The goal of the DASH diet is not to lose weight but instead to protect the body against hypertension and its serious consequences. A large study showed that compared to people who did not follow the DASH diet, individuals who followed the DASH Diet were more likely to see significant reductions in their blood pressure.1 Plus, since the plan emphasizes low calorie items such as fruits and vegetables, the DASH diet can lead to significant weight loss in some people. That could be you, if you DASH right!
And the Award Goes to…
And as if that isn’t convincing enough, for several years, the DASH Diet has topped the US News & World Report’s diet rankings as the easiest diet to follow and the best diet for healthy living.2 It also tied in second place for best diet for diabetes and it is in third place for best heart-healthy diet.2 Here are the basics so you can get your DASH on:
Fill up on Fiber!
Fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol and provide other additional health benefits for those who have type 2 diabetes – for example lowering inflammation.3,4 Among those who consumed fiber in greater amounts than the recommended daily 25-30 grams, a majority later showed improvements in blood glucose control, lipid panels, and decreased hyperinsulinemia (3). By choosing whole grain bread, rice, and pasta (or bean pasta), you will also feel fuller and potentially eat less or less frequently. Be adventurous and try interesting new grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, or wild rice. Look for grains or pastas with higher protein content and don’t overload the carbs!
Dial down the liquid calories!
If you are hooked on soda or juice (yep, I still hear about this as a challenge), try to reduce how much of these you drink on a daily basis, first by half, next week by a quarter, and eventually treat them as a delicacy for a special occasion only. Try a similar strategy if you need to reduce the amount of sugar in your daily (or bidaily!) coffee – start using a little bit less each day and who knows, maybe after a week or two you may be enjoying your coffee black! Fool your thirsty taste buds by drinking water with fruit, sparkling water or seltzer.
To Drink or Not to Drink? Alcohol That Is
While social drinking of one daily alcoholic beverage for women and two for men does not appear to do any harm, recent research links drinking with increased risk of developing several cancers, including those of the colon, breast, oral cavity, liver, and esophagus.4 Social drinking within recommended amounts may have cardioprotective effects, but in excess it proves detrimental to health and is therefore limited to the recommendation of daily 1-2 drinks within the DASH Diet.4 Always have a glass water before you imbibe – this helps with calorie control, and keeps you hydrated. Know thy blood sugars when drinking! Never drink on an empty stomach or if your blood glucose is low. Alcohol is metabolized similar to fat –so it doesn’t replace carbohydrates in your meal plan. Talk to your doctor, about how current or new mediations interact with alcohol. Lastly, remember alcohol’s effects can hit as late as a day after drinking, so monitor more carefully when having a drink.
Craving Some Crunch?
DASH away from the potato chips! Did you know that 10 kettle-cooked potato chips tally up to 100 calories? Multiply that by how many chips an average person eats when placed in front of a big party sized bag – those little guys add up quick! Salty snacks like chips don’t provide much nutrition and also don’t keep you feeling full. Worse, the food scientists that created them did so with tricking us in mind. These foods are engineered to keep us wanting more regardless of whether or not we are hungry – how clever, but detrimental to our health. While the DASH Diet is easy to follow, here are some easy ways to swap out snacks you may normally eat with some crave-able DASH approved alternatives – all for 100 calories or fewer!
- 10 Baby carrots + 2 Tbsp hummus
- Light Babybel cheese + ½ apple
- Plain unsalted rice cake + ½Tbsp almond butter
- 3 ¼ cups of plain, unsalted popcorn (use spices & seasonings for flavor)
- 20 peanuts
- ½ frozen banana dipped in 2 Tbsp melted dark chocolate chips
- 30 pistachios (shelled)
- ½ cup fat free Greek yogurt + drizzle of honey + dash of cinnamon
- 2/3 cup blueberries + 1 Tbsp slivered almonds
Check out our full day of meal ideas for creative ways to incorporate healthful food into your busy lifestyle.