Why the DASH Diet Won Best Overall Diet

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
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Today the DASH diet received the number one spot in the first-ever “Best Diets” rankings published by U.S. News. Here is everything you need to know about why this award-winning diet may be best for you.

What is the DASH diet?

The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a research-based diet that was originally created to help people suffering from elevated blood pressure. The diets emphasizes nutrient-packed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts while reducing sodium, saturated fats, cholesterol, red meat and sugar. They key to the diet is the “Nutrient Goals” feature which helps guide dieters to achieve certain potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein and fiber amounts in their daily routine.

Where did the diet come from?

Although the diet is just now making headlines, the DASH plan has actually been around for almost 20 years. Back in 1992 the National Institutes of Health recognized that hypertension (high blood pressure) was a major health risk contributing to the increase of heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases. In order to address this growing concern funding was given to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to research how blood pressure could be reduced through dietary choices. This study became known as the DASH study.

The study was broken into two parts which were conducted between 1993 to 1999. During this time over 850 participants were evaluated by leading researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Kaiser Permanente, and other prestigious medical institutions. The results of the 6-year study were dramatic. Researchers found that within just a few weeks of the participants eating diets high in fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, their blood pressures were significantly reduced.

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Based on the study's results, the DASH diet was subsequently created by the NHLBI.

What does DASH have that the others don't?

According to the U.S. News rankings the best diet depends on what your goals are. Each of the 20 diets were evaluated based on five categories: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, ease-of-use, nutritional value, ability to prevent or manage diabetes and heart disease. For example, for those looking to just loose pounds Weight Watchers ranked first in that category. However, as far as the best diet overall goes the DASH diet, they said, comes out on top.

"The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet beat out 19 others, among them Atkins, Jenny Craig and Slim-Fast, to win the 'Best Diets Overall,”” read the report. The diet was praised for its heart-healthy design, high nutritional value, safety, and weight loss potential.

The second-runner up for best overall diet was the Mediterranean Diet.

Resources:
US News Diet Rankings
Appel LJ,, et. al (1997) A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. DASH Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med. 1997 Apr 17;336(16):1117-24.
Image Source: Morgue File

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