image by: Alan Cleaver
When it comes to losing weight there is no shortage of products, diet plans, or advice out there to confuse you. And there is no quick fix, but then there's the DASH diet
There are literally thousands of magazines, books, pills, and infomercials all promising you the easiest, fastest, effortless, weight-loss. Diets that claim you can "eat what you want!" or "pounds melt away!" may be enticing but the reality is that dieting is hard and most diets will eventually fail.
Trendy fad diets will always be around because we’re all looking for a quick fix. Some of these diets are straightforward and simply require you to eliminate fats, carbs or sugars; some require you to get injections or take risky supplements; and some go as far as requiring you to get your stomach surgically stapled or banded.
If none of those options appeal to you there are also a myriad of gizmos and gadgets for you to choose from - weight loss rings, diet soap, and my personal favorite, the Dumbbell phone.
In the United States, Canada and the UK the majority of adults 18 and older are overweight and collectively they spend more than $30 billion a year on weight loss products. And they are still FAT. The simple truth is one must eat less and move more to lose weight. Oh, and you can’t ever stop using that formula or the weight will creep back on… But you know that, right?
So, what do you do with the flood of conflicting and potentially dangerous information bombarding you?
How do you choose a weight loss plan? How do you know you’re not throwing your money away? Will you be left feeling hungry or deprived? Will it be safe? And, more importantly, which weight loss programs really work? U.S. News & World Report may have your answer. 
22 nutrition experts cut through the weight-loss hype to help you lose weight successfully and healthfully. Their experts spent six months researching some of the most popular and controversial diets around. They studied fad diets, commercial diets, heart healthy diets, low carb diets, and diets for diabetics. Each diet was scored on a scale of 1 to 5 in seven categories: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, how easy it is to follow, nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or manage diabetes, and the ability to prevent or manage heart disease.
"The goal of the Best Diets rankings is to help consumers find authoritative guidance on healthful diets that will work for them over the long haul," said Lindsay Lyon, U.S. News's Health News Editor. The overall winner was the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet (DASH).
OK, what's the DASH diet?
Developed by the National Institutes of Health in 1996, the DASH diet is an eating plan designed to help people lower their blood pressure and avoid medications. A study by the NIH found that, "the DASH eating plan reduced blood pressure by an average of 6 mm Hg for systolic and 3 mm Hg for diastolic. It worked even better for those with high blood pressure…the systolic dropped an average of 11 mm Hg, and 6 mm Hg diastolic." The most impressive part is that those results were evident within 2 weeks of starting the eating plan and, as an extra added bonus; it also helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight. 
DASH’s nutritious, no-food-groups-off-limits, (except sodium—no more than one teaspoon per day) make it an easy diet to follow. However, it’s not the go-to diet if you’re trying to get into that bikini by next weekend. It’s a slow and steady diet, which as we’ve all heard a million times is the only way to achieve long term weight loss success. DASH is an eating plan that encourages you to eat a wide variety of whole foods every day. It’s also very flexible and easily adapts to your favorite foods, your lifestyle and most dietary restrictions such as vegetarian, gluten free and kosher. 
The diet itself is a common sense diet. Weird, right?
You make choices based on your preferences. It’s a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, and whole grains. It is also high in fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and low in fat. DASH limits your daily intake of salt, red meat, sweets, sugar, and sugar-containing beverages. Here's a look at the recommended servings from each food group for the 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet.
Grains – 6-8 servings per day
Vegetables – 4-5 servings per day
Fruits – 4-5 servings per day
Low fat dairy – 2-3 servings per day
Lean meats and protein – 6 oz or less per day
Nuts, seeds, legumes – 4-5 per week
Fats and oils – 2-3 servings per day
Sweets – 5 or fewer per week
That’s quite a bit of food for one day; no deprivation on this diet!
The Bottom Line
Most people can lose weight on almost any diet plan that restricts calories, at least in the short term, however, it's incredibly difficult to maintain that weight loss permanently. Research shows that the people who keep weight off for the long term are those who incorporate healthy eating habits, exercise, and the support of friends and family into their lifestyle.
There is no quick fix, but that’s not what the DASH diet is about. So, what do you think of the DASH diet? Best of the Best? I think so. DASH Your Way to a Better Body and a Healthy Heart!
Published August 9, 2011, updated August 2, 2012
1. Best Diets 2012, U.S. News & World Report
2. NHLBI Study Finds DASH Diet And Reduced Sodium Lowers Blood Pressure For All, NIH News Release, NIH, December 17, 2001
3. The DASH Diet Eating Plan, DashDiet.org
4. DASH Diet - The Ultimate Guide, Spa Playground
Stacy Matson, a health enthusiast from Southern California, regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.
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