Why You Should Try the DASH Diet

Originally published 1/28/15; Updated: 6/25/2015


With a name that sounds like it might involve some sprinting (don’t worry, it doesn’t) or maybe even has a Kardashian-related connotation, the off-the-radar DASH Diet is beginning to bring in a lot of buzz. Recently named the “best diet” for the fifth year in a row by U.S. News & World Report, the healthy-eating plan proudly beat out a slew of other big-name diets. “It's similar to the Mediterranean diet and rich in antioxidants, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory type foods that promote healthy weight and skin,” says celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson. But, chances are, you don’t even know about it. Here’s a quick rundown of all of its benefits—including must-know beauty ones—and easy eating tips for taking it on:

IT'S PROVEN
Originally developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to lower blood pressure without medication, the DASH Diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, including some kinds of cancer, stroke, heart disease, kidney stones and diabetes. While this is all great news, it is also a winner in the weight-loss war, as it boasts of having the ability to reboot metabolism.

IT'S PRETTY EASY
The diet isn’t just a slew of random tips and food tricks swirling around in obscurity. Instead, DASH’s foremost practitioner and New York Times bestselling author, Marla Heller, MS, RD, has a series of books (the latest release is The DASH Diet: Younger You) that provide easy-to-follow meal plans, recipes and tips to take on the diet and lose weight in the process. Below, Heller outlines five nutritional strategies she recommends following: 

1. Eat a plant-focused diet. Science has proven that people who follow a plant-focused style of eating live longer and have fewer wrinkles and more attractive skin. Plus, they are also more protected from diseases such as cancer and heart disease. So how do you do it? To start off, Heller recommends eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and, on DASH, you can also have low-fat and nonfat dairy foods, heart-healthy fish, poultry and eggs.

Updated: 6/25/2015
Another food you can add to the list? Lean pork. According to new research published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, including this protein into the DASH eating plan was shown to lower blood pressure. One three-ounce serving packs a healthy dose of nutrients like niacin, vitamin B6 and potassium.

2. Focus on flavonoids. One reason plant foods are so powerful is that they are chock-full of protective chemicals including flavonoids, which give them their color. Flavonoids work as antioxidants to fight free radicals, and Heller also adds that they have been found to help lengthen telomeres, the segments of DNA that protect chromosomes.

3. Populate your diet with probiotics and prebiotics. These substances help maintain a healthy, stable, “microbiota” in the system—the normal ratio of good bacteria to bad—to keep your digestive system working well. On DASH, Heller recommends adding fermented foods like yogurt and fibrous foods like beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables to your diet.

4. Avoid damaging sugars. Refined sugar is everywhere in processed foods, and it is making us all old before our time, inside and out. 

5. Fire big food and big pharma. Heller says that the processed foods many of us are eating and some of the drugs we’ve been prescribed are aging us. DASH promotes skipping these items made with synthetic chemicals, additives, extra sugars, refined grains, fats and more.

IT’S INCREDIBLY HEALTHY
Best of all, DASH isn’t a deprivation diet. “It offers a balanced and wholesome approach to eating,” explains Simpson. “It focuses on controlling sodium intake, which redirects people to focus on unprocessed foods that are naturally high in potassium, fiber and plant-based proteins (fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, seafood, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts). It contains less salt and sodium, sweets, added sugars, fats, and red meats that negatively impact overall health and offers more in nutrients to support healthy aging."

BONUS: IT HAS BEAUTY BENEFITS!
Heller stands by this one. Because science has proven that people who follow a plant-focused style of eating live longer and have fewer wrinkles and more attractive skin, DASH is a slam-dunk in the better-skin department. Plus, it’s big on antioxidants and not-so-big on sugars, so it also helps in the anti-aging arena as well.