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A Healthy Heart for the Whole Family: The DASH Diet

Posted 1/20/2016 by Taylor Horrigan, Dietetic Intern

Most people have high intentions of achieving better health as the New Year rolls in. According to the U.S. News & Report, the DASH diet was ranked the No. 1 overall diet for 2016 – the sixth year in a row. A panel of experts, including dietitians and doctors that specialize in heart health, diabetes, and weight loss, reviewed all diets in great detail, and the DASH diet came out on top.

What is the DASH diet?

The DASH diet stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”. It is designed to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol, in order to promote a healthy heart.

What are the guidelines for following the DASH diet?

The DASH diet aims to limit fat, sodium, red meat, and sugar intake. It emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, nuts, beans, seeds, poultry, and whole grains. The diet is high in fiber and follows the US Dietary Guidelines for sodium intake, vitamins, and minerals.

Here is an example of someone needing 2,000 calories a day following the DASH diet plan. Keep in mind your calorie needs may be lower or higher depending on your age, gender and activity level.

  • Whole grains: 7-8 servings per day
  • Fruits: 4-5 servings per day
  • Vegetables: 4-5 servings per day
  • Low fat/nonfat dairy: 2-3 servings per day
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry: 2 servings or less per day
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes: 4-5 servings per week

What are the benefits of the DASH diet?

The DASH diet is based on scientific research and has been proven to:

  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides
  • Raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol)
  • Lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)

By following the diet, you are providing your body with key nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium which help lower blood pressure and promote a healthy heart. By replacing unhealthy fats with heart healthy fats from nuts and seeds aids, this lowers LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol.

This diet is recommended by many leading health organizations including the American Heart Association, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The DASH diet is designed for anyone to follow. It provides heart health benefits for the entire family.

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is doing something about excess weight gain in children, a through comprehensive, results-driven community education program called Healthy Kids. For more information, visit our Healthy Kids page.

RESOURCES:, U.S. News & World Report

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