Thursday, March 28, 2013

Is The DASH Diet The Right Weight Loss Plan For You?

On the face of it, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has all the hallmarks of another ‘fad’. It was developed by Marla Heller and promises to help you lose weight within 14 days before offering a maintenance plan to keep the pounds off for good. You don’t have to count calories, eat unhealthily or spend hours exercising. Does it all sound too good to be true? We can soothe your fears by confirming that the DASH diet has actually been approved by numerous physicians in the United States as well as gaining endorsements from the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

How Does The DASH Diet Work?
It could be considered a ‘crash diet’ but unlike other diets of this nature, the DASH diet actually improves your health and helps you sustain your weight loss. Heller says that you need to focus on the types of food you are eating rather than calorie counting. She suggests eating healthy fats and lean proteins and has designed two separate phases. The diet also promises to help you lose weight around your midsection in particular while lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol which in turn reduces the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Phase One
This is a low carbohydrate period with dieters encouraged to eat a protein rich diet. You will eat foods that fill you up while avoiding wholegrains, starchy vegetables and fruit. The low carbohydrate and low sugar diet immediately triggers fast weight loss. This phase lasts for 14 days and is comprised of three meals that are high in protein and low in saturated fat. You are also allowed an optional pre-dinner snack.

Heller says that high intensity cardio should be avoided and dieters are better off sticking to 30 minutes of walking or similarly low intensity exercise a day. You’ll need more sleep, less caffeine and more fluids.

Phase Two
During Phase One, you should have improved your eating habits. Now, you are allowed add wholegrains, fruit and starchy vegetables to the diet while your exercise regime should be intensified. Here is an overview of the DASH Diet food allowance (based on a 2,000 calorie a day intake):
  • Grains – 7-8 servings daily
  • Fruits – 4-5
  • Vegetables – 4-5
  • Low fat/non dairy foods – 2-3
  • Lean meats/poultry/fish – < 2
  • Seeds/nuts/legumes – 4-5
  • Fats & sweets – < 5 a week
The fact that the DASH diet has gained positive attention from physicians and medical bodies in the United States speaks volumes about its potential. While it is never easy to give up your favorite foods, you are not completely restricted and the initial 14 day phase can really kick start your weight loss. It may appear to be a fad diet on the surface but in reality, the DASH diet offers a realistic long-term eating plan that seems to get results.
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