You are here:

DASH or Mediterranean: Which diet is better for you?

Both eating plans have proven health benefits. Deciding which to follow depends on your goals and preferences.

The DASH diet has been named the best diet in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. However, the U.S. government panel writing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans cited the Mediterranean diet as an example of how we should eat. If you’re trying to choose the best eating plan to lower your health risks, which one should it be?

You can’t go wrong with either one, says Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She recommends both to patients. The choice depends on your preferences and what you’re trying to accomplish.

The DASH diet

Although its name may suggest the “grab-and-go” section of the supermarket, DASH is anything but a fast-food regimen. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It includes foods low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Protein is supplied by low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, and nuts. Red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks are limited. DASH is high in fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium and low in sodium. “Research has shown us that the DASH diet is a great diet for people with hypertension or prehypertension. Besides that, it has all the attributes of a diet that promotes overall health,” McManus says.

The Mediterranean diet

Based on the eating patterns of long-lived people on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, this plan doesn’t prescribe specific amounts of any food group. Instead, it offers a pyramid. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetable oils are the base of the diet. Fish are the second tier, with at least two servings weekly suggested. Poultry and dairy are advised in moderation. Meats and sweets are to be consumed “less often.” When the 2015 Dietary Guidelines panelists reviewed research from the past five years on diet and chronic disease, the Mediterranean approach was one of the three model eating patterns they highlighted.

Which one is better for you?

You won’t get far on a diet you don’t like or find hard to prepare, McManus says. “I find out what people are comfortable with, what they might have grown up with, the foods they like. Then we choose a plan that works for them.” For example, if your idea of a wonderful meal is a pile of roasted vegetables and grilled chicken on brown rice, the DASH diet may be the plan for you. On the other hand, if you’d rather fill a plate with hummus, tabouli salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives and enjoy it with a glass of wine, you might find the Mediterranean diet easier to stick with.

Your health and your goals should also figure in. If you’re trying to get enough calcium without resorting to supplements, you may find DASH a little easier to follow. However, if you are lactose intolerant, the Mediterranean diet may be a better choice.

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top