Dieting is a dreadful word.
It starts with bright eyed optimism on New Year's Day, and typically dissolves in tears, and an additional 3 pounds by June.
And it seems that everyone is on a diet these days - diets for weight loss, for better skin, for gluten intolerance, for detoxification... The list is endless, and to the average person out there, the choices are positively mind boggling.
To help you break this information down, we're going to share one of our favourite diets to promote weight loss, wellness and all-round healthy living.
Ever heard of the DASH Diet? If you haven't, it's about time!
This snazzy-sounding diet is an all-star, coming out tops as 'Best Overall Diet' in the 2015 U.S. News and World Report "Best Diet Rankings".
The annual list, curated by an expert panel of 32 reviewers from the fields of nutrition, dietics, diabetes care and heart health, is selected based on factors including nutritional completeness, diabetic and heart health compatibility, effectiveness of weight loss, and sustainability.
The DASH diet didn't just top the list this year, it's been in top spot for its FIFTH year running!
As further testament to its health promoting capability, the DASH diet is endorsed by the American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the Mayo Clinic.
What is the DASH diet exactly?
Originally formulated for patients with high blood pressure, this diet has evolved into a one stop solution for those not only looking to lose weight, but combat high cholesterol and diabetes as well. The additional health benefits of this diet are endless, with research showing that it reduces the rate of strokes, heart failure, heart disease, kidney disease and even some forms of cancer!
The principles of the DASH diet are simple - it's the anti diet, really. No complicated recipes with obscure ingredients, no unreasonable food group elimination, no tedious calorie counting.
Instead, the DASH diet advocates the use of simple meal plans, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish, and heart healthy fats. Each meal plan contains optimal servings of all food groups, effortlessly fulfilling the daily requirements for nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fibre, thus helping to achieve healthy and fully balanced nutrition.
So how does one use the DASH diet?
First, you start by calculating your daily calorie requirement.
A person's daily calorie needs are calculated by factoring in age, height, activity level, and current weight.
On average, a sedentary 50kg woman requires approximately 1500 calories a day, but if you're an active person, your calorie allowance could actually be nearer to 1800 a day.
Try it out - calculate your daily calorie needs here
In order to achieve weight loss, your body needs to be in negative energy balance.
So once you have your estimated daily calorie requirement, simply refer to the pre-set DASH meal plans, and pick the one that's less than, but closest to your calculated daily needs.
The DASH meal plan is simple and intuitive. Each meal plan displays the total calories, divided up into daily servings of several food groups. For example, if you're on a 1200 calorie diet plan, you are allowed 4-5 servings of grains, 3-4 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of meat.
The plan also provides examples of a normal serving size, for you to better estimate the amount you're allowed to eat per serving.
Click here for more details on the meal plan, and examples of serving sizes on the DASH diet.
This diet is great for all of us busy women!
It allows for plenty of flexibility - simply spread out your food group allowance across the day, mixing and matching the food groups within each meal.
Some tips to make the best of the plan?
1. Mix things up
Include lean protein and vegetables in most meals - vegetables increase volume without piling on added calories, and protein increases satiety.
Together, they keep you fuller for longer, helping you to avoid reaching for the cookie jar or that bag of chips at tea time.
2. Get active
Add some physical activity in your new routine.
Start with a short walk around the block, and slowly work your way up to 30 minutes of moderate activity a day. Exercise burns calories, contributing to your daily negative calorie balance. But it also promotes lean muscle mass growth, which helps to raise your basal metabolic rate - these are the calories that your body burns even when you're at rest.
The higher your lean muscle mass, the more calories you burn, even when you're asleep, or vegging in front of the telly.
3. Limit the salt
Too much salt is bad for the body, and your waistline!
Excess salt prompts your body to retain water, leading to bloating and puffiness, and increased weight. It also raises your blood pressure, which in the long run can lead to strokes and heart disease.
Opt for low sodium options wherever possible, and for fuller flavour, swap out the salt for herbs and spices in your food prep.
So that's the DASH diet in a nutshell!
It's easy and fuss free - give it a go! It will not only whittle your waist down, it'll make your body healthier and happier too!
Author Bio: Dr Rachel Ng is extremely passionate about promoting women's health and wellness in Singapore. As a female herself, she fully understands the concerns and needs of women as patients, and works actively towards optimising their general health. Stay tuned for more of her articles on women's wellness, and in her ongoing Heart Health Series!
COPYRIGHT © 2015. DR TAN and PARTNERS (SINGAPORE). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.