Mediterranean and DASH Diets: Heart Healthiest
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
The Mediterranean and DASH Diets Top the List
It's almost too good to be true foods such as whole
grain pasta, seafood, nuts, fruits, beans and olive oil
are not only nutritious and delicious but about as
healthy as it gets.
The DASH diet Dietary Approaches to Stop
Hypertension was recently named the healthiest
overall diet by US News and World Report. The diet
became popular after a research study demonstrated
that a diet rich in mostly plant foods could lower
blood pressure. Following a DASH plan can lower
blood pressure within two weeks and also can be an
excellent weight loss plan.
Some experts consider the Mediterranean diet rich
in plant foods and monounsaturated fats like olive
oil to be the poster child for a heart healthy diet.
The Mediterranean diet has long been associated with
heart health, longevity and more benefits. Beyond
that, it also can be an excellent weight loss plan, as
long as you eat in moderation.
Following either a DASH or Mediterranean diet is
an investment in good health. Both diets are used as
examples in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as a model
for heart healthy eating.
"The Dash and Mediterranean diets provide similar
recommendations with their strong base of fruits,
vegetables, whole grains and healthier fats from oils
and nuts" says Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, LD and
author of The Everything Mediterranean Diet Book.
The DASH Diet Plan
The DASH diet eating plan lowers blood pressure,
cholesterol and promotes weight loss when consumed
in combination with physical activity.1
A key feature of the DASH diet is to limit sodium
to 1500-2400 mg/day while enjoying more plantbased
foods, and less poultry, fish, nuts and very small
amounts of red meat, sweets and sweetened beverages.
Most DASH plans are based on the standard
reference 2000 calorie diet, which includes the
- 4-5 servings fruits
- 4-5 servings vegetables
- 2-3 servings low fat or non-fat dairy
- 7-8 servings grains
- 2 or less servings of lean meat, poultry or fish
- 4-5 servings nuts, seeds, beans per week
- 2-3 servings fats and oils
- <5 servings of sweets per week
Eggs are not typically eaten on the DASH diet, but
Columbia University's Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD,
CDE, says there is room at the table for them. "Eggs
have lots of good nutrition, excellent protein, lutein,
iron and low in saturated fat" she says. According to
the AHA, an egg a day is OK for healthy adults.
The Mediterranean Diet Plan
There is no one Mediterranean diet, instead it is
a dietary pattern of countries located around the
Mediterranean Sea and is based on fresh, seasonal,
less-processed and healthy foods. Generally, most
diets emphasize a plant-based diet with moderate
amounts of dairy (not necessarily low fat), a broader
selection of protein sources, plenty of heart healthy
fats and alcohol. Portion sizes and numbers of
servings are not as specific as the DASH diet and
instead they are provided in general terms.