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What Is the DASH Diet?

Should You Be on the DASH Diet?

This year's trendy diet is actually not a diet at all. The DASH diet, which the US News and World Report routinely marks as the best overall diet every year, is actually a healthy-eating plan that includes sensible rules to cut salt, fats, and sugar and upping fruits and veggies in order to lower bad cholesterol levels and possibly lose weight. If you're ready to try the diet that everyone's talking about, read on for DASH's highlights.

What Is the DASH Diet?

DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in order to help people lower blood pressure. While it's not a diet that promises rapid weight loss, many people do find success in dropping pounds slowly while following the DASH diet by cutting out the types of high-sugar, high-fat foods that aren't allowed on the diet.

How to Do the DASH

Luckily, the DASH diet doesn't include any gimmicks, powders or snack bars — you just need fresh, whole foods and enough time to prepare healthy meals. In general, follow these guidelines:

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  1. First, estimate how many calories you'll need to maintain weight. For example, the DASH diet recommends that a sedentary 30-year-old woman eat 2,000 calories a day to maintain weight, while a moderately active woman would need up to 2,200 calories. Get the DASH diet's recommended caloric intake to maintain weight here. Remember that you'll need to subtract calories or up your activity level to create a calorie deficit if you'd like to lose weight.
  2. Once you know the amount of calories you'll need, follow along to the DASH eating plan chart, which outlines how many servings of a food group you should eat per day. For a 2,000-calorie diet, for example, you'll need six to eight servings of grains, four to five servings of vegetables, four to five servings of fruits, two to three servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy, and six or fewer servings of lean meats. It also recommends four to five servings of nuts a week, five or fewer sweets or added sugars per week, and two to three servings of fats and oils a day.
  3. Ensure you get only 2,300 milligrams of salt a day (about a teaspoon); eventually the DASH diet recommends you lower to under 1,500 milligrams a day.
  4. The DASH diet also recommends doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise in each day, which is similar to what the American College of Sports Medicine recommends to help lower your risk of diseases like cancer and heart conditions. If you're trying to lose weight, DASH diet recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day.

While the DASH diet wasn't created for weight loss, following these guidelines will help you eat healthier and cut out the junk — which often means a lower number on the scale as well. No matter what, you'll definitely be helping your health, especially your heart, by changing your eating habits for the better. Tell us, have you ever tried the DASH diet?

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne
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