For those whose New Year’s goals include a focus on eating healthier or losing weight, the recent U.S. News and World Report rankings of popular diet plans may be of interest. The DASH diet – which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – tied for the “best overall” rating among the 38 diets reviewed and scored by the publication’s panel of health experts and was ranked No. 1 in the “healthy eating” and “heart disease prevention” categories as well. To receive top ratings, a diet must be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.
The DASH diet was developed by researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health as a means to prevent and treat high blood pressure, but the diet also has been shown to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol and for losing pounds. DASH is not considered a short-term diet, but rather is a healthy eating plan that supports long-term lifestyle changes. It is low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods, and also includes whole grains, poultry, fish, lean meats, beans and nuts. It is rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber. It also calls for reducing consumption of high-fat red meat, sweets and sugary beverages.
Past research has shown that people who follow the DASH diet may be able to reduce their blood pressure significantly over time. A recently published study also showed that the diet may be as effective, and in some cases even more effective, than many common blood pressure medications.
More detailed information about the DASH diet is available online at dashdiet.org.
The diet was followed in the current U.S. News rankings by the Mediterranean diet, up from fourth place last year. The MIND [Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay] diet, which was ranked second last year, came in third.