Depsite the advancements in medical therapy for diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, and diabetes, very few treatments are as effective, or as longlasting, as weight loss, exercise and proper nutrition - and of course, smoking cessation in those that smoke. However, I also realize that exercising every day and eating "right" can be challenging on many levels, not the least of which is understanding how to eat right and what type of exercise is best. These type of lifestyle changes also require us to change our habits, our schedules, and most frustratingly, the comfort-giving routines that we have been entrenched in for weeks, months and sometimes years.
The DASH diet. DASH actually stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. The basics: eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, low-fat dairy foods, as well as poultry, fish, meat, nuts and beans. The amounts of added fats, red meat, and sugary drinks and foods are limited - as is salt.
So how good is this diet? the NIH studied patients on the DASH diet as if they were studying a new medicine and found that:
Patients with pre-hypertension who followed the DASH eating plan experienced an average drop of 6 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 3 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure.
Patients with hypertension experienced reductions of 11 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 6 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure.
Not too shabby for changing the food that you eat. Most pharmaceutical companies would brag about this type of data if they could reliably produce it.
You need more reasons you say? How about the fact that U.S. News & World Report just ranked the DASH diet as Best Overall Diet. A panel of experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and food psychology reviewed 29 diets and ranked them according to safety, short-term and long-term weight loss, how easy they were to follow, nutritional completeness, diabetes prevention and management, and heart disease prevention.
The diets were ranked according to a star system, with five stars being the best score. Below are the diets which ranked best:
DASH diet - 4.1 stars. Nutritionally complete, safe, can prevent and control diabetes, also promotes heart health.
TLC diet - 4 stars. TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. This diet was created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to reduce levels of cholesterol. The panel said it is a healthy, well rounded diet. However, the dieter is left very much on his/her own.
Mayo Clinic diet - 3.9 stars. Experts say it is safe and nutritious, and moderately effective for those aiming to lose weight. How can you go wrong with the Mayo?
Mediterranean diet - 3.9 stars. The diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and other healthy nutrients. It was criticized for being too different to what Americans are used to and may consequently be hard to keep up.
Weight Watchers - 3.9 stars. This diet was praised for the emotional support dieters receive, as well as being an easy one to stick to.
Above you will find links to where you can find and download the DASH Diet (YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BUY THE BOOK BECAUSE ALL THE INFO IS PUBLISHED FREE HERE) and all the other Top 5 diets. The best of them are free but others come with a fee and for some, that is a motivating factor, i.e. 'I payed for it, I better do it' phenomenon. Each of the above diets are good for you and often times the one that seems most appealing and realistic for you will be the best one. At the very least, if you are not a structured diet person, here's a few simple tips on how to lose weight:
1. Limit your portion size. A good rule of thumb is that each portion should be no bigger than your fist.
2. Limit your intake of rice, pasta, potatoes and bread. These complex carbohydrates are heavy in calories, low in protein, and all eventually are converted to sugars. Replace the starchy sides with vegetables, e.g. curry roasted or pureed cauliflower (tastes like mashed potatoes), quinoa, string beans, etc
3. Eliminate all sugary drinks from your diet - particularly sodas. Empty calories with no nutritional benefit.
4. Exercise 4-6 days per week. Even 30 mins of walking on the treadmill with a modest incline would be greatly beneficial to you in the longterm. '