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Health Guide Review: 3,0/5

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DASH Diet Review

What is it?

The DASH Diet is a diet plan for people looking to reduce their blood pressure while also improving their overall health. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

It was made popular by the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Unlike other short-term diets, this plan is meant to work as a lifetime solution for overall health. The goal is to make this a complete lifestyle change.

Here are some notable facts about the DASH Diet:

  • It focuses a lot on reducing sodium: The key thing to limit in this diet is sodium. Sodium is limited to just 2,300 mg a day, or 1,500 mg if you’re doing the lower sodium approach. It’s known that high amounts of sodium can be directly responsible for higher blood pressure.
    Since reducing hypertension is the key thing this diet wants to get rid of, it specifically emphasizes sodium. It’s estimated that Americans get a daily amount of 3,400 mg or more, which can contribute to many health problems.
    According to a 2010 study by the CDC, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 9.6% of Americans get a healthy dose of sodium.
  • Limited food choices: The diet specifically looks to lower the amount of sugars, fats, alcohol, cholesterol, and red meats. Therefore, certain food choices are advised to limit and preferably avoid. This includes most processed foods.
  • Not generally a weight loss program: Though it’s mentioned as a possibility, this diet wasn’t made specifically to target fat. It’s more of an overall wellness diet instead of being considered a weight loss solution. That’s why you’ll never see this plan described as being a solution for weight reduction.
  • Specified serving amounts: Understanding the diets necessities is fairly easy. There’s a full list of what to eat and what not to eat available from many free online sources. Since it was founded by studies done by the US government, you can read all about it from multiple websites that outlines the specifics.

The DASH Diet was made possible by the National Institute of Health, and people like Dr. Oz have popularized it. Many studies have also been released which detail what this diet plan can really do.

Foods Allowed by the Diet

According to the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, this diet is:

“a flexible and balanced eating plan”

“requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals”

The advised standard for foods is as follows:

  •  Grains: 6 to 8 servings.
  •  Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings.
  •  Meat, poultry, and fish: 6 servings or less. There’s a limit particularly on red meat due to its high saturated fat content.
  •  Fruit: 4 to 5 servings.
  •  Low-fat and or fat-free dairy products: 2 to 3 servings.
  •  Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings.

Weekly serving of:

  •  Sweets: 5 or less. Though this is considered unnecessary and would be best avoided altogether.
  •  Nuts, seeds, peas, and dry beans: 4 to 5 servings.

This is considering a 2,000-calorie a day limit, which depending on your needs may not be suitable. If you need more or less, it’s a different yield of serving sizes that the diet only specifies on the official National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

An example of a serving might be ½ cups of cooked wheat, or one slice of bread, and possibly a ½ baseball size worth or pasta or rice. All 3 of these could be considered 3 full servings per day.

A serving of fruit would be one medium fruit. One serving of vegetables is a cups worth of leafy greens.

For meats this would equal 2 to 3 ounces of cooked meat.

One common way to determine what a serving is like, is to use easy to remember references. Such as a cup of greens being comparable to a small fist.

It’s important to remember that although there are no specific special foods to eat, there are foods that are meant to be limited. This includes limiting:

  •  Trans fats and saturated fats. This means limiting fatty meats, tropical oils, full-fat dairy, and processed meats.
  •  Sweets.
  •  Sodium.

These foods can be eaten in moderation, but it’s important to limit them as much as possible as they’re often overeaten in American diets. Some sodium for example would be healthy, according to the US National Library of Medicine, sodium:

“The body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume”

It’s also beneficial for:

“your muscle and nerves to work properly”

Though this isn’t brought up by the DASH Diet because most Americans get far too much sodium in their diets.

How Does the Diet Work?

Though there are a few foods that are advised to be limited, there’s no special category for what’s a preferable solution. There are specific serving amounts for both daily and weekly use.

There’s really not much to it besides having to track serving sizes, sodium, and calories.

By limiting sodium you make it easier to reduce blood pressure and issues with hypertension. Less saturated and trans fats also helps with overall health.

The diet also focuses on eating more whole, unprocessed foods. So by its nature, it’s a fairly straightforward approach that may lead to weight loss since it’s a standard diet template.

Studies into this diet were done on 3 categories of people. Those who ate a standard American diet with and without added fruits and vegetables, and finally the DASH Diet. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that people who followed DASH:

“had lower blood pressure than those who followed a typical American diet alone”

However, they didn’t mention what kinds of differences were found in weight loss. The main focus was on blood pressure.

Another trial called the PREMIER Trial was performed on 810 people. This was done on 3 groups. One who had counseling and used the DASH Diet. A group who was only given advice, and a group who were given direct counseling. Studies showed:

“two groups that received counseling and followed a treatment plan had more weight loss than the advice-only group”

Still, they fail to mention what a different was in terms of weight loss .It appears that the main benefit of this diet is simply to reduce the risk of hypertension. It’s not made specifically for weight loss. There were no outstanding benefits in helping people lose weight.

Pros

  •  No special foods are required, the only goal is to eat a certain serving size of each food category.
  •  The serving sizes are clearly outlined, as well as specific amounts from many caloric ranges.
  •  Limiting sodium is good for overall health.
  •  The diet advises to limit saturated fats, trans fats, and sweets. This is widely known as being a proper way to diet.
  •  You can still eat all types of foods, it’s just important to restrict the total amount to not pass the advised limits.

Cons

  •  Fats and oils are greatly limited. This can be hard to accomplish, and fats can be a healthy addition that the body uses as a powerful fuel source.
  •  The dietary recommendations are nothing new, it’s widely known that limiting certain kinds of fats, sugars, and sodium is good for health.
  •  It’s not a real weight loss diet plan, it’s meant more for those who are concerned about hypertension.
  •  The limit on sodium is already a widely known suggestion reported by health organizations.
  •  They fail to mention that some sodium is healthy for many important bodily processes.

Better Alternatives to the Diet

The DASH Diet takes a lot of widely known facts about what’s healthy to eat, and puts it all in place in one diet.

It’s not that this diet would be terrible, but it’s so basic and common sense that it’s taking many common dieting standards for health, and using it as a full diet plan.

There are much better options that deal with direct weight loss as its main goal. Though this plan would be beneficial for overall health, there’s more dedicated plans that offer a lot more results.

The diet plan also advises for a 2,000-calorie diet to get a daily maximum of:

“2 to 3 servings of fats and oils”

This translates to about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil equaling 2 servings. This is a significantly reduced amount that can be hard to uphold.

It’s also strange that fats and oils would be limited so much, as they’re essential for good health.

Also, according to the Mayo Clinic:

“the DASH diet is not a weight-loss program”

Any lost weight is indirect and not the purpose of this diet.

Conclusion

There have been studies showing that this diet plan is effective for reducing the risk of hypertension. While this may seem impressive, it was already known that limiting sodium would have this effect.

The plan does not have much of an emphasis on helping one reduce weight. This is because of the intention of this plan that is clearly for reducing hypertension. This is why the H in DASH stands for hypertension.

This is meant more as a general dieting strategy for the average American person. It’s not specifically catered to help those with specific goals for weight loss.

One other issue with this diet plan is the lack of fats and oils allowed. It severely restricts this important macronutrient that the brain uses as fuel.

There are better diet plans that offer more in terms of direct weight loss benefits.

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is designed to complement, not replace, the relationship between a patient and his/her own physician.