Last week the DASH Diet wasn’t exactly a household name, although it should have been. Since US News and World Report announced its Best Diets of 2012, DASH Diet is about all anyone can talk about, or search for online.
“It was exciting to see it happen again,” Marla Heller, MS, RD told us this morning about learning that DASH Diet had received the top recognition from US News for the second time in six months. “The first time it happened last summer was over the top.”
Her book, The DASH Diet Action Plan, was the result of research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “My patients couldn’t really understand [the information]. I knew I needed to break it down,” she told us about publishing the book.
She says it’s been a challenge to get the word out about the healthy eating plan, citing its only likely downfall is “that it doesn’t have the sex appeal of a fad diet.”
If lacking sex appeal, or even a slimmed-down celebrity endorser, is the DASH Diet’s only negative attribute, we have to ask, why aren’t more people on it? Heller and I discussed how a “diet” has come to be revered as a packaged set of rules and organized eating instructions. However, most health experts will agree that the real definition of a diet is just what you eat. Which is why Heller proudly calls her DASH Diet an eating plan.
“It’s just common sense,” she said. “Not enough people have any idea how to put together healthy meals.” She says DASH Diet can re-educate.
The DASH Diet is “extra rich in fruits and vegetables,” says Heller. The diet also focuses heavily on low- or no-fat dairy, whole grains, lean meats and proteins, beans/nuts/seeds, and a moderate amount of heart-healthy fats. With an eating plan like this, it’s suitable for just about anyone. In fact, it’s included in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, making it generally acceptable for anyone. The DASH Diet supports the dietary needs of any gender, any age group, and a variety of unique needs, like diabetics or vegetarians.
She noted a long-term, 20-year study of the diet and the findings showed those people were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes, or heart failure. She called the findings “really exciting” because it meant the diet had broad appeal. “It’s not just there for weight loss, you’re healthier at the end.”
If you are one of the people who will follow the DASH Diet in an effort to lose weight, Heller notes that 1-2 pounds per week of healthy weight loss can be expected. If you have a large amount of weight to lose, she says you can be a little more aggressive. However, she cautions on losing too quickly.
“If you lose weight too fast you’ll lose muscle mass and this will slow your metabolism. You have to maintain muscle to burn calories.” That’s not the only risk you run with rapid weight loss. Our resident dietitian Kati Mora, RD has written that the dangers of rapid weight loss can include gallstones, malnutrition, dehydration, headaches, menstrual irregularities, infertility, constipation, and much more.
Like any good “diet,” the DASH Diet comes with smart advice for fitness, too. The fitness guidance provided by the DASH Diet is based on the American College of Sports Medicine, Heller told us. DASH encourages people to simply be more physically active, and it doesn’t have to be any more involved than “walking in place while watching television,” said Heller.
They recommend “a variety of solutions to remove the mental barrier to have more exercise,” she said.
If you’re one of the millions looking for the best diet to help you make a serious change for the better this year, then look no further than the DASH Diet. It’s simple, it makes sense, follows all nutritional guidelines, and best of all it’s easily accessible and affordable – just pick up the book.