One Powerful Word – DASH

I’m not sure it’s legitimate to call an acronym “one” powerful word, but I’ll take the chance you’ll forgive my trickery. DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”, and there are a couple of especially interesting things about the DASH diet as it relates to type 2 diabetes even if you don’t have high blood pressure.

First, it’s an eating plan that was developed scientifically in actual clinical trials, where its effectiveness to lower blood pressure (hypertension) was tested against control groups. The trials were conducted by the National Institutes of Health, so there are no commercial overtones. Interestingly, the first trials, which successfully lowered blood pressure with food, did not target sodium – both the control group and the DASH group consumed sodium consistent with the average American diet (more than 3,000 milligrams per day). Subsequent reduced-sodium eating plans were more effective, but DASH proved that adding nutritious foods was a big part of the blood pressure equation.

Second, and even more interesting, an annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of “best diets” by an impressive panel of health and nutrition experts has selected DASH as the “best overall diet” and as the “best diabetes diet” every year (since 2011). The DASH eating plan has specific nutrition goals, including 30 grams of fiber per day, 4,700 milligrams of potassium, and 55% of calories from carbohydrate. That’s 275 grams of carbohydrate (18 “carb choices”) per day in a 2,000 calories per day diet, which may surprise you in today’s carb-phobic world. But, it’s the same message again – quality is the key.

The DASH eating plan promotes whole grains (6-8 daily servings) for fiber, fruits (4-5 daily servings) for potassium and fiber, vegetables (4-5 daily servings) for potassium and fiber, and low-fat dairy (2-3 daily servings) for protein and calcium. Sweets and added sugars are limited to 5 servings per week. In general, DASH is a nutrient-dense, well-rounded eating plan. And, the expert panel for U.S. News and World Report found DASH easy to follow, especially by not restricting entire groups of food. Whether you have high blood pressure or not (and most people with type 2 diabetes do), take a look at the DASH plan as an effective way to manage diabetes.

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