What to Know
- The DASH diet was developed by the National Institutes of Health; it focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, high fiber and low fat
- U.S. News and World Report ranked DASH best overall diet and best diet in the “Healthy Eating” and “Heart Disease Prevention” categories
- DASH has been show to help people with hypertension, an ailment that affects a billion people worldwide and
A diet developed by the National Institutes of Health to help lower high blood pressure has been ranked the “best overall” diet for the eighth year in a row.
U.S. News and World Report’s panel of health experts ranked the DASH diet as number one of 38 diets reviewed. DASH tied with the Mediterranean diet for the top spot, coming in just ahead of the Flexitarian diet, a mostly vegetarian diet that allows for some meat.
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” NIH says DASH is less a diet and more “a healthy eating plan that supports long-term lifestyle changes.”
DASH emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, beans and nuts. The NIH says new research suggests combining DASH with a low-sodium diet has the potential to lower blood pressure as well as, or even better than, many anti-hypertension medications.
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DASH was also ranked number one in the “Healthy Eating” and “Heart Disease Prevention” categories in U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 diet rankings.
The NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) developed the DASH diet to prevent and control hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure. Hypertension is the most common chronic condition worldwide and is a major factor for heart disease, an ailment that affects a billion people worldwide and accounts for one in eight deaths annually.
According to the NIH, people who follow the DASH diet may be able to reduce their blood pressure by a few points in just a couple of weeks. Over time, a patient’s systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) may drop by eight to 14 points, which significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, the NIH says.
In research, people with the highest blood pressure achieved the greatest results from DASH. An NHLBI-funded study found that combining DASH with a low-sodium diet substantially lowers systolic blood pressure.
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“Our results add to the evidence that dietary interventions can be as effective as – or more effective than – antihypertensive drugs in those at highest risk for high blood pressure, and should be a routine first-line treatment option for such individuals,” said Stephen Juraschek, M.D., an adjunct assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and the study’s first author.
These are the top-ranking diets in U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 list:
Best Diet Overall: DASH diet and Mediterranean diet (tied)
Best Commercial Diet: Weight Watchers diet
Best Weight-Loss Diet: Weight Watchers diet
Best Fast Weight-Loss Diet: HMR diet and Weight Watchers diet (tied)
Best Diet for Healthy Eating: DASH diet and Mediterranean diet (tied)
Easiest Diet to Follow: Mediterranean diet
Best Diet for Diabetes: Mediterranean diet
Best Heart-Healthy Diet: DASH diet
Best Plant-Based Diet: Mediterranean diet