DASH Diet, the healthiest diet in America, reported by U.S.. News and World Report.
Scientists and dietitians say no.
They say, It’s not a diet for the sake of weight loss.
In fact, it’s the very reason why it’s growing in popularity under the nose of the weight loss industry.
When most people decide to follow a diet, they usually do it to achieve their weight loss goal and see health benefits as a secondary benefit.
So they only choose from an array of weight loss driven diets.
The DASH Diet on the other hand, has no or minimum weight loss advertisement attached to it nor it claims to be one of those “lose weight fast” eating plans.
Rather, its followers comply the DASH diet wanting to improve their health and lower blood pressure (to prevent chronic disease).
Considering its origin, it’s no surprise.
The DASH Diet was originally developed to fight and reduce hypertension or high blood pressure— not for losing weight (unlike most other diets.)
Some go on this diet intending to wean themselves off medications used to control high blood pressure and even diabetes or they follow as a way to prevent themselves from starting to use those medications in the first place.
Supporters of the DASH Diet say there is indeed a weight loss benefit when you follow such diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, but it’s just an added benefit.
As in, it just so happens, excess weight will likely to come off should you follow the diet.
Wow. That’s new! I thought.
Unlike other diets (mostly fad diets) where I have to take the opposite route, where I have to dig far for scientific evidence to find its legitimacy and safety, this diet seems to be all about health with a side of weight loss, like you get a side of hash with a steak.
Needless to say, it sparked my curiosity, and I wanted to learn more about the DASH diet.
And the findings, I thought to share with you here since they are pretty amazing. (It’s one of those diets that makes you think, wasn’t something like this exist already?)
What is the DASH Diet and How did it come about?
Image Credit: ukhealthcare.uky.edu
The “DASH” diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-and No it has no relation to the Kardashian family or it's not a diet pill you can get from their "DASH brand" stores.
There is also no record of the Kardashian sisters following this DASH diet.
The DASH diet was originally developed back in 1992 to help fight against high blood pressure by making a few dietary changes to eating.
One of the primary objectives of the DASH diet is to get people to reduce their sodium intake to prevent a rise in blood pressure.
It's because hypertension is a large (and deadly) health issue all around the world.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the number is striking.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is affecting 50 million people in the U.S.. alone and as much as 1 billion people worldwide. In 2002, it was responsible for 7.1 million deaths per WHO, World Health Organization data.
The high death rate is warranted considering its association with life-threatening disease.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute or NHLBI, high blood pressure is associated with a significantly greater risk of developing heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease.
To lower your health risk, prevention of high blood pressure is incredibly important.
That's where DASH diet steps in and why it was developed.
According to Mayo Clinic, by following the DASH diet, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks.
Over time, your systolic blood pressure could drop by seven to 12 points, which can make a significant difference in your health risks.
Adding to the note, the development and medical trials of the DASH Diet was done under the name of "The DASH study" involving several well-known academic medical centers in the U.S..
According to the Medical News Today, these medical centers were involved in the study.
- Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts
- Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon
- Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland
- Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina
- Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The DASH Diet Eating Guidelines
There are several main guidelines in the DASH diet to meet its aim to lower the blood pressure.
The one that characterizes them the most and takes the highest importance in their diet is reduction of sodium.
There are two versions to the DASH diet:
- Standard DASH diet
- Lower sodium DASH diet
While both versions of the DASH diet emphasize sodium reduction in your diet, each offers a different level of daily sodium allowance to meet your personal needs.
Note: both standards are for adults.
- Standard DASH diet: up to 2,300 mg of sodium a day
- Lower sodium DASH diet: up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day
The standard DASH diet's daily sodium allowance reflects the sodium intake guideline set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and represents the upper sodium limit of the DASH diet, while the lower sodium DASH diet has a sodium intake limit of 1,500mg a day, which represents the adequate sodium intake level for individuals ages 9 years and older.
In the DASH study, the biggest improvement in blood pressure was found in the group that followed the DASH eating plan at the lowest level of sodium intake (1, 500 mg/ day).
To find a plan that meets your health needs, please consult with your doctor.
Besides the sodium intake level, the DASH diet offers useful meal planning tips in the following areas:
- Food choices
- Nutritional intake
- Portion size
DASH Diet: Food Choices
The DASH eating plan is flexible and requires no special foods. In fact, you'll be eating a lot of familiar foods on the DASH diet.
Foods recommended under the DASH diet include:
- Vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Vegetable oils
Although it's not an elimination diet, in which you exclude one or more food groups completely from your diet, it comes with a list of foods it recommends you avoid.
Foods to avoid on the DASH diet include:
- Foods high in saturated fat
- Fatty meats
- Full-fat dairy
- Tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel and palm oils
- Sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets
To sum up, when following the DASH diet, you'll be eating a meal plan centered around foods that are:
- Low in saturated and trans fats
- Rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein
- Lower in sodium
DASH Diet: Nutritional Intake
According to Mayo Clinic, the DASH diet encourages a meal plan rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Potassium in particular is essential in balancing sodium and potassium, reports Harvard Public Health.
Reena Pande, M.D. Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School also adds, studies have found, consuming more potassium was linked to "lower blood pressure and lower risk of stroke".
One of the reasons why you see a lot of vegetables and fruits in the DASH eating plan is so you can increase your potassium intake, as they are natural sources of potassium with limited sodium content, the balance lowers a health risk.
So how much potassium is recommended?
Recommended daily potassium intake for adults age 19 and older, set by the Food and Nutrition Center of the Institute of Medicine is 4.7 g.
For moms who are breastfeeding, the number is slightly higher: 5.1 g a day.
Because the listing of potassium is optional on the Nutrition Facts labels, it may not always be apparent what foods carry how much of potassium.
For easy potassium food spotting, Harvard suggests to look for foods that don't carry a label.
They include fresh produce, such as vegetables and fruits including leafy greens, orange vegetables, citrus fruits, as well as dried beans. They tend to contain the highest level of potassium.
To avoid too much sodium in your diet, stay away from banned products unless they are labeled low or no-sodium.
If you suspect you need more potassium, start with these 7 high potassium foods.
Need more potassium food ideas? Here is a list of high potassium foods with greater than 200mg per portion, provided by National Kidney Foundation.
|Apricot, raw (2 medium)
dried (5 halves)
|Acorn Squash||Bran/Bran products|
|Avocado (¼ whole)||Artichoke||Chocolate (1.5-2 ounces)|
|Banana (½ whole)||Bamboo Shoots||Granola|
|Cantaloupe||Baked Beans||Milk, all types (1 cup)|
|Dates (5 whole)||Butternut Squash||Molasses (1 Tablespoon)|
|Dried fruits||Refried Beans||Nutritional Supplements:
Use only under the
direction of your doctor
|Figs, dried||Beets, fresh then boiled|
|Grapefruit Juice||Black Beans|
|Honeydew||Broccoli, cooked||Nuts and Seeds (1 ounce)|
|Kiwi (1 medium)||Brussels Sprouts||Peanut Butter (2 tbs.)|
|Mango(1 medium)||Chinese Cabbage||Salt Substitutes/Lite Salt|
|Nectarine(1 medium)||Carrots, raw||Salt Free Broth|
|Orange(1 medium)||Dried Beans and Peas||Yogurt|
|Orange Juice||Greens, except Kale||Snuff/Chewing Tobacco|
|Papaya (½ whole)||Hubbard Squash|
|Pomegranate (1 whole)||Kohlrabi|
|Prune Juice||White Mushrooms, cooked (½ cup)|
|Potatoes, white and sweet|
DASH diet: Portion Control
Unlike other standard weight loss diets, the DASH diet does not impose a daily calorie limit.
However, eating an appropriate amount of calories and not overeating is still a part of their way of eating.
To plan your portions on the DASH diet, they provide a helpful the DASH diet log that outlines each food group's suggested portion size based on 1,600, 2,000 and 2,600 calorie a day diet.
There are also a few other tips they provide regards to controlling calories.
- Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
- Reduce the amount of meat that you eat while increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or dry beans.
- Substitute low-calorie foods, such as when snacking (choose fruits or vegetables instead of sweets and desserts) or drinking (choose water instead of soda or juice), when possible.
Another way to manage your portions on the DASH diet is to follow their serving suggestions per food group.
Below is a table of the 2,000 calorie a day DASH eating plan with suggested food choices and their serving sizes. (Data taken from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure")
Daily DASH Eating Plan Based on a 2,000-Calorie-a-Day Diet
Grains and grain products
Meats, poultry, and fish
2 or fewer
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
Fats and oils
Nuts, seeds, dry beans, and peas
4–5 per week
5 or less per week
The DASH Meal Planning Tools:
Here are a few other helpful meal planning tools available to you from reputable health organizations.
- Weekly DASH menus: provides sample DASH diet menus for both 1,500mg and 2,300 mg daily sodium levels.
- The DASH diet recipes: browse from heart-healthy recipes including kid-friendly DASH recipes!.
- Fitwirr's weight loss log: Although it's not designed for the DASH diet exclusively, it helps you control your portions, make healthy food choices and stay on the right path with healthy eating. And did you know that people who keep a food journal lose double the weight of those who don't? Lose more weight and achieve your optimum health with our weight loss journal ($9.99).
There you have it! You just learned about the DASH diet and why it's called the American's healthiest diet.
What do you think? Did we miss anything? Leave us a comment below to let us know.