Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best Diets of 2014

Dovetailing perfectly with the previous blog, D.A.S.H. Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the U.S. News & World Report just published it's "Best Diets 2014".   The D.A.S.H. Diet was rated "#1 Best Diet" out of 32 of the most popular diets evaluated.  As you can see from the previous N.E.W. LIFE blog post, I concur wholeheartedly!   The U.S. News editors affirm what I wrote--the benefits of the D.A.S.H. Diet are not just for people with high blood pressure.

U.S. News & World Report provides a very handy evaluation (and also timely given that I just presented the same conclusion in August and they totally agree with me :).  The fact is--and most people already know this--most diets don't work and some are even harmful.  But it can take a master's degree and a whole lot of time to wade through all the information (and much hype) and discern what is the best dietary recommendation.  Some things should be apparent to most people--eat more plant, less animal (though even that is not "apparent" wisdom in the world of diets anymore), more veggies, less animal fat, less processed food.  Yet the work of the U.S. News editors helps the lay public tremendously.  The editors and reporters spent months researching medical journals, government reports and other resources to winnow certain diets from the list and to rank the remaining diets, and further explain how the diets work, determine whether the claims add up, scrutinize for possible health risks, and evaluate what it's like to actually live on the diet.  Additionally, a very notable and lengthy panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed the editors' work and added their own evaluations regarding ease of following, ability to produce weight loss and keep it off (with long-term ratings getting twice the weight), nutritional completeness, safety (double-counted because no diet should be dangerous) and potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.

To learn more about the D.A.S.H. Diet (and hypertension) take a moment to read the previous blog.  Hypertension (high blood pressure) affects about 1 out of every 3 American adults (an estimated 67 million Americans) and almost 30 percent of American adults ages 18 and older, or about 59 million people, have prehypertension.  High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard, and the high force of the blood flow can harm arteries and organs such as the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes.  If uncontrolled, it can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, blindness and early death.  You are more likely to be told your blood pressure is too high as you get older because your blood vessels become stiffer with age.

The DASH Diet, issued by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is proven to lower blood pressure.  The DASH Diet emphasizes fruits (4-6/day, depending on body weight), vegetables (3-6 servings/day), nuts (approximately a handful of nuts most days of the week) and fat-reduced milk products, and includes whole grain products, fish and poultry.  The diet is low in saturated fat (6%), cholesterol (150 mg), and total fat (27%) and is lower in lean meat, sweets, added sugars, and sugar-containing beverages than the typical American diet.  The eating plan is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein and fiber.  Studies conducted by scientists supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and performed at 4 major medical centers found that the DASH Diet significantly reduces blood pressure.  The results were dramatic and fast, achieving reduced blood pressure within 2 weeks.  Even a modified plan that just added more fruits and vegetables to a typical American diet reduced blood pressure.  Another benefit of eating the DASH eating plan is that it reduces (bad) LDL cholesterol, further reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease.  

Important note:  If you take medication to control high blood pressure, do not stop using it.  Follow the DASH eating plan and talk with your doctor about your medication treatment—it will very likely need to be adjusted, soon!

Kudos to U.S. News & World Report for doing such an exhaustive project and continuing to get the word out about the D.A.S.H. Diet

Healthy New Year!
Diane Preves, M.S., R.D.

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