Why Is The DASH Diet Ranked Best Overall For Heart Health?
The DASH Diet now ranks as Best Diet Overall according to the U.S. News & World Report, sharing the top spot with the Mediterranean Diet. For a healthier lifestyle, both diets focus on heart health and encourage eating more wholesome, nutritious foods rich in protective, health-giving compounds:
“Ultimately, a 'best' diet is one that can be adopted, managed and sustained over time." 1
What is the DASH Diet?
The DASH Diet is not a crash diet as the name suggests but a healthy, long-term eating plan designed to help manage high blood pressure. Backed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the DASH Diet focuses on dietary approaches to stop hypertension:
“It emphasizes the foods you've always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), which are high in blood-pressure-deflating nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber.” 2Like most diets, DASH advises against saturated fats found in high-fat meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils. Also discouraged is refined sugar found in sweetened beverages, candies, and desserts.
DASH or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
Hypertension or high blood pressure is the focus of the DASH Diet, so it pays strict attention to your salt intake. Starting with a daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of salt and going as low as 1,500 milligrams a day, DASH dieters are encouraged to resist the salt shaker. After all, there’s enough natural sodium in most foods and processed foods are loaded with it.
Does the DASH Diet measure up?
Several studies have shown favorable results for the DASH diet for lowering blood pressure and losing weight.3 One study showed superior results with the addition of regular, moderate exercise, while another noted positive effects of the diet in managing Type 2 diabetes.4,5
Is the DASH Diet easy to follow?
The DASH Diet does need you to track your food intake so you become more aware of your portion sizes, along with which foods to cut out and which healthy ingredients to include. At the same time, the DASH diet encourages a gradual approach to dietary changes which makes it easier for you to stick to:
The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and has no hard-to-follow recipes. It simply calls for a certain number of daily servings from various food groups.”6The gradual approach also gives your body time to adjust to these dietary changes without upsetting your digestive system. Eventually, after about two weeks these healthy habits will become “part of your daily routine.” 6
DASH tips for gradual change
- Add a serving of vegetables at lunch one day and dinner the next, and add fruit at one meal or as a snack.
- Increase your use of fat-free and low-fat milk products to three servings a day.
- Limit lean meats to 6 ounces a day—3 ounces a meal, which is about the size of a deck of cards. If you usually eat large portions of meats, cut them back over a couple of days—by half or a third at each meal.
- Include two or more vegetarian-style, or meatless, meals each week.
Along with the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet is ranked Best Overall because, unlike fad diets, it is a balanced, long-term, healthy eating plan that is safe and easy to follow. You can also visit our blog post about anti-inflammatory foods that you should add to your diet.
1. U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News Reveals Best Diets Rankings for 2018. Jan. 3, 2018.
2. U.S. News & World Report. What is DASH Diet?
3. Sacks F.M., Appel L.J., Moore T.J., Obarzanek E., Vollmer W.M., Svetkey L.P., Bray G.A., Vogt T.M., Cutler J.A., Windhauser M.M., Lin P.H., Karanja N. A dietary approach to prevent hypertension: a review of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Study. Clin Cardiol. 1999 Jul;22(7 Suppl):III6-10.
4. James A. Blumenthal, PhD, Michael A. Babyak, PhD, Alan Hinderliter, MD, Lana L. Watkins, PhD, Linda Craighead, PhD, Pao-Hwa Lin, PhD, Carla Caccia, RD, Julie Johnson, PA-C, Robert Waugh, MD, and Andrew Sherwood, PhD. 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. Arch Intern Med. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jan 25; 170(2): 126–135.
5. Shirani F., Salehi-Abargouei A., Azadbakht L. Effects of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on some risk for developing type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis on controlled clinical trials. Nutrition. 2013 Jul-Aug;29(7-8):939-47.
6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. In Brief: Your guide to lowering your blood pressure with DASH.
- Blog Contributor