July 2023

More Positive News for DASH and Mediterranean Diets

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently ranked popular diets based on how well they align with their own recommendations. Here’s what you should know about the winners, and some notable losers.

The DASH Diet ranked the highest with a perfect score of 100. This diet plan was designed to reduce blood pressure, so it’s no surprise that it ranks well with the AHA. It aced all scoring categories, including minimizing added sugars, choosing minimally processed foods, limiting alcohol, and emphasizing plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Additionally, it encourages reducing fat, cholesterol, and salt intake, which aligns well with AHA recommendations.

Also ranking in the top tier was the Mediterranean Diet, receiving a total of 89 points. This plant-based diet focuses on olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and low meat and dairy intake. It’s also very low in processed foods. Compared to AHA recommendations, it scored lower in two specific categories: salt and alcohol intake. The Mediterranean diet allows for moderate to modest amounts of red wine, which isn’t encouraged by the AHA. It also doesn’t restrict salt intake in any way.

The poorest ranking diets are among some of the trendiest: the Keto diet, the Atkins diet, and the Paleo diet. Often touted as “heart healthy,” these diets fell in the bottom tier. The Paleo diet ranked slightly higher with an overall score of 53. But Keto and Atkins were last with a total score of 31. These diets scored poorly for several key AHA categories, including fruit and vegetable intake, healthy plant-based protein intake, salt intake, and whole grain intake. The strictness of these diets also gave them low scores for ease of adherence. The AHA makes a point to acknowledge that many people eat out regularly – diets that are difficult to adhere to outside of the home aren’t great options.

Check out our monographs on Diets & Dietary Modifications to learn more about the benefits and risks associated with each diet.

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