Get ready to hear about the DASH diet this year.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan, better known as DASH, was ranked the No. 2 best diet for 2022 by U.S. News and World Report. It followed the Mediterranean diet which came in at No. 1 for the fifth year in a row. (To learn more about the Mediterranean diet, click here.)
Here’s a closer look at what the diet entails and why it’s becoming popular with consumers:
WHAT IS THE DASH DIET?
The DASH diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as a way to curb hypertension. It emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, which are all high in blood pressure-reducing nutrients such as potassium, calcium, protein and fiber.
The diet also avoids foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy items and tropical oils, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Someone starting a DASH diet would also aim to cap sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day, which followers will eventually lower to about 1,500 milligrams.
One thing that sets DASH apart is its balanced approach and its emphasis on small, manageable changes.
“The popularity of the DASH diet lies in the fact that it’s not a restrictive diet,” Nicole Stefanow, a culinary dietitian nutritionist in the greater New York City area, told The Food Institute. “Instead, it encourages the consumer to focus on real whole food sources.”
WHY ARE CONSUMERS DRAWN TO DASH?
Other than its non-restrictive approach, there are other reasons for the DASH diet’s popularity.
“This diet is resonating with so many consumers for the simple fact that it actually works,” Dr. Joseph Kennedy of Consumer’s Health Report told The Food Institute. “Unlike other types of dieting, this one is clinically backed, demonstrating promising results at reducing hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke and LDL cholesterol.”
Effectiveness may also come from the fact that the DASH diet checks all the boxes that the general public already knows makes up a diet that combats illness and promotes health, according to Jared Meacham, president of the DC Metro Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“The idea of eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low saturated fat proteins, and high fiber foods while reducing sodium intake makes a lot of sense to most people; especially those who have hypertension or some other cardiovascular disease,” Meacham said. “The DASH diet aligns with most people’s understanding of what ‘healthy’ eating is, but it also gives them recommendations which serve as a framework that they can follow.”