Back in the late 1980s and the 1990s, high- grain diets were encouraged. People really went overboard with this philosophy. Do you remember the huge plates of pasta and bottomless bread baskets? Americans became fatter. Who could burn off all those calories if you weren't training for marathons all the time?
All those carb-loaded meals really wreaked havoc with people’s health as well. We are currently in an epidemic of diabetes and insulin resistance (an inability to respond well to insulin), which can have many bad health consequences. And for people with insulin resistance, the high intake of starch from the grains eventually wears out the ability of the body to produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar under control, which can lead to diabetes. The bottom line: If you are struggling with your weight, and especially if you carry your extra weight around your waist, it is very important to avoid excess starch and sugar. Regardless of weight or health issues, when you choose carbs, you would like them to be great sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other important plant nutrients, while being relatively low in calories. Preferably, you will go easy on the carbs that are mostly refined, empty- calorie foods and/or are high in saturated and trans fats.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables fit the bill for highly desirable carbs. They are two of the key food groups for the DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. By weight, they are mostly water, so the calories are low, but they are very filling. Fruits and vegetables are rich in the plant compounds known as phytochemicals (phytomeans “plant”). These chemicals include antioxidants and the compounds that produce color, scents, and flavor. Most of the “superfoods” are fruits and vegetables. However, it is more important to have a healthy diet than to just focus on trying to include a few of the healthiest fruits and vegetables into your regular diet. “Eat the rainbow” is an easy way to think about healthy eating. The more color on your plate, the more healthful it is likely to be. And the more variety in your diet, the better.
While research has shown that vegetable juice can help with successful weight loss on the DASH diet, in general you would like your fruits and vegetables to be whole. You want the fiber. You want the bulk of whole foods. You want the meal to keep you feeling full longer than 30 minutes. This is especially important to remember with fruit juices; try to limit them to 4 to 6 ounces per day. It’s better to have whole fruits.
When we have grains, we want them to be whole grains. Fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals from whole grains are very good. Studies have shown that people who have more whole grains in their diets tend to be less likely to develop diabetes.
For people with sensitivity to gluten, it is absolutely fine to substitute gluten- free (GF) whole grains for wheat products. (For more information on food sensitivities or allergies, see
Appendix A.) With the DASH Diet Weight Loss Solution, it actually will be easier to follow a GF plan. Most foods are made without any hidden additives and little flour is used in food preparation, so what you see is what you eat. Cutting out any gluten foods can explain why people often feel so much better during the first two weeks, when no grains are included in the plan.
When choosing cereals and breads, the only flour used in the food should be whole grain. The food manufacturers use lots of tricks to confuse us. For example, some cereal producers are putting small amounts of whole grains into their products, and then blazing the words “Whole Grain” across the front of the box. Surprisingly, you can’t always use color to judge if a bread is whole grain. It might have caramel food coloring added to make it appear to be whole grain. When you are choosing cereals, try to get those with no more than 5 grams of sugar, and less than 250 milligrams of sodium.
While many of us get too many calories each day, most of us get far too little of the fiber that we need. Recommendations are that we should get 14 grams per every 1,000 calories in our
diet. This will not be a problem with the DASH diet, since your foundation will be vegetables, along with sufficient fruit, whole grains, and nuts, seeds, and beans. Just make sure you are getting 6 to 8 glasses of fluid each day. (Fiber without sufficient fluid can be constipating.) If you have trouble digesting the high- fiber foods, consider Beano to help avoid gas.
There are two main types of fiber— soluble and insoluble. Whole grains are especially rich in insoluble fiber, which is also referred to as roughage and helps to keep your bowel movements regular. Soluble fiber is found in large amounts in beans and fruits, and can help lower cholesterol by reducing the amount of dietary fats you absorb. It can also be beneficial for blood sugar control, since it slows the absorption of glucose during digestion. Regularity is enhanced, since it makes stools softer, bulkier, and easier to move through the intestines.
Research has shown that taking one type of soluble fiber, psyllium, at about 10 to 12 grams per day, can reduce cholesterol by about 3% to 14%. If you decide to add psyllium to your daily regimen, increase the dosage slowly until you reach the 10‑to‑12‑gram target. (Check the package for serving sizes.) Be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Not all soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol. Another term for the ones that do is functional fiber, which helps to differentiate it from the soluble fiber that doesn’t have this special health benefit. Several food manufacturers have introduced new soluble fiber products that have not been shown to have any health benefits, so choose proven products. Examples of functional fiber include most of the naturally occurring plant fibers, including beta- glucan from oats, pectin in many types of fruit, psyllium fiber, and guar gum.
This is an excerpt from THE DASH DIET WEIGHT LOSS SOLUTION: 2 Weeks to Drop Pounds, Boost Metabolism, and Get Healthy by Marla Heller, MS, RD. Copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.