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DASH diet ranks best overall

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

The DASH diet

Whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds for bathing suit season or you’re on a mission to reduce your risk of weight-related medical conditions (such as heart disease and diabetes), the growing number of diet books, plans and products on the market can be overwhelming. Which diet is for you? Are the most popular diets even safe? To help you cut through the diet hype, U. S. News & World Report reviewed 20 well known diets to determine which ones work and don’t put your health at risk -- and the DASH diet comes out on top.

Dash diet

DASH diet dashes other diets

Though the DASH diet isn't a household name, U. S. News & World Report's "Best Diets" ranked the DASH diet as best overall, beating out the Mediterranean, Weight Watchers and Mayo Clinic diets. The DASH diet also was rated as best diabetes diet over the Mayo Clinic, Ornish and vegan diets.

The rankings of the 20 diets were based on scores in seven categories: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, easiness to follow, safety, nutritional completeness, ability to prevent or manage diabetes, and ability to prevent or manage heart disease. Twenty-two experts in diet, nutrition, diabetes and heart disease performed the reviews.

The full report with rankings in all seven categories can be found here.

What is the DASH diet?

If you don't have high blood pressure, you might not have heard of DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension). As the name suggests, it was developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to combat hypertension. According to DashDiet.org, the main goal of the plan is to reduce salt intake, which in turn helps reduce blood pressure. The diet plan itself is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, lean proteins, nuts, seeds and legumes.

DASH: a gold standard for healthy eating

Though the DASH diet was designed with hypertensive older adults in mind, it is actually a well balanced, healthy diet for all ages. According to U. S. News & World Report:

"It certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health. Though obscure, it beat out a field full of better-known diets."

Further, a new study published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine demonstrates that the DASH diet was effective in helping adolescent girls aged 9 to 19 years old manage their weight. The study followed more than 2,200 girls for 10 years and found that the girls with the highest DASH scores gained the least weight.

Incorporating the DASH diet

In addition to favorable effects on blood pressure and weight management, the DASH diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney stones. Given its benefits for all ages, adopting the DASH diet may be a wise move for your family's health. You certainly can add more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, non- and low-fat dairy, lean proteins, nuts, seeds and legumes to your everyday meals on your own, or you can follow the DASH Diet Action Plan. The book is designed to help you with the components of DASH diet as well as how to fit them into a healthy diet that may reduce your risk of disease.

More on the DASH diet

Slim down with the DASH diet
DASH diet decidedly heart healthy
The DASH diet is good for kidney health

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