The Dash diet has been voted the best overall diet by the US World and News Report. It beat out 19 other contenders, including the Atkins, Jenny Craig and Slim-Fast diets. The heart-smart Mediterranean diet came in second place.
Developed in the USA, Dash is the acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and has proved so healthy that it’s been recommended for everybody, not just those with hypertension.
As with the Mediterranean diet, the Dash diet concentrates on replacing high protein, saturated and animal fats, and refined sugars with more simple fare.
The bulk of the diet consists of:
- Lentils and a variety of beans
- Fresh vegetables
- Fresh fruit
Only eat small portions of:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Meat, poultry, fish
The reasons for the do’s and don’ts:
- Vegetables and fruit contain significant amounts of potassium. Potassium appears to replace and eliminate excess sodium from the body’s tissues, enabling dilation of the blood vessels and lowering of the blood pressure. Some studies indicate that higher levels of potassium in the blood may inhibit the formation of free radicals and the formation of blood clots, both of which play a role in the development of atherosclerosis.
- A maximum of two portions of meat, poultry or fish, and three portions of low-fat or fat-free dairy food per week to lower fat consumption (to counteract obesity and elevated blood fat levels) and protein consumption (and thereby hidden fats, as well as preventing possible kidney failure due to high protein intake).
The following table outlines the major food groups, and the number and sizes of servings you need:
|Food group||Daily servings||Serving sizes||Examples/Notes||Significance of each Food group to the Dash Diet pattern|
|Grains and cereals||7-8||1 slice bread
1/2 cup dry cereal
1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
|whole wheat bread, or low-GI bread, pita bread, cereals, maize meal, samp, oat porridge, ProVitas, RyeVitas||Major sources of energy and fibre|
|Vegetables||4-5||1 cup raw leafy vegetable
1/2 cup cooked vegetable
170ml vegetable juice
|tomatoes potatoes, carrots, peas, squash, broccoli, turnip, greens collards, kale, spinach, artichokes, sweet potatoes, green beans||Rich sources of potassium, magnesium and fibre|
|Fruits||4-5||170ml fruit juice
1 medium fruit
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
|apricots, bananas, dates, oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapples, prunes, raisins, strawberries, naartjies||Important sources of potassium, magnesium, and fibre|
|Low fat or fat-free dairy foods||2-3||200ml milk
1 cup yoghurt
30 gram cheese
|skim or low-fat or 2% milk, skim or low-fat buttermilk or maas, low-fat yoghurt, low-fat mozarella cheese, fat-free cottage cheese||Major sources of calcium and protein|
|Meals, poultry and fish||2 or less||60 gram cooked meats, poultry or fish||select only lean; trim away visible fat; grill, roast or boil, instead of frying; remove skin from poultry||Rich sources of protein and magnesium|
|Nuts, seeds, and legumes||4-5 per week||30 gram or 1/3 cup nuts
2 Tbsp seeds
1/2 cup cooked legumes
|Almonds, macadamias, mixed nuts, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, cooked or canned dry beans, pease or lentils||Rich sources of energy, magnesium, potassium, protein, and fibre|
If you need help to apply the Dash diet consult your nearest dietician who will guide you through the initial phases until you are used to the diet.
– (Information from the National Institutes of Health)