On Monday, the US News and World Report declared the DASH Diet as the best overall diet in their latest rankings. I have to admit, I had never heard of the DASH Diet before and when I read the news I couldn’t help rolling my eyes… thinking, “Great another fad diet gets it’s 15 minutes of fame”.
My curiosity was piqued, I had to know what this diet was all about. And who knows? I may learn something new that I can apply to my own dieting plan. After a little research I found that this diet isn’t new and most definitely isn’t a fad diet. The DASH Diet is grounded in common sense principals and has proven it’s worth in numerous studies.
Being the research geek that I am, I kept digging and digging for more info on this dieting plan and in the process I discovered a bounty of resources that can help people wanting to give it a shot. Below you will find everything you need to learn about, implement and succeed with the DASH Diet including meal plans, recipes, tools, books and other helpful resources.
What the Heck is this Dash Diet?
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet is low in fat, low to moderate in sodium and emphasizes nutrient-rich low-fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It provides the crucial nutrients your body needs to function properly: calcium, potassium, fiber and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, C and E.
Based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet.
DASH was designed with the goal of treating hypertension (high blood pressure) and lowering blood pressure. It was developed in research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is part of the US treatment guidelines for hypertension.
The DASH eating plan recommends daily serving amounts from a variety of food groups. The amount of servings per group you need depends on your calorie needs. e.g. If you live an active lifestyle you’ll be eating more servings per group than if you sit at a desk all day… common sense really.
To figure out what your personal daily calorie needs are and what your serving structure would look like follow the instructions here.
The NIH offers a couple excellent free guides for the diet plan. For thorough information on all aspects of the plan you will want to read the long version (64 pages). For a quick overview, they offer a summarized 6 page brief.
Another useful guide to this diet plan is:
The DASH Diet Eating Plan
The Utah Department of Health sliced and diced a lot the content from the previous guide and created a summarized version that is a little easier on the eyes.
What are the Benefits? – aka Why Bother?
Lowering Blood Pressure and Improving Cardiovascular Health
Dash Diet Reduces Heart Attack Risk
Researchers from John Hopkins University, Baltimore conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine the effects of dietary patterns on the 10 year risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). They found that the DASH Diet resulted in 18% decrease in the CHD risk. The results also showed: lower blood pressure and lower total cholesterol.
“DASH” Diet Lowers Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke in Women
A 24 year long study involving more than 88,000 women from ages 34-59 was performed by researchers at Simmons College. They found that the women who most closely followed the DASH Diet were 24% less likely to have heart disease, and 18% less likely to have a stroke.
Prevention of Kidney Stones
The Kidney Stone Prevention Diet
The researchers found that people who ate a diet more in line with DASH principles were 40-55% less likely to develop kidney stones than those whose diet was less DASH-compliant.
Enhancement of Brain Function
Dash Diet Fuels the Brain
This study found that people who followed the DASH diet in combination with aerobic exercise experienced a 30% improvement in brain function as well as lower blood pressure, improved their cardiovascular fitness, and lost an average of 19 pounds by the end of the study.
Dash Diet Combats Mental Decline
A 11 year long Utah State University study found that the greater a person’s adherence to the DASH diet, the slower the rate of mental decline.
Fortunately, the Dash Diet doesn’t require anything more than some basic planning. No weird recipes, no unusual foods, just a dedication to stick to the plan. However, as with most diet modifications, it can be difficult to maintain if too much is changed at once. For this reason, the NIH recommends making your dietary changes gradually.
Planning Your Attack - DASH Diet Meal Plans
A Week with the DASH Diet
This is a thorough example of daily living with the DASH Diet. Each food item is documented with the serving amounts and sodium it provides. They also include an substitution column so you can reduce the sodium amounts further if you like.
Sample 3-Day DASH Meal Plan
Complete with sample menus for each day, daily nutrient analysis and breakdown of the servings per food group used each day.
Simple Two Day Sample Menu
This is a basic example of a 2-day meal plan. Each day has a breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner suggestion.
DASH Diet Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
3 Fat Chicks on a Diet offers up some great ideas for DASH friendly meals. Check out their great tip on making diet friendly cinnamon buns! Yum!!!
Get Your Eat On! – DASH Diet Recipes
A Potpourri of DASH Diet Recipes
Got a hankering for something yummy but aren’t sure what you can make that won’t break your eating plan? Check out this massive collection of DASH Diet friendly recipes. There is something here for every mood.
5 Unique DASH Worthy Recipes
DashDiet.org shares 5 creative DASH Diet recipes complete with pics. The recipes are: Blackened Chicken with Berry Salad, Tuna Salad Plate, Fabulous Frittata, Lighter Latkes and a Low Fat Pumpkin Pie. I love the tip in the opening paragraph… “The more color on your plate, the healthier the meal.” This simple concept is true of most healthy diets. Unless you’re pouring Fruit Loops on your plate :)
Low Sodium Recipes via Food.com
Sodium can wreak havoc on your blood pressure so limiting it is key to preventing hypertension. Cooking meals that taste good and aren’t packed with salt can be a challenge. Fortunately there are plenty of low sodium recipes that have been tried and tested available. You can find recipes of every kind here, complete with pictures, instructions and reviews.
Low Sodium Recipes via TasteOfHome.com
Another great collection of low sodium recipes to help prevent high blood pressure. Like Food.com’s recipes, they have pictures, instruction and reviews.
Healthy Low Sodium Recipes and Menus
A solid assortment of flavorful heart-healthy recipes hand picked by the people at EatingWell.com.
Some Healthy and Tasty Juice Recipes
Our own collection of 4 yummy, healthy and easy to make seasonal juice drinks.
Cookbooks FTW – Cooking DASH Diet Foods the Right Way
Lickety-Split Meals: For Health Conscious People on the Go!
Read through the reviews and you’ll see that this is one of the best health-focused cookbooks you can get. It’s jam-packed full of great recipes with step by step instructions, dietary information, tips on healthy living, a laminated weekly menu planner that can be used with a dry erase pen, and even has a fold out stand for easy use in the kitchen!
Quick & Healthy Volume II: More Help for People Who Say They Don't Have Time to Cook Healthy Meals
Who has time to cook anymore? If you want to stay healthy you need to eat some good wholesome home-made food. Starving yourself just leaves your body depleted and fast food is nothing more than a slow acting poison. This book will help you tackle those hard to handle moments with simple, quick and realistic recipes and cooking techniques.
Cooking Light: 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook
Another great cookbook for the time-deficient. Cooking Light’s unique approach to this cookbook is that each healthy recipe has only 5 ingredients. Nutritious recipes with quick prep times are the focus here.
American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Reducing Sodium and Fat in Your Diet
When most people think of low-sodium meals they imagine food that tastes more like Styrofoam than their favorite dishes that they’ve grown to love. With proper instruction, you can make fantastically delicious meals without breaking out the salt. The AHA offers up over 200 recipes that are easy on the sodium but full of flavor.
American Heart Association Quick & Easy Cookbook: More Than 200 Healthful Recipes You Can Make in Minutes
Another fantastic cookbook from the AHA. 200 recipes that are tasty, healthful, low-fat, and can be made in under 20 minutes. This book is also spiral-bound so it lays flat on your kitchen counter for easy reading.
Tools to Help You Succeed
A Variety of Planning and Tracking Tools
DASH Diet Oregon is offering up a bunch of tools to make your DASHing easier. The tools include meal planners, daily diet trackers, a handy shopping list, and a goal logging worksheet.
A Collection of Helpful Forms for DASH Diet Success
Here you will find a form for checking off your food groups you have eaten, an exercise log, a weight log, a blood pressure log, and a log to track your overall well-being as you progress from week to week.
DASH Diet Worksheet
Gelson’s supermarket provides another tracking worksheet to record your daily eating and monitor the servings you eat from each DASH food group.
Worksheets for tracking your Daily Diet, Daily Diet (Low Sodium) and Blood Pressure
DASH Diet Books – The Web is Great but Books Still Rule
The DASH Diet Action Plan: Based on the National Institutes of Health Research: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
Many consider this the definitive handbook for the DASH Diet. It’s goal is to make it easy to adjust and maintain the DASH lifestyle in the real world. Written by dietician Marla Heller, The DASH Diet Action Plan is chock full of information to help you be successful with your dieting goals. It has 28 days worth of easy to follow meal plans, DASH-friendly recipes with pictures, advice on eating on-the-run, tips on making over your kitchen to make DASHing easy, and guides you in making your own personal action plan with the steps needed to fit the DASH diet into your daily routine.
The DASH Diet for Hypertension: Lower Your Blood Pressure in 14 Days - Without Drugs
If the DASH Diet Action Plan is the definitive handbook then The DASH Diet for Hypertension could be considered the encyclopedia on DASHing. It covers all aspects of DASH including: why it works, how it was proven through numerous trials, the science behind DASH, how to customize DASH to your specific needs, 2 weeks of meal plans, 62 recipes, and a whole lot more.
Related Information to Help You on Your Journey
How To Eat More and Weigh Less
Dieting sucks!! Being hungry all the the time and constantly feeling drained. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You can diet and still fill up and have all the energy you need to tackle your day. This handy guide outlines techniques you can use to cut back on calories without eating less and being hungry. Courtesy of the Department of Health and Human Services.
55 Ways to Degrease Your Diet
Mmmm greasy food… it tastes great when you eat it but leaves you feeling gross afterwards. If you are going to follow the DASH diet you will need to cut back on your fat intake, which means the grease has to go. The Utah Department of health gives you 55 tips to tackle that challenge. While many of the tips are very basic, there are a few real gems in here.
Fruit & Veggies FAQ
For many of us, our knowledge of fruits and veggies is limited to “they’re good for you”. A little knowledge goes a long way. In this document you’ll find information on storing all types of fruits and vegetables to keep them fresh and tasting great. There is also some good information on retaining nutritional value when cooking fruits and vegetables.
Savor the Spectrum
Taste the rainbow! No I’m not talking about Skittles, I’m talking about phytonutrients (also know as phytochemicals). These plant nutrients not only provide health benefits but also produce the bright colors in vegetables and fruits. This is a simple guide that shows you which health benefits you will receive from a particular fruit or veggie simply by it’s color.
Are You Full Yet?
If you’re new to the DASH Diet then there is a lot you need to learn to succeed with your dieting goals. Armed with the resources in this guide you should have no problems conquering any diet challenges you may come across.
Good health and happy dieting!!