Curious about the DASH diet? Here’s what to know

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The DASH diet may not have been named as the best overall diet for 2021, but it is considered a balanced one that can be followed long term.

Promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the flexible eating plan aids in creating a lifelong heart-healthy eating style.

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DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension.

“The DASH diet is an eating plan developed to reduce blood pressure. The recommended foods and variety offer results supported by research. However, if they are packaged as a weight loss plan, negative consequences of dieting may apply,” registered dietitian and nutritionist Willow Jarosh told Verywell Fit.

Still, the diet ranked at No. 2 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diets Overall and tied for No. 2 on the publication’s Best Heart-Healthy Diets and Best Diest for Healthy Eating.

When did the DASH diet start?

Initially introduced at a meeting of the American Heart Association in 1996, the DASH diet was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997, according to a diet review from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

To test the effects of dietary patterns on decreasing blood pressure, the DASH trial randomly assigned 456 people to three different diets: a standard American diet, which served as the control, a fruits and vegetables diet, and a combination diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts. It was also high in low-fat dairy foods with decreased amounts of saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. Results showed the combination diet had a greater reduction in blood pressure than the other two and contributed “much of the scientific basis for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 and later editions,” the school reported.

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What do you eat?

You don’t need any special foods to go on the DASH diet, the NHLBI reported. Instead, the plan focuses on daily and weekly nutritional goals. Participants consume vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. They also eat fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils. Limits are placed on eating foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oils. Partakers are also urged to limit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

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Is there exercise involved?

The NHLBI encourages those who are on the DASH diet are encouraged to be physically active, which will aid in helping to prevent and control high blood pressure. Studies show that the diet is more effective at lowering blood pressure when paired with exercise, too.

What are the pros?

Verywell Fit reported you can expect to see a drop in your blood pressure on this diet. You may also be able to lower LDL cholesterol and enhance other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The diet has also been shown to be effective in managing diabetes. Studies have also found health benefits in reducing sugar intake and scrapping sodium-heavy foods and highly-processed meals in favor of more fruits and vegetables.

Are there any cons?

Still, U.S. News reported that there’s a lot of grunt work with the diet and it can be pricey. A 2013 study also showed that it may be difficult to stick to the DASH diet. It was discovered that people needed more than simply counseling without food supplies to maintain the diet.

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