DASH Diet and Diabetes: A Perfect Prescription - dummies

DASH Diet and Diabetes: A Perfect Prescription

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a terrific diet for people with diabetes or for those trying to lower their risk (like people with pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome) because it features a good amount of carbs — and we’re talking complex carbs, not the stuff you get at the drive-through.

A study of more than 40,000 health professionals found that those whose diets most closely mimicked DASH had a 25 percent lower likelihood of developing diabetes.

The researchers attributed this result to the complex (versus simple) carbohydrates, higher fiber, greater levels of magnesium, lower amounts of saturated fat, and substantial servings of dairy protein in the DASH-type diets. All these components of DASH have been connected to a lower risk for diabetes.

Even if you already have diabetes, adopting the DASH way of eating can really help. One study showed that individuals assigned to the DASH diet dropped hemoglobin A1C by a substantial 1.7 points after just eight weeks on the diet, even when calories were held steady, compared to the other group who ate a typical diet. As expected, lipids and blood pressure improved significantly in the DASH group, too.

DASH is important for what it offers as well as for what it eliminates. The DASH diet limits sweets, as does any plan for eating well with diabetes. And we’re not just talking about dessert.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are one sneaky source of added sugar in the diet; some preliminary research suggests that drinking just one or two sugary drinks daily may increase your risk for diabetes, although your overall diet impacts risk as well. Other than in cases of hypoglycemia, sugar-sweetened beverages really have no place in a diet for someone with diabetes.

More recent research that builds on the DASH diet’s foundation has suggested that adding more monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and canola oil, can be especially helpful in diabetes. The OmniHeart study took a DASH-style regimen and replaced just 10 percent of the daily calories originally assigned to carbs with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

By making this minor but important change, insulin sensitivity improved. If you have diabetes, pre-diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, or even if you just want to stay well, DASH (with a dollop of olive oil) may be just what the doctor ordered.