Wondering what the best diet program is? U.S. News and World Report evaluated and ranked 35 diets with input from a panel of health experts. To be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, and effective for weight loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease. Tied for second (the winner for the 5th year in a row) was the government-endorsed Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
What Is the DASH Diet?
The DASH diet was originally designed to lower blood pressure. It is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fats, cholesterol, refined grains, sodium, and sweets. The recipes in the PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook, along with its four-week meal plans, are consistent with these guidelines.
Although there is no specific diet for PCOS based on available research, of all the diets out there, the DASH diet is a great one for people living with PCOS.
In a study published in the Journal of Hormone and Metabolic Research, overweight women with PCOS who followed the DASH eating plan lost abdominal fat and showed significant improvements in insulin resistance and inflammation markers.
Easy to Follow
One of the best things about the DASH diet and a factor that helped it to rank highly among health experts is that it’s so easy to follow.
No tracking points, carbohydrates, or calories with this diet. All you have to do is cut back on sugary, salty, and high saturated fat foods and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables that you eat.
Rich in Fruits and Vegetables
The DASH diet recommends 4 to 5 servings of both fruits and vegetables. This is because these foods contain nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber that are important for fighting high blood pressure. These nutrients can also help improve insulin and glucose levels.
American guidelines recommend women consume a minimum of 25 grams of fiber each day. This amount can easily be met on the DASH diet. Besides helping to lower cholesterol, fiber fills you up and keeps you satisfied longer. Fiber also helps to manage glucose and insulin levels.
Low in Sodium
Too much sodium can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk for coronary heart disease. Most Americans exceed the Dietary Guidelines daily limit of 2300 milligrams of sodium daily. In fact, just one teaspoon of salt provides 2300 milligrams of sodium.
Designed for people with high blood pressure, the lower sodium DASH diet recommends keeping sodium intake under 1500 milligrams, the maximum amount of sodium the American Heart Association recommends for people with high blood pressure.
Emphasizes Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes
The DASH diet is a plant-based diet that emphasizes including 4 to 5 servings a week of a variety of nuts, seeds, and legumes (lentils). These foods provide a good source of fiber, as well as magnesium and potassium to lower blood pressure.
Research has indicated that the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) found in nuts can improve insulin, androgens, and cholesterol levels in women with PCOS. Packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals, seeds are also PCOS-friendly food.
Keep in mind that taste buds can take some time to adjust to fresher and lower sodium foods, so it’s important not to get turned off immediately if everything tastes a little different when you make changes.
To replace salt, use fresh herbs, citrus, and salt-free seasonings to bring out the flavorful taste of fresh foods.