Health Benefits of the DASH Diet and 9 Delicious Recipes

It’s been ranked the No. 1 Best Diet Overall for five years in a row by “U.S. News & World Report.” No, it’s not some gimmicky, quick-results-promised fad diet. This diet -- the DASH diet (“DASH” is the acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) -- was developed for research sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was originally designed to help lower blood pressure by way of diet. Interestingly, the plan showed improvements in other areas of health, such as reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. And, yes, weight loss! So how does one get started on the DASH diet? The plan is based on eating real foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables. It encourages low-fat or non-fat dairy, plus whole grains and some nuts, beans and seeds. While emphasizing lower sodium intake, the DASH diet plan is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium and fiber. Lean meats, fish and poultry are included, but the plan can be followed by vegetarians too. Overall, the DASH diet plan is a healthful, flexible eating approach. It can be delicious. Give it a try by enjoying these tasty DASH diet-friendly recipes!

1. Grilled Banana Split Breakfast Bowl, Eating plenty of produce is a key part of the DASH diet plan. You’ll kick-start your day on a healthy note by enjoying a big, scrumptious bowl of fruits for breakfast. And you’ll be delighted that this recipe is inspired by dessert: a banana split! Here you’ll be quickly grilling or pan-grilling the banana for taste intrigue. (You can skip the grilling if you’re in a rush.) A naturally flavored fat-free Greek yogurt is the dairy pick of choice, which provides high-quality protein to balance the meal. Plus, there’s a little sprinkling of chocolate chips for added flavor and fun, showcasing that chocolate needs to be limited, but not off limits. CALORIES: 496

2. Herbed Wild Mushroom Oatmeal, If you compare a breakfast bowl of cornflakes to oatmeal, the oatmeal provides more satiety (a feeling of fullness) and may contribute to lower calorie intake at lunchtime. That’s what a new study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism finds. This recipe is a bowl of delightful, filling oatmeal, but with a twist. Rather than adding anything fruity or sugary, this oatmeal is 100 percent savory. It’s packed with sauteed wild mushrooms, and fresh rosemary provides an herbal note. The star is the egg on top. You can sprinkle the oatmeal with Romano cheese, if you prefer. It’s kind of like risotto. And it’s a breakfast-recipe keeper. CALORIES: 252

3. Easy Middle Eastern Hummus Wrap, Wraps are an ideal culinary vehicle in which to easily boost vegetable intake. It doesn’t get much simpler than tossing ingredients onto a tortilla and wrapping them up for lunch. For this recipe, you’ll start with a whole-grain tortilla -- just an eight-inch one to assure it can hold the fillings, but without providing excess carbs. Then you’ll stuff the wrap with fresh ingredients offering Middle Eastern flair. Hummus is the main feature, so choose one that you love -- or make your own. Tomato, cucumber, red onion and baby lettuce give body and bite. Lemon zest or sumac (a Middle Eastern spice) provides cool tang. And the addition of fragrant fresh mint makes this vegetarian wrap seem extra special! CALORIES: 302

4. Leafy Rotisserie Chicken Salad With Creamy Tarragon Dressing, Have a hankering for a creamy, comforting chicken-salad sandwich? Try this: It’ll satisfy your taste buds while still fitting into the DASH diet plan. One trick to keeping it trim is using a cleverly healthful salad dressing. You’ll just toss cannellini or other white beans, white balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh tarragon in a blender and whirl. The beans make it creamy while sneaking extra fiber and protein into your salad. The salad recipe is kept simple from there. You’ll top a bed of mesclun or baby arugula with cubes of rotisserie chicken breast (preferably organic), red grapes, cucumber, toasted pine nuts, more beans and tarragon and black pepper. It’s a winner! CALORIES: 362

5. Spicy Bean Chili, When it’s chilly outside, a bowl of chili can quickly warm you up inside. If you prefer a vegetarian meal, this is it. Luckily, it only requires 20 minutes on the stovetop. It’s loaded with vegetable goodness, including onions, jalapenos, kidney beans and canned tomatoes. Interestingly, when tomatoes are processed to create the canned version, it makes the carotenoid lycopene in the tomatoes more available to your body than it is from fresh tomatoes. Lycopene, an antioxidant as well as a pigment that makes tomatoes red, is associated with lower risk of prostate, lung and stomach cancers. So you’ll be able to slurp up this robust chili knowing it has benefits beyond just fitting into the DASH diet. CALORIES: 273

6. Spinach-Stuffed Turkey-Burger Patties, Can’t decide whether you’d like a veggie or a turkey burger? You don’t have to. You can sink your teeth into both -- all in one patty! Basically, this starts as a turkey burger, then the addition of a significant amount of fresh baby spinach gives it vegetable-lovers’ appeal. It incorporates other nutritious ingredients, such as oats, garlic, lemon juice and an egg, to provide a just-right taste and texture too. Worth noting is that the duo of spinach and egg provides a healthful dose of eye-friendly lutein and zeaxanthin. Serve this bodacious burger as desired, such as on a whole-grain bun with your favorite vegetable toppings and a dab of Dijon. CALORIES: 172

7. Super Green Smoothie, Drinking a smoothie as a snack can be one of the easiest and tastiest ways to enjoy fruits or vegetables or both. The bevy of produce as well as the natural vivid green color of this recipe indicates it’s one of the healthiest. The fruit highlight here is mango, which provides all of the vitamin C you need in the day in one serving of this smoothie. It also features fresh ginger and jalapeno, giving it a nice kick. If you like, whirl up the smoothie in the blender, pour it into a thermos or reusable bottle and take it to go. Just keep it chilled and drink it preferably within a couple of hours. It’s a quenching treat for your taste buds. CALORIES: 133

8. Ricotta and Pomegranate Bruschetta, Bruschetta is traditionally Italian garlic toasts with a tomato-based topping. Nowadays it’s common to call any topped appetizer-size toasts “bruschetta.” This recipe provides a sweet-and-savory way to enjoy these bread-based bites. Small slices of toasted whole-grain fruit-nut bread (like raisin-pecan) are topped with a lemony, low-fat ricotta cheese, sprinkled generously with fresh pomegranate arils (seeds) and accented with fresh thyme. Pomegranate arils aren’t just uniquely chewy and sweet, they’re a great source of fiber. All together, this fruity take on bruschetta is a palate-pleasing bite that seems rather luscious. Serve it up at your next party. CALORIES: 261

9. Chocolate-Mint “Ice Cream”, This technically isn’t ice cream. But it’s amazing how much it seems like it, considering that it’s made with just three simple ingredients: frozen bananas, cocoa powder and peppermint extract. The texture of it is spot on. The full-flavored combination of cocoa and peppermint helps disguise the banana flavor. You’re basically getting a potassium-rich fruit serving in one of the most dessert-like ways possible. The bonus is that it’s so easy to make -- just purée it in a food processor. That’s it. Have a supersize scoop of it right after a workout. Your muscles will thank you! CALORIES: 94