DASH and other diets that work

Story by Barbara Quinn
(The Monterey County Herald (MCT))
Fri, Mar 9, 2012
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What’s the best diet to lose weight? The one you can stick with.

That was the finding from a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Overweight volunteers in this trial lost weight on a variety of diet strategies — high carbs, low carbs, high fat, low fat, high protein, average protein.

And what was the one “major predictor” that guaranteed weight loss in these diet trials? Adherence. In other words, there are a variety of strategies to lose weight. But whatever we decide to do, it seems to be important to stick with it (duh).

That said, some diet strategies — based on research studies — apparently are worth sticking to for the long term more than others. Here are a few examples:

CHOICE (Choose Healthy Options Consciously Every Day). Adults in this recent randomized controlled study stopped drinking sweetened beverages for 6 months. In their place, they drank water or another no-calorie beverage. Surprise ... they effectively lost weight and their blood pressure went down as well.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Originally proven as an effective way to lower blood pressure, this diet plan is now recommended as a way to lose weight and make our hearts happy, too. Many experts now refer to the DASH plan as the “gold standard” for current diet recommendations.

What is the DASH diet? Eat several cups of fruit and vegetables every day. (These foods are major sources of potassium, magnesium and fiber that help regulate blood pressure and appetite). Add 2 to 3 low-fat or non-fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, or cheese) to your diet every day. (Protein and calcium in these foods are important for blood pressure control and may help with weight loss attempts as well.) Eat 4 to 5 small servings of nuts, legumes (beans) or seeds each week. (Ditto on important nutrients that work in concert with other components of the diet.) Eat lean meats, fish and poultry in moderate portions. Cut way back on sweets, added sugars, fats and alcohol.

How do we start moving towards a DASH-style diet? Choose to have a fruit or a vegetable (or both) at every meal. Add sunflower seeds or legumes to salads. Eat yogurt, fruit or nuts for snacks. Walk away from the salt shaker and sugar bowl.

And find other ways to adhere to the DASH way of eating at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new—dash.pdf

ENCORE (Exercise and Nutritional Interventions for Cardiovascular Health). Besides the fact that the acronym doesn’t quite match the words, this trial from Duke University combined the DASH diet with exercise and other weight loss strategies. The result? Even further improvements in blood pressure and other measurements of heart health than the DASH diet alone.

Bottom line? The best way to lose weight is to stick with a proven plan. And a proven plan is one that combines health-enhancing food choices with consistent physical activity. Sound familiar?

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at bquinnchomp.org.

diet, Health, weight loss
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