The DASH diet was rated the best diet of 2014 for the fourth consecutive year because of its effectiveness at producing weight loss and improving overall health.
"The DASH diet is very effective for both short and long-term weight loss," said nutritionist and fitness author Rosanne Rust. "It’s easy and safe, and evidence-based."
The guidelines for the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) include the following:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy.
- Avoid red meat, high-fat sweets and snacks.
- Limit salt and sodium intake.
Rust said the DASH Diet deserves its top rating because it has been consistently identified as the most effective diet for lowering blood pressure, promoting weight loss, and protecting against heart disease and diabetes.
Experts say they like the DASH diet (which is similar to the highly-rated Mediterranean diet) because it's not restrictive and is convenient. The main thing is to limit sodium intake.
"The DASH diet goal for sodium is a daily intake of 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams," said Rust. "For most people, this is low. Your goal should be to use the saltshaker less often, and add less salt to food in cooking and at the table."
While some popular diets eliminate dairy, the DASH Diet encourages the consumption of dairy, saying research has shown that regular dairy consumption reduces blood pressure.
"The diets that included dairy clearly lowered blood pressure more than the diets without dairy," said Rust. "Consuming three to four servings daily of low-fat or nonfat dairy foods can lower blood pressure and promote weight loss."