Navigating our constantly evolving health and wellness landscape is more than a little confusing. One day, juicing is healthy, and the next day, it's not. One decade, fat is the unhealthiest part of a diet, and the next, it's sugar. Pick a diet, exercise, or controversial ingredient, and it's essentially the same story.
Fortunately, it seems that nutrition experts have managed to agree on one important thing: the best diet for your overall health. As our sister site Byrdie reported, US News & World Report has selected the DASH diet as the healthiest overall diet for the seventh year in a row. The news outlet enlisted the expertise of various nationally recognized dietitians, nutritionists, obesity experts, food psychologists, and diabetes and heart disease experts in order to make this decision each year.
DASH stands for "dietary approaches to stop hypertension," also known as high blood pressure. But as Business Insider points out, it's a diet plan for everyone—even those with healthy blood pressure levels. The rankings consider how easy the diet is to follow, its effects on short- and long-term weight loss, how nutritious and safe the diet is, and how well it prevents diabetes and heart disease.
"The DASH diet is really a safe plan for everyone," Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at US News & World Report, told Business Insider. "There's nothing exciting about it, and that's what makes it a good plan. It's not some fad diet making outlandish claims that you can't rely on."
How It Works
Generally speaking, the DASH diet is all about limiting your sodium intake, which takes frozen and prepackaged foods off the menu entirely. Instead, people on the DASH diet stick to fresh produce, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins like fish and poultry. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, this is what a typical day on a 2000 calorie DASH diet meal plan looks like:
Grains: Six to eight servings per day
Vegetables: Four to five servings per day
Fruits: Four to five servings per day
Fat-free or low-fat milk products: Two to three servings per day
Lean meats, poultry, and fish: Six or fewer servings per day
Nuts, seeds, and legumes: Three to five per week
Fats and oils: Two to three servings per day
Sweets and added sugars: Five or fewer per week
Max sodium limit: 2300 milligrams per day
Considering all of the dietary restrictions, the DASH diet can be difficult to adopt. "It does take willpower to stick to that [diet] and cut out things you like," Haupt adds. "Red meat, sugar, salt—these are big parts of most people's diets, and if you've been accustomed to eat those things for so long, then making the changes and sticking to them will definitely take willpower."
Shop the DASH diet informational books and cookbooks below to try the diet yourself.