Chances are, you’ve heard of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet at some point in your life — after all, it’s been in the news many times, including being named the best diet by U.S. News & World Report several years in a row. it’s been incorporated into the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and it’s recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association.
And yet, there’s an equally good chance you don’t know what the DASH diet consists of — and an even smaller one that you’re actually following it. Why is this the case?
As outlined in an article published last week in The Washington Post, the DASH diet has now been around for 20 years, and has been shown in numerous studies to be an effective way to lower your blood pressure. It consists of abundant fruits and vegetables, along with legumes (such as beans and peas), nuts and seeds, poultry and fish, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. This means a diet rich in protein and fiber, as well as nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It tends to be low in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.
In addition to lowering blood pressure, the Post article notes that the DASH diet has been shown to reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, along with the risk of developing coronary artery disease or experiencing a stroke. Some evidence also suggests that it may help people manage or prevent diabetes, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve kidney heath.
Yet despite these wide-ranging benefits and prominent recommendations, an article published last month in the journal JAMA notes that studies have found that only about 1% of the U.S. population meets DASH guidelines, and only about 20% meet even half of the diet’s nutritional goalposts. Among people for whom the DASH diet was specifically recommended — by a doctor or a dietitian — the average adherence score was 2.6 out of 9.
So why isn’t DASH more popular? The Post article points to the ease of consuming fast and processed foods, compared with meals that include lots of produce and fresh, whole foods. It also speculates that since most Americans get their only medical nutritional guidance from their primary-care doctor, many people’s doctors may lack detailed knowledge of nutrition or the ability to follow up often regarding dietary changes.
What’s your experience with the DASH diet — has it been recommended to you, and have you tried to follow it? If so, how successful were you? Did you find it to be a lot to take on at once? If your doctor hasn’t recommended DASH, why do you think this is the case? Have you experienced good results from following this diet? Leave a comment below!