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  • Writer's pictureAlan Frischer, MD, MPH

Dash Diet

2019 is right around the corner. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, and in my practice, the ones I hear the most concern eating better and losing weight.

Every year, U.S. News and World Report assembles a panel of experts to rank leading diets in a variety of categories. Ranked #1 for Best Weight-Loss diet was once again the Weight Watcher diet. What was the very last (worst!) one on the Best Overall diet list? I recently dedicated an entire column to it: the very popular low carb, high fat Keto diet.

These results don’t surprise me. Also unsurprising is that once again, the DASH diet ranked the best overall diet, sharing the lead with the Mediterranean diet. The DASH diet also ranked best for healthy eating, and best for heart-healthy eating. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It was developed to lower blood pressure without medication, and emphasizes portion size, eating a variety of foods, and proper nutrients. It encourages us to reduce the sodium in our diet and to consume foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also in line with recommendations to prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers. This diet is intended to be a lifelong approach to healthy eating.

Some of the DASH highlights:

  • Grains are OK. Look for labels that specify 100% whole grain.

  • Vegetables fill the diet with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Variety and quantity are great. Try stir-fry, soups, salads, and juicing.

  • Fruit is important, as it is packed with fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamins and minerals. Use fruit as a snack, dessert, or in juicing along with vegetables.

  • Dairy is a major source of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Make it low- to no-fat. Try substituting frozen yogurt for ice cream.

  • Lean meat, poultry and fish are good sources of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Keep the portion sizes small, and trim away fat and skin. Bake, broil, roast or grill instead of frying in fat. When selecting fish, focus on those that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to lower cholesterol.

  • Nuts, seeds and legumes (including almonds, seeds, beans, peas, and lentils) are good sources of potassium, magnesium, fiber and protein.

  • Fat is essential to a good diet, but too much fat increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, hypertension, and obesity. Minimize saturated fats (found in meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, cream and egg yolks) and trans fats (found in processed foods such as crackers, solid shortenings, palm and coconut oils, and lard).

  • The diet permits sweets, but in moderation.

  • Alcohol raises blood pressure. Limit consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

  • Caffeine can raise blood pressure in the short term, so if you already have hypertension, you should limit caffeine.

I encourage you to make changes in your diet gradually, to reward yourself for successes, to include physical activity, and to build support around you. Approach this together with your family. Eating healthy food is not an all-or-nothing goal. The more positive changes you make, the more successful you will be.

In 2019, let’s feel better, live well and eat healthfully!

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