Diets and dietary plans have been around for centuries. So how do you know what diet is best for you? And how can you determine which one is based on sound science vs. all hype? Let’s start with what we know about the steadfast #1 according to U.S. News rankings for Best Diets Overall – the DASH diet – and two that moved their way up the list this year that peaked our interest – the MIND diet and the Whole30 program. As you will see, these three diets recommend the removal of certain components from your diet such as sugar or other inflammatory ingredients.
- The DASH diet is a clinically researched diet rich in fruits, vegetables (especially green, leafy ones), and low-fat dairy foods and with reduced saturated and total fat that can substantially lower blood pressure. This diet is commonly used by those interested in supporting healthy blood pressure levels through the food they eat.
- The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diet, and specifies a diet heavy in vegetables and berries. It focuses on foods that may help support brain health, but it is so new that there are still more long-term, randomized comparison studies needed to support certain healthy benefits associated with this diet and to determine if it can be practical and effective.
- The Whole30 Program rules are to eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. The Whole30 diet does not have any published clinical trials on its results but many people report less aches and pains, and feeling much more energy.
THE COMMON THREAD BETWEEN THESE EATING PLANS? LEAFY GREENS.
All of these diets have different health benefits associated with them. Although they are somewhat different, they all have a common thread. That common thread is the consumption of large amounts of green leafy vegetables. It has been known for decades that green leafy vegetables are extremely healthy and provide valuable vitamins and nutrients to support healthy aging. But there is more to the heart healthy benefits linked to eating dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach than what meets the eye.
WHAT YOU MAY BE MISSING:
NITRATE – THE “UNKNOWN NUTRIENT”
For years, scientists and nutritionists have thought that the reason these types of diets are healthy is through vitamins like Vitamins C, E, A & K and antioxidants like polyphenols naturally found in vegetables. More recently, it has been revealed that one of the reasons for the heart health benefits of green leafy vegetables is due to the presence of dietary nitrate. Dietary nitrate is converted into nitrite and Nitric Oxide in the human body.
Nitric Oxide is one of the most important molecules produced in your body and can help protect the cardiovascular system.
Nitrates can be found in high concentration in green leafy vegetables, but the amount of nitrate depends on the type of vegetable, the soil conditions, amount of sunlight and rain as well as the time of harvest. The amount of nitrate in any given vegetable may vary by as much as 30 fold or 3,000%. What that means is that you do not know if you are consistently getting enough dietary nitrate from the vegetables you eat every day to get the heart-healthy benefits from eating plans like the DASH diet.
WHEN TO EAT AND WHEN TO SUPPLEMENT
Although diets and specific foods from certain diets are extremely healthy and can dramatically improve your health, there is no standardization of vitamins, mineral and other nutrients such as nitrate in the vegetables you’re eating every day. That is where supplementing your diet with functional food supplements may help. It is well established in the scientific and medical literature that one needs at least 300mg of nitrate to see any improvements in blood pressure and circulation. On average, the typical diet only provides about 150mg nitrate per day. Therefore, you should consider supplementing your daily diet with a safe, effective and standardized functional food supplement designed to provide the right nutrient at the right time so that you can maximize your diet and desired health benefits. Take the guess work out of your diet and the uncertainty whether you are getting sufficient nitrate from your diet.
FACT or FAD?
The DASH diet: Fact. There is a reason the DASH diet consistently makes everyone’s top heart-healthy eating plans to try. It has been scientifically researched and is the basis for the current healthy eating patterns recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There have been many peer reviewed published studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the DASH diet.
The MIND diet: Too soon to tell. As mentioned previously, the MIND diet has shown positive early results, but it is still new enough that there are more long-term, randomized comparison studies needed to support certain healthy benefits associated with this diet. Since this is a combination of the DASH diet and the Mediterranean Diet plans, I predict this diet will prove to be factual. Both DASH and Mediterranean are proven diet patterns.
The Whole30 diet: Fad. Although this diet consists of foods recommended to eat along with foods you should exclude, there are no published studies or real research behind this diet. Until this diet can be proven in peer reviewed clinical studies, we cannot call it factual and it may just be a fad.