The U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2012 ranking of popular diets, and the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) topped the lists of Best Diets Overall and Best Diabetes Diets.
The DASH Diet came in seventh place in the Best Weight-Loss Diets category with Weight Watchers leading the pack. Previously one of the least known diets, experts say the DASH Diet is simple to follow. "DASH is actually awesome. It's pretty realistic, it's not bizarre. It just asks people to eat a lot of fruits or vegetables and low-fat or non-fat dairy, which really is how I measure the quality of a diet," Dr. Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told ABC News. "It's not inhuman."
Designed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the DASH Diet is aimed at preventing and lowering high blood pressure. In addition to eating lots of vegetables and fruits and three servings of low-fat dairy foods daily, the diet stresses the importance of minimizing salt intake. When cooking, U.S. News recommends people substitute new herbs and spices for salt. Read below for further tips to reduce salt consumption.
This eating plan also includes some whole grain products, fish, poultry and nuts. "It is reduced in lean red meat, sweets, added sugars, and sugar-containing beverages compared to the typical American diet," states the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Indian Health Service's Standards of Care for Adults With Type 2 Diabetes from March 2009 recommends following the DASH Diet to control or lower blood pressure (BP). "Major lifestyle modifications have been shown to lower BP," the report states. "These include weight reduction in overweight or obese individuals and adoption of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. The DASH eating plan emphasizes consuming foods rich in potassium and calcium, reducing dietary sodium, increasing physical activity, and cutting down on alcohol consumption."
Adding to the DASH Diet's high approval rating for the U.S. News & World Report, there's clinical research to support the DASH Diet lowers blood pressure and is safe for all ages, and therefore, family friendly.
The top spot in the best diets overall category combined panelists' input from all other diet categories: Best Diabetes Diets, Best Weight-Loss Diets, Best Heart-Healthy Diets, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Easiest Diets to Follow and Best Commercial Diet Plans. Long-term diet success was also taken into consideration, since some diets deliver quick results but cannot be sustained. According to Avery Comarow for U.S. News., long-term diet maintenance is especially vital for obese people. She notes that as little as a 5 percent reduction in body weight could reduce an obese person's risk for diabetes and heart disease, reported CBS News.
Check out WebMD's tips for using the DASH Diet:
- The DASH diet focuses on foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. These nutrients can lower blood pressure.
- Taking calcium, potassium, and magnesium supplements does not have the same effect as eating foods that are high in those nutrients.
- Don't make big changes in your diet all at once. Make small changes, and don't give up. As soon as those changes become habit, add a few more changes.
- You'll have more success if you make a plan that includes long-term and short-term goals as well as ideas for getting past barriers—things that might get in the way of changing your eating habits.
- Support from family and friends can go a long way toward helping you find success in changing your habits. Don't be afraid to let family and friends know what you're trying to do. And ask for their help.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Tips to Reduce Salt and Sodium:
- Choose low- or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of foods and condiments when available.
- Choose fresh, frozen, or canned (low-sodium or no-salt-added) vegetables.
- Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned, smoked, or processed types.
- Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.
- Limit cured foods (such as bacon and ham); foods packed in brine (such as pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, and sauerkraut); and condiments (such as mustard, horseradish, ketchup, and barbecue sauce). Limit even lower sodium versions of soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. Treat these condiments sparingly as you do table salt.
- Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
- Choose “convenience” foods that are lower in sodium. Cut back on frozen dinners, mixed dishes such as pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings—these often have a lot of sodium.
- Rinse canned foods, such as tuna and canned beans, to remove some of the sodium.
- Use spices instead of salt. In cooking and at the table, flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends. Start by cutting salt in half.
The Paleo (Paleolithic) diet was added to the U.S. News & World Report diet ranking list for the first time this year, coming in at No. 24 in the Best Diets Overall category. Indian Country Today Media Network has reported on the Paleo Diet, also referred to as the hunter-gatherer diet. David Bender, Lakota, explains in the article "Native Family Turns to Its Roots to Combat Poor Health and Food Addiction," how the Paleo Diet helped his family combat food addiction, obesity and diabetes.
Bender shares his former struggle with overeating sugar and grains and why the Paleo diet makes sense: "I was addicted to sugar and intolerant to gluten. The cravings were horrendous but I was oblivious. Sugar and gluten are two very unnatural compounds, but a major part of the 'Neolithic diet,' which is grain-based and believed to be best suited for animals. This diet has been in existence since farming began in Europe 10,000 years ago. By comparison, the hunter-gatherer diet—the 'Paleolithic diet'—has been in existence since the dawn of man."
The Paleo Diet is "based on the simple understanding that the best human diet is the one to which we are best genetically adapted,” according to the paleodiet.com. The diet promotes eating the foods our ancestors ate prior to the Agricultural Revolution. Vegetables, lean meats, seafood and some fruits are the heart of the diet, which excludes dairy products, grains and sugars. There is also an emphasis on going gluten-free.
The U.S. News and World Report's panel experts knocked the Paleo Diet for feasibility in modern times. “A true Paleo diet might be a great option: very lean, pure meats, lots of wild plants,” one expert commented—quickly noting, however, that following such a regimen in modern-day society would be a difficult feat.
But Bender's testimonial shares why transitioning to the Paleo Diet is a challenge but worth the rewards you reap for a lifetime.
Choosing the Right Diet for You
Balance and a healthy variety of produce and lean protein are key to all diets, but many nutritionists stress that diet longevity is the most important aspect of staying healthy. Hence it is important to choose a diet plan that fits your food preferences and lifestyle and one you can stick with.
"It's not just about counting calories, but the quality of calories you consume," Leslie Bettencourt, a registered dietician at the Sacred Heart Surgical Weight Loss Center, told pnj.com. "Food is a powerful thing. It can do wonderful things for our health, or be a contributing factor in less desirable outcomes."