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What Is the DASH Diet (and Should You Try It)?
Liz Andrew/Erin McDowell

So, counting calories and eliminating entire food groups isn’t your thing (ours neither). But eating well and taking care of your health, on the other hand, is something you can totally get on board with. Enter the DASH diet, the doctor-recommended healthy eating plan that’s refreshingly doable.

So, what exactly is it? DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (aka high blood pressure), and the diet encourages lowering sodium intake and eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods in order to do exactly that.

But I don’t have problems with my blood pressure. No biggie—the DASH diet can benefit anyone, regardless of their BP measurement.

What’s on the menu? The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean Diet with a focus on fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein, nuts and legumes. A typical day might start with a whole-wheat bagel and a few tablespoons of no-salt-added peanut butter, followed by a veggie-packed salad for lunch and then a salmon and farro grain bowl for dinner. The menu is pretty flexible, but you should limit fatty meats, full-fat dairy, processed foods, sugar and salt.

How much salt is too much? The DASH diet recommends that most people stick to less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day (approximately 3/4 teaspoon), although people without risk for hypertension can eat up to 2,300 mg per day (about one teaspoon).

And why should I try it? The DASH diet has been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. These results combined with how easy the diet is to follow has earned it top marks on the U.S. News Best Diets list for several years, and it’s also recommended by The American Heart Association. Oh, and just in case you need another reason to give it a go, there’s also evidence to suggest that you’ll lose weight on the DASH diet.

Any drawbacks? Eating out can be tricky, since restaurants love to add copious amounts of salt to their food. Your best bet is to ask for steamed veggies, dressings and sauces on the side and no added salt.

Bottom line: The DASH diet offers smart guidelines for eating more nutritious foods and limiting bad ones. It’s gimmick-free, easy to follow and backed by research. And it also lets you eat (whole wheat) pasta—always a win in our books.

RELATED: 5 Diets That Actually Work (and 3 That Definitely Don’t), According to Nutritionists

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