Diets, what can I say? Some people think of them as nothing more than nonsense, others consider them the foundations to a truly healthy lifestyle. In the UK diets are becoming more and more popular but not quite to the same extent as our cousins from across the pond. In fact every year the US News and World Report ranks all the different diets it can get its hands on. The 2015 winner? The DASH diet.
DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a lifestyle diet that primarily looks to treat and prevent high blood pressure through a reduction in sodium intake. At the same time it encourages increasing the number of nutrient rich foods that you eat, to boost levels of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Alongside the primary benefits the DASH diet is said to help lower levels of bad cholesterol, reduce the risk of getting heart disease and diabetes and increase weight loss.
So how does it work? In terms of numbers the only thing you need to monitor is sodium, with 2,300 mg being the suggested allowance. Other than that it is more about encouraging sensible lifestyle changes. Firstly it stipulates that you should be eating at least 3 whole grains of food each day and 5 different fruits and vegetables. That is the bit that focuses on the nutrient rich foods but there are others, for example non-fat dairy is also highly recommended.
Here are some of the other recommendations:
- Avoid foods with added salt and sugar
- Remove visible skin and fat
- Incorporate healthy fish like salmon and tuna
- Limit saturated fat intake and eliminate trans fats
- Limit alcohol intake
- Increase physical activity
- Replace salt with herbs and spices when seasoning food
Maybe it is just me, but that sounds less like a diet and more like common sense. Yes, there are some incredibly valid points. In fact I would probably go as far as to say that most of what I have read about the DASH diet is excellent. What I don’t understand is why there is now a label for sensible life choices?
The truth is that most people reading this will probably conform to every idea above without even knowing it. I understand that some people need the structure of diets and nutritional plans but is a label really necessary?
What I do like is that this plan specifically refers to both exercise and nutrition. And we all know that there is absolutely no point in trying to get in shape unless you are willing to address both of these aspects of your life.
It wasn’t just the winner in 2015 though, the DASH diet is celebrating a fourth consecutive year at the top of the pile. Overall the DASH diet looks like one of the best out there.
You might be wondering why you haven’t heard about it though, considering its level of success. Well the primary reason is that it is far more popular in the USA and hasn’t quite made its way over to us yet.
Another thing that is good about this is that you don’t have a deadline. You can adopt this way of life and stick to it until the day you die. It doesn’t matter what your age, gender or level of physical activity is, so it really is a plan that the whole family can follow.
If you like to follow a specific plan then the DASH diet might be perfect for you. But as I always say, it is just about adopting good habits. At the end of the day you don’t need to sign up to these programs but there is nothing wrong with taking some of their advice.