The world of weight loss can be an overwhelming and confusing place. It seems like every day a new super supplement or quick fix diet is popping up promising to quickly shed unwanted weight.
While the ideal approach to weight loss is to aim for 1-2 pounds a week using a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, the temptation to subscribe to the next popular craze can be too much to ignore.
So, each month, we’re examining a different diet—diving into the science behind it, the pros, the cons—and letting you decide whether or not it’s worth trying.
What is DASH?
This month we’re going to take a closer look at the DASH diet, which is actually an acronym that stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. While this one isn’t as flashy or in the media as some that we’ve covered in the past, chances are you’ve heard about it. That’s because it’s widely accepted by the medical community as an effective way to lower blood pressure by limiting sodium and fat intake, while increasing fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption.
But is the DASH diet any better than the other popular approaches to weight loss out there? Read on to see if it’s right for you.
While the DASH diet includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and we’ve covered the importance of including those in ANY well-balanced diet in our previous Fad Diet blogs, the real focus on this one is in the salt.
The DASH diet specifically limits sodium intake to 2300 mg per day for those that aren’t already diagnosed with high blood pressure, and only 1500 mg per day for those that have been. For reference, there’s about 2300 mg of sodium in just ONE TEASPOON of table salt!
The reason for this is because water follows salt in your body. This means that when you eat lots of salty foods (hello, fries and potato chips) your body tries to flush out the extra sodium by holding onto more water. That extra fluid in your body makes the heart work harder, meaning an increase in blood pressure. So by doing things like using spices and herbs to season your food, or looking for “no salt added” versions of your favorite foods, you can easily give your heart a much-needed break.
There are tons of evidence-based, peer-reviewed articles that support the use of the DASH diet to not only effectively reduce blood pressure, but also address many other complicated medical issues such as diabetes, gout, elevated triglyceride levels and cancer. The diet includes all food groups and is not a “lose weight quick” scheme, but more of a lifestyle change that can be beneficial for reasons far beyond weight loss.
While there are many pros to this one, it may not be right for everyone. The guidelines are flexible, and for those that need a more rigidly-defined structure or specific meal plans, it may not provide enough guidance. Additionally, the strict sodium guidelines can make it challenging for those that often rely on convenience foods or eating out at restaurants, as you aren’t able to control your salt intake as easily in those environments.
Hopefully, this overview helps you understand some of the ins and outs of this popular diet. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what approach to nutrition is right for you and works best for your body. Talking with your doctor and a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you create a healthy eating plan that's effective and safe.