For the seventh consecutive year, the DASH diet was ranked “Best Diet Overall” by
U.S. News & World Report, beating out the Mediterranean diet (which moved up in the rankings from 4th place to 2nd) and MIND, which aims to
prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The DASH diet was developed by the National Institutes of Health to help lower blood pressure without medication — DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”— with weight loss as a side benefit. The diet focuses on cutting sodium and eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods that help control blood pressure naturally — foods high in fiber,
potassium, calcium and magnesium.
A factor in the DASH diet’s popularity is that it’s easy to follow and, unlike many popular diets, it doesn’t rely on eliminating entire food elements (like gluten), but rather emphasizes eating more of what you know is good for you (fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins) and less of what isn’t (processed foods or foods high in fat, calories or sodium).
DASH may be popular, but is it a healthy way to eat? Christine Zoumas, RD, senior dietitian and director of the Healthy Eating Program at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, says yes. “DASH, with its emphasis on plant-based foods and lean proteins, is sticking closely to
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which we know is the best resource for how to eat a healthy diet.”
Zoumas also likes that DASH isn’t highly restrictive: “No one’s going to have a good diet if they’re miserable eating it because they won’t stick to it.” She says that an important factor in sticking with a healthy diet is creating an eating plan that you can follow for the rest of your life, as opposed to following a diet for a small period of time to lose a few pounds. “When you take a healthy diet and you make it into a healthy dietary pattern, you’ll have an easier time sticking to it and this is going to help you have better health overall and reduce your risk of disease.” While the stated goal of DASH is to help control a medical condition (high blood pressure), it's a good guide for those looking to get more healthy fruits, vegetables and fats into their diets.
We asked Zoumas and her team, who
lead nutrition and cooking classes for cancer patients and cancer survivors, to share a couple of recipes that are nutritious, delicious and DASH-friendly.
The first is an interesting spin on a Chinese take-out favorite: fried rice. Using chopped or “riced” cauliflower as its base, this dish is great way to get in your required daily vegetable servings. Cauliflower has a similar nutritional profile to broccoli and other cabbages and its relatively
mild flavor takes well to spices, like the ginger and garlic featured in this dish. Bags of riced cauliflower are available in the produce section at most markets, which makes this dish an excellent choice for a weeknight meal, and, at just 166 calories per serving, it will fill you up without loading you down.
Chicken Cauliflower Fried Rice
- 2 tsps. canola oil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup frozen mixed peas and carrots, thawed
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 (14 ounce) bag riced cauliflower
- 2 tbsps.low-sodium soy sauce plus more for serving (optional)
- 1 tbspn. sesame oil
- 1 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
- hot sauce for serving (optional)
- Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add 1 tsp. of canola oil to pan.
- Add the egg and quickly scramble. Transfer cooked egg to plate and set aside.
- Add remaining tsp. of oil to skillet.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Don't let garlic burn.
- Add the peas and carrots and cauliflower, stirring until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the soy sauce and sesame oil, stirring to combine.
- Add chicken, stir and cook for additional 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add cooked egg and scallions, stir to combine.
- Serve with your favorite hot sauce or additional low-sodium soy sauce if desired.
Vegetable spring rolls are a fun and fancy way to make a low calorie, low sodium, high-nutrient appetizer. This version features carrots and red cabbage, which are full of plant nutrients, avocado,
a rich source of monounsaturated fats, and fresh herbs. The wrappers and noodles can be kept in the pantry, ready to roll any time you have extra veggies on hand. You can also substitute the noodles with a lean protein, such as salmon, or tofu.
Vietnamese Vegetable Spring Rolls
- 8 cups of water, boiled and kept on warm
- 12 spring roll rice paper wrappers
- 2 ounces vermicelli rice noodles (follow cooking instructions on package)
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
- 1/2 avocado, sliced
- 1 small cucumber, julienned
- 1/2 cup cilantro sprigs
- 24 mint leaves
- crushed peanuts, for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 cup peanut dipping sauce or low-sodium soy sauce for serving
- To soften the rice paper, fill a shallow pie plate or small bowl with warm water. Soak one rice paper sheet at a time for 5 seconds or until slightly pliable. Transfer to a clean cutting board or plate.
- Work from the center of the rice paper wrapper, leaving about 1 inch for folding border.
- Place about 2 tbspns. of noodles on the wrapper.
- Top noodles with a small amount of shredded carrots and cabbage, a few pieces of cucumber, once avocado slice, a couple of sprigs of cilantro and 2 mint leaves. Be careful not to overstuff.
- Fold the sides of the rice paper over the filling, then bring bottom up over the filling and tuck while rolling tightly.
- Place on a platter, seam-side down and continue rolling remaining 11 sheets.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature with dipping sauce.