You may have read that US News recently named the DASH Diet or eating plan as the Number 1 overall Best Diet. It was also rated as #1 Best Diet for Healthy Eating and Best for Heart Health as well. The diet also ranked high in the categories Diabetes Diet, Easy to Follow Diets and Best weight Loss Diets.

As you can see the DASH Eating Plan is a well-balanced plan for anyone to follow. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and was developed through research funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It has been shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure and blood lipid levels, which ultimately reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease. This plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and seeds, nuts, and legumes. It also recommends limiting sugary beverages, sweets, sodium, and red meats. The DASH diet is rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium, which are protective against high blood pressure.

In November 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines related to the prevention, detection, evaluation and management of high blood pressure in adults. Adult blood pressure is considered normal if it is lower than 120 over 80. The changes include calling it as elevated at 120 – 129 over 80 and high blood pressure stage 1 anything over 130 – 139 over 80 – 89. Stage 2 high blood pressure is identified as 140 or higher over 90 or higher. A new category, Hypertensive Crisis occurs when blood pressure is over 180 over 120, when this occurs you should seek medical attention immediately.

The DASH Eating plan includes 4 – 5 servings of both fruits and vegetables. A serving is one cup raw or ½ cup cooked or juice. You should include 7-8 servings of whole grains, each slice of bread or half a bun counts as a serving as well as ½ cup cooked rice, grain or pasta.

You should eat 2 – 3 servings of low or no fat milk, yogurt or cheese. A serving is 1 cup milk or yogurt and 1½ ounce of cheese.

The DASH eating plan also emphasizes on consuming lean meats, poultry, and fish rather than meats with a high saturated fat content. Eggs are also an excellent source of lean protein. Red meat can be included in the DASH Eating Plan, but consumption should be limited and leaner varieties, such as strip steak or 90 percent lean ground beef are recommended. You need 6 or less ounces a day with an egg counting as one ounce.

The eating plan also includes eating a low fat diet, limiting butter, salad dressings and oil used in food preparation. The DASH plan also includes limiting sugar in the diet to 5 or less tablespoons a week.

To add more fruits and vegetables throughout the day try topping oatmeal or yogurt with fresh banana slices, berries, or peaches, having sliced fresh fruit or vegetable for a snack. (Add a yogurt dip), cover a sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and a few thin avocado slices to replace the mayo. Center meals around vegetables. Try a meatless meal several times a week. Stir some cooked veggies, like broccoli, zucchini, or carrots, into a spaghetti sauce, soup, or casserole and reduce the amount of meat in a recipe and then replace it with vegetables.

A quick healthy meal might be stir-fry with a variety of vegetables and a little chicken or beef. Using whole grain rice makes the meal even healthier. If you are using to oven to prepare dinner roast your vegetables for a change that brings out the natural freshness and flavor.

Roasted Vegetables - Preheat your oven to 425o. In a baking pan combine 2 medium red onions cut into eighths, 2 small yellow summer squash, cut into ½” slices, 2 small zucchini, cut into ½” slices 3 red, yellow and/or green sweet peppers, and cut into ½” slices 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced. In a shaker jar combine 2 T fresh parsley, 2 T Balsamic Vinegar, 1 T olive oil, 1 t dried oregano, ½ t salt, and ¼ t black pepper. Drizzle seasoning, oil and vinegar over vegetables and toss vegetables to coat. Roast vegetables in a 425° oven for 25 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender, stirring twice. This will make 8 ½-cup servings. You can adjust the recipe for a smaller amount or use the remaining vegetable sin a quick stir-fry.

Making a few changes to your daily diet, following the DASH Eating Plan and increasing the exercise level will improve your health and wellness.