With virtually no food groups as off-limits, DASH offers much more flexibility than other popular diet plans. It can also aid in weight loss and weight maintenance, given its emphasis on overall health. With all its praiseworthy qualities, you’d think everyone would be following a DASH diet plan. But here’s the surprising truth—less than 2 percent of the population actually follows the DASH diet.
Think of it as intermittent fasting 2.0 – only a bit more complicated. Ready? Here goes. There are three windows: one to get you started, one to help you reach your goal weight and a maintenance plan. You eat within a 12-hour, 14-hour or 16-hour window depending on which phase you’re in. But what you eat counts, too. The ‘green light’ lists of foods changes with every phase. Still there?
In the short term, you may lose a modest amount of weight over a year span and are likely to keep it off it you continue to eat following the diet. (6) If eating in the Mediterranean style prompts you to consume more fruits and vegetables, you’ll not only feel better physically, but your mental health will get a lift, too. Research shows that people who eat more raw fruits and veggies (particularly dark leafy greens like spinach, fresh berries, and cucumber) have fewer symptoms of depression, a better mood, and more life satisfaction. (36)
These affect your brain and spine, as well as the nerves that link them together. Epilepsy is one, but others may be helped by a ketogenic diet as well, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and sleep disorders. Scientists aren’t sure why, but it may be that the ketones your body makes when it breaks down fat for energy help protect your brain cells from damage.
2. A strong, healthy heart. Eating Mediterranean decreases practically every heart-disease risk factor -- high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. When 605 patients who'd had a first heart attack followed the diet for four years, they had a 50 to 70 percent lower risk of having a second heart attack, angina, or a stroke or pulmonary embolism. "There's no single aspect of the diet that keeps your heart healthy," says Dr. Stampfer; it's the synergy of all the diet's elements. Antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, and beans help prevent the atherosclerosis that can make plaque build up in arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish lower blood pressure, arrhythmia risk, and triglyceride levels. Olive oil lessens LDL ("bad") cholesterol. And wine and other spirits in moderation may lower heart-disease risk.
DASH stands for "dietary approach to stop hypertension" and was created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a way to help reverse national trends of obesity and heart disease. Scientists combed through decades of research to come up with an expert-backed list of diet tips, along with a prescription for exercise. And it worked: The DASH diet has topped nearly every diet list for nearly a decade. Doctors particularly recommend it for people looking to lower high blood pressure, reverse diabetes, and lower their risk of heart disease. (Here's the basic list of DASH diet-approved foods.)
H. Guldbrand, B. Dizdar, B. Bunjaku, T. Lindström, M. Bachrach-Lindström, M. Fredrikson, C. J. Östgren, F. H. Nystrom, “In Type 2 Diabetes, Randomisation to Advice to Follow a Low-carbohydrate Diet Transiently Improves Glycaemic Control Compared with Advice to Follow a Low-fat Diet Producing a Similar Weight Loss,” Diabetologia (2012) 55: 2118. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-012-2567-4.
When your body burns its stores of fat, it can be hard on your kidneys. And starting a ketogenic diet -- or going back to a normal diet afterward -- can be tricky if you’re obese because of other health issues you’re likely to have, like diabetes, a heart condition, or high blood pressure. If you have any of these conditions, make diet changes slowly and only with the guidance of your doctor.
“This is a good example of a study where you should not directly apply the information to what you are eating as an individual,” Stefanski says. “The research is interesting, but the study period examined was only three days. While this study showed insulin resistance, it did not in fact show that the mice had diabetes. Making the leap from the results of this study to a headline that concludes a ketogenic diet will cause type 2 diabetes is not supported.”
The food options available on the DASH diet closely mirror the eating plan recommended in the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate, with a focus on whole foods, such as fruit and veggies; fat-free or low-fat dairy; whole grains; and lean meats, like fish and poultry. (3) Meanwhile, the plan requires cutting back on, or preferably eliminating, processed foods, like sugary drinks and packaged snacks, and limiting red meat, which in excess has been linked to poorer heart health and heart failure, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (4)
Finally, people eat about nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day on a Mediterranean diet. (1) Produce packs an array of disease-fighting antioxidants, and people who fill their diet with these foods have lower risk of disease. Yet as the National Institutes of Health points out, it’s not known if it’s the antioxidants or other compounds (or general healthy eating patterns) that are responsible for these advantages. (5)
One meta-analysis18 incorporating data from 447 participants found that low-carbohydrate diets not only helped individuals lose weight, but also improved their cholesterol. And another meta-analysis,19 citing 17 clinical trials, found that low-carb diets protected against major cardiovascular risk factors. A third study20 including 119 participants found that low-carbohydrate dieters had lower cholesterol than low-fat dieters after one year.
The DASH diet is especially recommended for people with hypertension (high blood pressure) or prehypertension. The DASH diet eating plan has been proven to lower blood pressure in studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). In addition to being a low salt (or low sodium) plan, the DASH diet provides additional benefits to reduce blood pressure. It is based on an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat dairy, with whole grains. It is a high fiber, low to moderate fat diet, rich in potasium, calcium, and magnesium. The full DASH diet plan is shown here. The DASH diet is a healthy plan, designed for the whole family. New research continues to show additional health benefits of the plan.
Although adding an exercise routine to your diet overhaul will help you burn fat more quickly than a dietary intervention alone, one JAMA study found that obese patients who change their diets first and begin exercising six months after their diet change will lose the same amount of weight after 12 months as those participants who eat healthier and exercised over the course of the whole year. In short: don’t put off your weight loss goals just because you don’t want to exercise. Change your diet today, exercise later, and you can still lose weight.
I’ve been doing low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) for more than nine years. I’m not diabetic and never was so far as I know, nor was I particularly overweight. I simply became convinced over time that this way of eating is the best way to limit the damage which can be done by a lifetime of exposure to the standard American high-carb, starchy, sugary diet. I love my fatty meat, egg yolks, butter, sour cream, and more. I suppose I am fortunate I never had “carb-cravings”.
In terms of weight loss, you may be interested in trying the ketogenic diet because you’ve heard that it can make a big impact right away. And that’s true. “Ketogenic diets will cause you to lose weight within the first week,” says Mattinson. She explains that your body will first use up all of its glycogen stores (the storage form of carbohydrate). With depleted glycogen, you’ll drop water weight. While it can be motivating to see the number on the scale go down (often dramatically), do keep in mind that most of this is water loss initially.