• By Clancy Harrison
  • In 2017
  • February 22, 2017

Do you know what DASH stands for?

by Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN,LDN

You may have read a bit of news about the DASH Diet this past month, as the press often rings in the new year with lots of diet news.

DASH stands for, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and was originally created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute to treat high blood pressure. The research resulted in the DASH Diet, which works to lower blood pressure, but also has been shown to be easy to maintain, and helpful for weight control and diabetes. Some people are diagnosed with high blood pressure without having any other risk factors for heart disease, but it’s still beneficial to make as many positive lifestyle changes as you can.

The Basics

  • 2-3 servings daily of low fat dairy (shown to lower blood pressure, and aid weight control)
  • 4-5 servings of both fruits and vegetables (this seems like a lot, but servings are small, and your goal will be to “add more” at each meal, each week. These are important sources of potassium and fiber)
  • Small servings of lean meat (<6 ounces/day), less red meat, more poultry, fish and beans/legumes weekly
  • Add more nuts and seeds to your diet
  • Use olive oil, balance it out with small portions of other vegetable oils such as canola or soybean oils. Include healthy fats like avocados and olives.
  • Limit high fat snacks or desserts to two or less small servings daily

In addition to the dietary portion of the plan, weight control, modifying behaviors, and fitness count too:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Lose weight if overweight. Set small goals. Even five pounds makes a difference.
  • Exercise at least 4-5 days a week, for 30 minutes or more. Even if weight loss is slow, replacing fat with muscle weight is a win.
  • Add more activity to your daily life (take the stairs, do yard work, walk more, move more).
  • Use a journal to track your eating and exercise habits.

How Do They Determine Best Diet?

US News and World Report comes up with a list of the top diets every year, and they don’t do so randomly, but actually have a methodology and a broad panel experts. They consider:

  • How easy it is to follow
  • The diets ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss
  • The nutritional completeness of the diet
  • Its safety
  • The potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.

Eating for better health is not a one-month or one-season deal – it’s a lifetime deal. Rather than “go on a diet,” choose a lifestyle. If a diet plan is too difficult to adhere to long-term, it can’t have much benefit. Do your best to set small goals each week, and build on them. Think of the DASH Diet as a lifestyle – keep working toward all of the goals, one meal at a time.

Following a dietary plan that is well evidenced, and that’s reasonable enough to sustain for a lifetime, is a win-win!

 Rosanne is owner of Rust Nutrition Services. She began freelance writing in 1994, created her virtual nutrition practice in 2000, now bringing 30 years of experience to what she does. As a nutrition communications consultant, Rosanne translates nutrition data into well-reasoned dietary advice so people can enjoy eating for good health. Visit her blog for more information about her books, including DASH Diet For Dummies®.