The DASH Diet: Why It Works and How to Get Started

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Have you tried diet after diet, only to end up back right where you started every time? So many diets promise you’ll lose weight fast, or burn more fat, or flush toxins from your body. If you’re looking for a diet that might actually help you achieve your health and nutrition goals, you might want to consider trying the DASH diet.

Unlike many other diets out there, DASH doesn’t make any false promises. There are actually a number of scientifically proven ways it could make you healthier. Though its primary goal isn’t to help you lose weight, it’s still a possible side effect. It’s one of the top diets in the world — and the reasons why may surprise you.

DASH diet

 

What is the DASH diet?

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, an evidence-based approach to healthy eating unlike most diet plans you’ve seen before. Originally designed to lower hypertension, or high blood pressure, DASH is now considered a lifelong healthy eating plan beneficial for everyone, whether they’re dealing with a chronic illness or just want to lose weight.

Research has thus far implied that DASH has the potential to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. It’s good for heart health, managing cravings, and just about anything else you’d expect from a science-backed diet focused on more than just quick weight loss. Rather than forcing you to cut out foods, count calories, or follow a strict set of ever-progressing rules, DASH is straightforward, consistent, and may even turn out rather enjoyable.

Now that you know what the DASH diet is, read on to learn why it’s the No. 1 healthiest diet around. Its straightforward guidelines may be just what you need to launch a new healthy eating plan that works for you.

Benefits

The U.S. News & World Report ranked DASH No. 1 in its diet listings, with a score of 4.8 out of 5 in the “healthy” category — the highest of them all. It’s no secret why DASH deserves this praise. Its long list of potential benefits applies to everyone, not just people with high blood pressure or diabetes. Here are just a few ways following the DASH diet could improve your health — and your life.

Improve your cholesterol

As you’ll see in the Guidelines section of this article, the DASH diet promotes foods that raise your good cholesterol and prevent too much bad cholesterol from forming plaque in your arteries. Foods high in refined sugars and saturated fat are major contributors to the heart problems often associated with high cholesterol. However, on this diet you’ll eat plenty of fiber and healthy (unsaturated) fats, which can simultaneously raise your good cholesterol levels and lower the bad.

Reduce your blood pressure

This diet is meant to reduce high blood pressure — it says so in its name. The way it does this is much simpler than you might think. TheAmerican Heart Association recommends everyone consume between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for optimal heart health. Both original versions of the DASH diet — standard and low-sodium — set you up to adhere to these guidelines.

Weight loss

Though this diet isn’t technically a weight loss program, you may automatically start to lose weight after several months of following it. On this diet, you’ll typically consume around 2,000 calories, which is considered to be the average person’s daily intake. You can even eat fewer than 2,000 calories to promote weight loss and still reap the many other benefits of DASH at the same time. The foods this diet recommends are also high in fiber, which can help you cut back on snacking and give you energy that will last. With the right amount of energy, there’s less need to consume high-calorie junk foods.

It actually works

Most popular diets and diet programs haven’t been around long enough for scientists to conduct credible research to prove their effectiveness. This is one of a handful of exceptions. In 2015,The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study suggesting both DASH and high-fat DASH diets effectively lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol. The diet generally supports healthy eating patterns summarized in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggests DASH can help improve health markers and even decrease the risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

It’s easy to follow

As you will see below, the DASH diet lays out exactly what types of foods to eat, and how many servings of each you should eat per day or week. A simple look into a food’s serving size can tell you whether you’re on track for the day or need to make adjustments. There is no calorie counting, weighing, measuring, or eliminating involved. Any food is considered an acceptable food, as long as you are sticking to the recommended serving sizes for each food group. The rules are simple, and you will likely find adjusting to a healthy eating lifestyle isn’t nearly as costly or time-consuming as you feared.

If these benefits seem worthwhile to you, the rest of this article will provide even more information to help you incorporate DASH principles into your meals and snacks. Learn the basic guidelines, view a sample menu, and check out a few helpful tips for making the DASH diet work for you.

Guidelines

6-8 servings of grains

Anyone following the DASH diet should typically try to consume anywhere from 6 to 8 servings of grains per day, split between meals and snacks. The majority, if not all, of these grains should be whole grains. A serving of grains typically includes a slice of bread, a half cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta, or an ounce of dry cereal. Try to limit the amount of fats you pair with certain grains, like butter or cream cheese.

4-5 servings of vegetables

Vegetables are an essential part of a balanced, healthy diet. They are naturally low in sodium and calories, and are easier to incorporate into meals and snacks than you might realize. On the DASH diet, you should try to eat anywhere from 4 to 5 daily servings. A serving of vegetables typically includes 1 cup of greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.) or a half cup raw or cooked veggies. You can either choose fresh vegetables or frozen — it’s how you prepare them that really makes a difference. Make them part of a meal’s entree instead of just a side dish.

P.S. Take a look at the 5 veggies that boost female metabolism and burn off lower belly fat.



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