DASH, does not have celebrity for the record, has nothing to with the Kardashian’s Calabasas boutique, and instead is a healthy eating regime created by legit doctors, that’s been around for 20 years and has consistently been named the best diet in the world. Punchy chat indeed.
Much like our ability to squeeze into that size 10 pair of chic cigarette trousers, trendy diets come and go. But not DASH. It’s recently been voted the number one diet in the News & World Report’s Best Diets list for the seventh year in a row.
Not surprisingly, more and more people are giving it their undivided attention. So considering it’s such a winner option, now’s the right time to learn everything there is to know about it…
First explain the science bit, please…
We’re talking real, hard science people! DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and was first developed by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in line with research to lower blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The approach centred around upping fruit, vegetables and lean protein instead of eating processed foods high in sugar, fats and salt, and results quickly showed that people who followed it boasted lower rates of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and developing diabetes. Happy days.
Further research was conducted into a lower-carb version of the diet, and dietitian Marla Heller used it to create a two-phase weight loss eating plan.
Phase One is a kickstart; a two-week plan rich in protein, which is focused on keeping you full but making every calorie count.
Phase Two is all about setting you up on this path for life, introducing more whole grains, fruits and non-starchy vegetables to help you lose weight at a steady rate.
READ MORE: Michelle Keegan's body secrets
Tell us what the fridge is going to look like…
Light on classic carbs and grains, but you’ll make up for it in lean protein, dairy and fats.
During Phase One, DASH calls for moderate-sized servings of the following foods:
- Foods that are protein-rich and low in saturated fat e.g. lean meats, fish and poultry; beans, lentils, soy foods; low-fat or non-fat cheeses; eggs; unsweetened or artificially sweetened yoghurt
- Heart-healthy fats e.g. avocados (oh hey, Instagram!); vegetable oils, especially olive oil, canola oil and nut oils; salad dressing, especially those made with the above DASH-friendly oils
- Foods that are protein-rich and contain healthy fat – nuts and seeds; fatty fish
You can have as much of these foods as you want:
- Sugar-free gelatin
- Non-starchy vegetables (so everything bar the stodgy root veggies or sweet varieties like potato, butternut squash and corn)
But avoid the following:
- Starchy foods e.g. no bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, processed crap. Avoiding beige will serve you well.
- Sugary foods, including fruit (you’ll get your bananas and berries back after a fortnight)
- Caffeine, other than the odd cup with your meal
And what's an average day?
The amount you eat, i.e. portion control, is calculated by your target goal weight and is linked to calorie intake. Once you’ve worked out how much of DASH-friendly foods you should be eating, a ideal DASH eating plan looks like this:
Breakfast: omelette; 2 slices of wholewheat toast topped with jam; a handful of mixed berries; small glass of fruit juice; a DIY latte made with espresso and skimmed milk.
Lunch: Sandwich of wholegrain bread filled with ham, low-fat cheese, cabbage, tomato and mustard; carrot batons; 8 baby plum tomatoes; small Granny Smith apple.
Dinner: salmon fillet on a bed of sweet potato mash with steamed broccoli and mixed greens; slice of Italian bread (we’re guessing ciabatta or focaccia falls under this category); frozen yoghurt.
Snacks: a few hazelnuts; serving of cantaloupe melon; pot of fat-free, artificially sweetened yoghurt.
According to the diet, this day’s calculations stand at: 4 whole grains, 1 refined grain, 3 dairy, 4 fruit, 5+ vegetables, 1 nut, 8oz meat.
Do celebs do it too?
Apparently. And that’s not a cop-out answer; DASH is probably the only diet on earth without heaps of celebrity endorsements and affiliated weight-loss DVDs. Big names like Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson are currently swirling around in articles about the eating plan, but to date no famous face has spoken openly about following it. Maybe it isn’t sexy enough or promises enough of a quick fix for celeb fans… but millions of real people swear by it.
Sounds like a winner…
According to nutritionist Kim Pearson, there’s good reason that DASH has become so popular over the years. ‘It definitely has its pros; an eating plan that encourages consuming fresh, natural foods, emphasizes the importance of proteins and fats and highlights drinking adequate fluids is likely to be beneficial and will fill you up without relying on sugary, calorie-dense processed foods.’
Fellow nutritionist Michelle Braude agrees that, unlike so many current ‘diets’ marketed as weight-loss strategies, DASH doesn’t look to swerve whole food groups or tie us into dropping an entire month’s rent at Whole Foods just to get started. ‘This diet is the perfect combination of eight different food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, meat/fish/poultry/eggs, nuts and seeds, added fats and sweet foods,’ she says.
‘So many recent fads push consumers to cut out natural sugars like fresh fruit (which is packed with fibre and contains naturally-occurring sugars that curb cravings for other sweet foods) and dairy (completely unnecessary and unscientific for those without diagnosed lactose intolerance) so it’s good to see the DASH diet embracing both in a balanced way.’
All plain sailing, then?
It depends on how much time you’re willing to spend in the kitchen and how au fait you are with numbers. ‘While the diet itself is medically and scientifically sound, it does make healthy eating seem like a chore, thanks to its focus on counting calories and splitting up daily servings of different foods,’ says Braude.
And because you’re encouraged to avoid processed foods in favour of fresh, there’s meal prep and cooking involved. ‘While the DASH diet includes principles which are important to a healthy diet for most people, such as eating plenty of vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein while minimizing processed foods, it doesn’t take into account an individual’s unique needs, so you still need to be careful to tailor it to your own body,’ advises Pearson.
Words by Victoria Joy