
Rather than “go on a diet,” it’s best to choose a well-evidenced plan that is reasonable enough to sustain for a lifetime. Why not help your clients and patients jump-start their health and fitness goals with DASH? The book DASH Diet For Dummies is a great one to add to your personal library.
Start Now with a Recipe
A great way to include dairy, whole grains and fruit for breakfast or a snack is my very favorite recipe from a book I wrote with Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, the Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies:
Morning Muesli with Fresh Fruit
- ½ cup Muesli (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1½ cup low-fat vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
- 1/8 cup grated fresh apple
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- Berry Delicious: fresh (or frozen) strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Peachy Keen: thaw frozen peaches and mix with ¼ cup peach preserves and ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Caribbean Colada: banana slices, unsweetened crushed pineapple, toasted coconut
- Totally Nutty: toasted walnuts, almonds and pistachios
- Spiced Apple Pie: 1 sliced apple sauteed in light butter with ½ teaspoon cinnamon and a drizzle of honey
- Figs ’n’ Honey: sliced fresh or roasted figs and a drizzle of honey
- Combine muesli, 1 cup yogurt, apple and orange juice in bowl; stir to blend. Refrigerate overnight.
- Serve with remaining yogurt and favorite toppings.
Yield: 2 servings