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A look at the DASH diet the National Institutes of Health created, its inception, its new-found fame, how to follow it, who should follow it and a basic meal plan.

The so-called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has actually been around for some time and has gained some recent popularity. The DASH diet was created based on research coming from the United States National Institutes of Health and was originally designed to be a blood pressure lowering way of eating for people with hypertension. Since its inception, the DASH diet has been shown to lower the risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, the DASH diet can also assist with healthy, sustainable weight loss.

The diet has undergone some modifications over the years. It was originally quite high in grains and carbohydrates and has been modified to fit in better with carbohydrate-controlled weight loss principles. The new DASH diet cuts back on “empty carbs” and includes more proteins and essential fats. The DASH diet is recommended by leading health authorities, including The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health, of the US Department of Health and Human Services), The American Heart Association, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure. 

The great thing about the DASH diet is that it is both sensible and maintainable. It is not just another fad. In fact, DASH was ranked the Number One diet by US News and World Report in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Read on to learn more about how to incorporate DASH principles into your life.

Evidence Based

The DASH diet came out of National Institutes of Health studies that examined three dietary plans and their effects. The DASH plan, which incorporated the most fruits and vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy, beans, and nuts, proved the most effective. The diet was able to reduce systolic blood pressure by 6 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 3mm Hg in patients with pre-hypertension. These changes also occurred regardless of changes in weight.

Two experimental diets were selected for the DASH study and compared with each other. The third diet, which was low in minerals and fiber and represented a more typical American diet, was used as a control. The other experimental diet was similar to the control but also contained fruits and vegetables. The DASH diet was high in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products, as well as lower in overall fat and saturated fat, and higher in fiber and protein compared with the control diet. The DASH diet also allowed for small amounts of sugars and treats, in contrast to the other diets, which included more liberal amounts. Since its inception, the DASH diet has been studied and proven to help ward off many chronic diseases.

Non-Faddish

What separates the DASH diet from other eating plans is its sensibility and sustainability. There is nothing completely forbidden in the DASH diet and it does not cut out whole food groups. It is easy to follow and fits in with most lifestyles and preferences. Depending on the degree of weight loss you require, the dash diet can be modified by adjusting its calorie content.

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