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Sunday, January 17, 2016

What is the Best Diet for Health?

What is the DASH diet and why is the DASH diet so good for your health?   As noted last week, every year for the past 6 years, US News and World Reports ranks the best diets (Best Diets 2016).  They gather a panel of diet and nutrition experts and rank 38 diets on a number of criteria.  What diet ranked the best for overall health?  The DASH diet.    
What is the DASH diet?
This diet was originally designed to help stop hypertension or high blood pressure.  They have now found it also helps prevent and control diabetes and supports a healthy heart.  Thus, it is a diet to follow for overall good health.  Diet doesn’t mean one is trying to lose weight.  Rather it is a healthier pattern of eating. 
What nutrients are emphasized in this diet?
This diet promotes potassium, calcium, protein and fiber.  Although most people know to limit sodium because sodium (salt) is linked to higher blood pressure, many people aren’t aware the diets higher in potassium help lower blood pressure.
What foods are emphasized on the DASH diet?

  • Fruits and vegetables are highlighted because they provide potassium and fiber among many other nutrients.  Usually we aim for a minimum of 5 servings a day. The DASH diet increases this to 8 and more servings a day.
  • Whole grains – a must in a healthy diet.  They not only contribute many important vitamins and minerals, they contribute fiber.  The DASH diet includes at least 6 servings of grains a day with most or all being whole grain.
  • Lean protein – most nutrition experts emphasize lean protein.  So ditch the fried foods (chicken nuggets, fried chicken) and focus leaner meats that are grilled or broiled.  Limited to 6 ounces a day, about 3 ounces at lunch and 3 ounces at dinner.
  • Low-fat dairy – for milk choose no fat, 1% or 2%.  Choose low fat yogurts.  For cheese – look for the 2% milk, lower fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella.  At least 3 servings a day.
  • Cut back on foods high in fat like doughnuts, fried foods.
Exercise – the DASH diet also includes recommendations for exercise, “Be moderately active for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week.”  DASH Diet Guidelines

Where can you get more information on the DASH diet?
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute helped in the development of the DASH diet and they provide free guidelines, one is a 6 page guide to the DASH Diet (PDF DASH Diet Guidelines).  The Mayo Clinic provides a host of DASH Diet recipes.   

Even if you don’t want to exactly follow a DASH diet, one can always increase fruits and vegetables, focus on whole grains, eat leaner proteins and try to include a dairy food at each meal. 

Sources: Best Diets 2016 , DASH diet ,  DASH Diet recipes,      Image source:  U.S. News and World Report  (Bran flakes or shredded wheat, low-fat milk and blueberries.  

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