What’s the #1 Diet?
January is the month of do-overs, start overs, and New Year’s resolutions. For the 7th year in a row, a diet you likely have not heard of topped the list at #1 diet for Best Overall by U.S. News & World Report.
Each year since 2011 U.S. News has published a comprehensive list ranking diets. A panel of experts in nutrition, heart disease, diabetes, food psychology, obesity, human behavior, including professors, physicians, and other health professionals analyzed profiles of diets (38 this year) and rated them in seven categories.
- How easy to follow?
- How effective for preventing and/or maintaining diabetes control?
- How effective for reducing risk of heart disease?
- How well does it facilitate short-term weight loss during the first 12 months, based on available evidence?
- What is the likelihood of maintaining significant weight loss for two years or more, based on available evidence?
- Based on the nutritional benchmark of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, how nutritionally complete is it?
- What are its health risks including malnourishment, excessively rapid weight loss, and concerns for those with pre-existing conditions?
And the winner is?
Drum roll please. The DASH Diet ranked number one overall (again). It was also number one in these categories:
- Best Diabetes Diets
- Best Diets for Healthy Eating
- Best Heart-Healthy Diets (tie with the Ornish Diet)
What’s DASH – the #1 diet?
The original Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial was a multi-center, randomized feeding study beginning in 1994 with several phases that tested the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. Instead of looking at individual nutrients, DASH tested patterns—the combined effects of nutrients that occur together in food. DASH is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein.
Funded by the National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI), three separate trials showed benefits of the DASH diet.
Results showed eating a food pattern rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, and beans significantly lowered blood pressure. Additionally, the diet was low in total fat and saturated fat and included modest amounts of animal protein. Not only did results show improvement in blood pressure but cholesterol was lowered (total and LDL), and inflammation reduced.
Not just for blood pressure
DASH diet guidelines are similar to guidelines you would see for preventing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Bottom line: DASH is good healthy eating—like many plant-based approaches to eating.
“Think about what to add to your diet, not what to take away! Often nutrition messages in popular media are very negative—’Don’t eat this’ messages imply your diet must be ‘free’ of something (fat-free, salt-free, gluten-free). We want you to start thinking about adding foods to your diet, and encourage a lot of variety in what you eat—as well as learning how to include treats.”
Why haven’t you heard of it?
Unlike trendy fad diets, DASH isn’t trendy. It’s standing the test of time. People don’t go on DASH like they do fad diets. It’s a doable healthful way to eat and a lifestyle approach. DASH is sustainable. As co-author of DASH Diet For Dummies, Cindy Kleckner recently stated to me, “DASH Diet is the non-diet diet that is evidence-based using wholesome food and is reasonable to sustain for a lifetime.”
Here are a few recipes from Cindy featured in previous blogs.
- Hot Artichoke Bean Dip
- First-Place Chicken Chili
- Seared Scallops with Pistachio Sauce
- Chicken Kabobs with Tzatziki Sauce
- Penne Pasta with Zucchini Yogurt Sauce and Walnuts
Dash to DASH
From the NHLBI website, Following the Dash Eating Plan, for a moderately active post-menopausal woman the food pattern would consist of (servings per day): 6 grain, 4-5 fruits, 4-5 veggies, 6 ounces (or less) lean meat/poultry/fish, 2-3 low-fat/nonfat dairy, 2-3 fats, 2,300 mg sodium. And per week 4-5 nuts/seeds/beans and 5 or less servings of sweets. More info on servings and portions is available at Following the Dash Eating Plan.
What’s it look like?
A sample day might look like this:
- 1 cup berries mixed into
- 1 cup nonfat Greek plain yogurt
- ¼ cup walnuts or almonds
- 3 ounces tuna mixed with
- 1 cup chopped raw mixed veggies, 1/3 avocado (sliced) and wrapped in
- 2 mini whole wheat flatbreads
- Small fruit of choice
- Mozzarella cheese stick and fruit
- 3 ounces cooked chicken mixed with
- 2 cups cooked stir fry veggies w/ few dashes of light soy
- Sesame oil to stir fry
- ¾ cup cooked brown rice
The rest of the U.S. News list
If you’re curious to know how the other diets ranked, here is the list of Best Diets ranked by U.S. News.
4. (tie) Flexitarian & Mayo Clinic & TLC & Weight Watchers
8. (tie) The Fertility Diet & Volumetrics
10. (tie) Jenny Craig & Ornish & Vegetarian
12. Traditional Asian
16. (tie) Flat Belly & Nutrisystem & Spark Solution
20. (tie) Eco Atkins & Engine 2 & HMR & Slimfast
24. South Beach
25. (tie) Abs Diet & Glycemic Index & The Zone
29. (tie) Medifast & Supercharged Hormone Diet & Acid Alkaline Diet
32. (tie) Body Reset & The Fast Diet & Raw Food Diet
Image credits: Neily on Nutrition and pixabay.com
Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach
- Health Benefits of the DASH eating plan.
- U.S. News Best Diets: How We Rated 38 Eating Plans, U.S. News and World Report
- Appel, Lawrence J., et al. “A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure.” New England Journal of Medicine 336.16 (1997): 1117-1124.
- Sacks, Frank M., et al. “Rationale and design of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension trial (DASH): a multicenter controlled-feeding study of dietary patterns to lower blood pressure.” Annals of epidemiology 5.2 (1995): 108-118.