The DASH diet (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was developed by the nutritionist Marla Heller, and was recently voted the healthiest diet in the U.S. by a panel of doctors.
The plan, which is endorsed by The National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute and The American Heart Association, was devised to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and help ward off diabetes. However, its amazing ability to help people lose weight has quickly turned it into a bestseller.
Now, just in time for Christmas, Marla Heller has turbo-charged the original regime to create an even more powerful weight-loss plan.
In this exclusive extract from her new book, The DASH Weight Loss Solution, Heller explains how her simple diet can transform your figure in time for your Christmas party – without counting a single calorie or following a punishing fitness regime.
But unlike other crash diets, which can have an adverse effect on your health, this one is scientifically proven to boost health.
Over the next two weeks, you can not only drop a dress size and flatten your tummy, but fire up your metabolism and train your appetite to resist all those calorific treats you’ll be tempted by over the festive season.
If you’re worrying whether you’ll be able to squeeze into that unforgiving party dress this season, the DASH plan is a godsend.
So how does it work? Instead of counting calories and fussing over fat, Marla Heller says the best way to lose weight is to focus on the type of foods you are eating. The key is to choose lean proteins and healthy fats that will help to fill you up and control your appetite, rather than spend time worrying about the things you need to avoid.
Divided into two phases, the diet promises not only to help you lose weight – in particular around your stomach area – but has been proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and developing diabetes.
Phase One of the DASH diet (the initial two weeks of the programme that we will be outlining here) is a low-carbohydrate transition period designed to reset your metabolism.
This protein-rich eating plan – which cuts out fruit and wholegrains for 14 days – will keep you feeling satisfied for longer and, because it’s low in carbs and sugars, also helps trigger fast, immediately visible weight loss.
Phase Two then reintroduces wholegrains, fruit and starchy vegetables in order to maintain and continue your weight loss, as well as improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Marla Heller says that although the DASH diet is not designed to be an aggressive weight-loss regime, and results will vary from person to person, people tend to lose around 5 lb in the first two weeks – and between 10 lb and 35 lb over a period of two months.
So what are the key things you need to change about your eating habits to see results before Christmas? First, you will learn to consume lots of vegetables. You can eat as much non-starchy veg as you want to – there are no limits. You should also include protein-rich foods, such as lean meat, fish, low-fat cheese and nuts, that increase satiety, helping to reduce snacking by keeping your blood sugar levels more stable.
By cutting out starchy and sugary foods, your metabolism will operate more efficiently, since you will have a reduced demand for insulin (the hormone that keeps blood sugar levels in kilter). You will also notice you are eating lighter, healthier foods, which will make you feel more energized.
Within the first few days, you will notice your waist shrinking as you lose belly fat, which tends to build up when we eat large amounts of carbohydrates.
PHASE 1: Lose that bulge in 14 days
For the next 14 days, include moderate-sized servings of these three food groups in every main meal (i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner). As a guide, a portion of meat, fish and poultry should be the size of your palm. A handful of beans, nuts, lentils and soy foods is about right. A portion of cheese should be the size of a small matchbox.
1. Foods that are protein-rich and low in saturated fat. These include:
- Lean meats
- Fish and poultry
- Beans and lentils
- Soy foods
- Low-fat cheeses
- Unsweetened or artificially sweetened yogurt (one small pot per day)
2. Heart-healthy fats. These are foods that contain omega-3 and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown, if eaten regularly, to have beneficial effects on circulation and reduce the risk of heart disease. Good sources include:
- Vegetable oils, especially olive, rapeseed and nut oils
Note that coconut oil and palm oil are excluded, since they are high in saturated fat, along with salad dressings, especially those based on these two oils.
3. Foods that are protein-rich and contain healthy fats. These include:
- Nuts (preferably non-roasted and unsalted) and seeds
- Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel.
As much sugar-free, fruit-flavored jelly as you want – this will become your fruit and dessert substitute. All vegetables, with the exception of starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, are also unlimited.
Starchy foods (other than beans). This means no: bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, all foods fried in batter, sugary foods (which includes fruit, fresh, frozen, dried or tinned), alcohol, caffeinated beverages, milk.
The DASH diet was developed by the nutritionist Marla Heller and was recently voted the healthiest diet in the US by a panel of doctors
SIX STEPS TO SUCCESS
- Eat three meals a day, plus a morning, afternoon and optional pre-dinner snack. Do not skip any of the main meals or snacks. This will keep your blood sugar steady, and help you avoid hunger.
- Challenging fitness activities such as jogging, Zumba, aerobics, cycling and weight training should be avoided. Instead, try to do no more than 30 minutes of light or moderate activity per day. Moderate activity such as walking or gentle yoga will keep blood sugar stable and burn belly fat.
- Go to bed earlier. You may initially feel less energetic on this two-week “jump start” programme. Don’t worry – your energy levels will go back to normal once you move on to Phase Two of the programme.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine and instead aim for at least eight glasses of water, vegetable juice and herbal tea a day.
- Don’t cut out salt altogether. This 14-day programme can be dehydrating. Without starchy and sugary foods, your body will flush out excess fluid more quickly than usual. Allowing yourself to have plenty of drinks and a moderate amount of salty foods will help prevent too much fluid loss.
- Relax. You may get frustrated in the middle of the jump-start period. Your body is going through lots of changes, all for the better. Keep going – it will get easier. Focus on your weight-loss results. Your success will keep you motivated and make it easier to stay on track. It is absolutely ok to weigh yourself daily; it will build an aura of success. Although weight loss will vary widely from person to person, you can expect to lose at least 5 lb over the fortnight.
PHASE 2: KEEP THE WEIGHT OFF FOREVER
After this initial reset phase, if you want to continue losing weight and feeling well you are ready to move on to Phase Two.
Working your way through Phase One, you will have already learnt to make your meals more satisfying with proteins, non-starchy vegetables and heart-healthy fats.
In Phase Two, you should continue to eat some protein and plenty of vegetables at every meal – but you can start to add wholegrains (no more than three portions) and fruit (two portions) to your daily diet. You can also ramp up your exercise regime with more aerobic activity and toning exercises.
One portion of wholegrain = 1 slice wholemeal bread; half a wholemeal muffin; half a wholemeal bread roll; half a cup cooked wholemeal pasta or brown rice; half a jacket potato or three new potatoes with skins on, or one tbsp wholegrain cereal.
One portion of fruit = 1 small piece of fresh fruit; half a glass of fruit juice; 1 dessertspoon of dried fruit; 2 tbsp of canned fruit in juice.
You will continue to lose weight, although slightly more slowly after the initial reset phase, but it’s a plan you can enjoy for life.
You should have a breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack every day. If you feel you need it, you can also have a pre-dinner snack:
Breakfasts (Choose one)
- One sliced boiled egg served with one or two slices of grilled lean bacon and a small glass of tomato juice
- Two scrambled eggs plus a small slice of roast beef and sliced tomatoes
- One turkey and cheese roll-up (place a large slice of turkey on top of a slice of reduced-fat cheese, such as Leerdammer Lightlife, and roll up) plus a glass of vegetable juice
- Egg-white omelette (made using two egg whites and a squirt of cooking spray) with lean ham and mushrooms
- A handful of mixed nuts with vegetable crudités (celery, radishes, carrots, cucumber and peppers are all suitable)
Snacks (Choose one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon)
- One Babybel Light cheese plus a handful of carrot batons
- One small no-fat yoghurt plus ten walnuts or cashews
- One dessert spoon of peanut butter with celery sticks
- One stick of low-fat cheese served with celery sticks
- Two tablespoons of low-fat cottage cheese with crudités
Lunches (Choose one, plus a pot of sugar-free jelly for dessert)
- One grilled chicken breast served with large green salad dressed with oil and vinegar
- Two or three ham and cheese roll-ups (place a slice of low-fat/light cheese on top of a slice of lean ham). Served with a tablespoon of raw coleslaw topped with an oil and vinegar dressing and cucumber
- One can of flaked tuna in spring water mixed with light mayonnaise and finely chopped pepper and onion, served with a large salad dressed with an oil and vinegar dressing
- Large tomato stuffed with low-fat cottage cheese with chives and black pepper, served with a side salad
- One grilled Portobello mushroom topped with one thin slice of ham and sprinkle of low-fat cheese
Pre-dinner snacks (Optional)
- Red pepper strips with a tablespoon of guacamole
- Handful of unsalted, roasted peanuts or pistachios (approx 20)
- Tablespoon of low-fat hummus with crudités
Dinners (Choose one, plus a pot of sugar-free jelly for dessert)
- One lean grilled beef burger served with steamed vegetables
- Portion of rotisserie chicken served with a vegetable salad, sprinkled with pine nuts and oil and vinegar dressing
- Stir-fried salmon portion with Chinese vegetables (use a Chinese or Thai spice paste for flavoring)
- Grilled pork chop with mashed cauliflower and green beans with balsamic dressing
- Three-bean salad served with a large green salad
A new drink containing ketones could not only help you lose weight, but could also treat epilepsy, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s.
It might also be an incredible energy booster. When a group of international rowing champions took it, one of them beat a world record.
It sounds far too good to be true, but the drink’s scientific credentials are impeccable.
It’s been developed by Kieran Clarke, professor of physiological biochemistry at Oxford University and head of its Cardiac Metabolism Research Group, at the behest of the U.S. Army.
Equally amazing is that the drink doesn’t involve a new drug. It contains something our bodies produce all the time.
This key ingredient is ketones – the tiny, but powerful sources of energy our bodies make naturally when we start using up our fat stores for energy because there are no carbs around.
We all have slightly raised ketone levels before breakfast because we haven’t eaten for a while. And if you fast for a few days or go on an Atkins-type high-fat diet, your body will start pumping out ketones. They are nature’s way of keeping you supplied with energy – especially your brain and muscles.
The clever trick Prof. Kieran Clarke has pulled off is to have found a way to make ketones in the lab. This means that instead of having to follow difficult diets (with unpleasant side-effects such as constipation and bad breath), you can just add ketones to a normal diet – in the form of the Drink, as it’s known.
It’s a radical new approach, which flies in the face of more than 30 years of advice that a low-fat diet with lots of carbohydrates is the best way to lose weight, treat diabetes and protect your heart. It also raises questions about the demonizing of diets such as Atkins, which are blamed for causing constipation and kidney failure.
IT TRICKS YOUR BODY INTO BURNING OFF FAT
So how do ketones help? They are the reason why high-fat diets such as Atkins seem to work so well. Without the energy from carbohydrates, your body starts releasing stored fat, which the liver turns into ketones for energy.
The pounds drop off faster than with a low-fat diet because you are actively burning up stored fat. But there are other benefits of these ketogenic diets, as they are called. Blood sugar levels come down because you are eating hardly any carbohydrates.
In a study published earlier this year, Prof. Kieran Clarke found that rats given the new ketone compound ate less and put on less weight than those getting the same amount of calories from a high-fat or a high-carbohydrate diet.
In the first trial Prof. Kieran Clarke has run on humans with diabetes, completed within the past few months, the effects were also impressive. In the week-long study, eight people with diabetes had three ketone drinks a day as well as their normal diet.
As with the rats, their weight dropped (an average of nearly 2% of their body weight), but so did their glucose levels, cholesterol and the amount of fat in the blood. The amount of exercise they did went up as they had more energy. However, the study was small and as yet unpublished.
To anyone with diabetes, the idea of ketones being good seems extraordinary. That’s because they are usually warned that high ketones can be very dangerous. In fact, the danger is limited to cases where the diabetes isn’t controlled and the patient has very high blood sugar levels as well.
That’s rare these days with effective drugs. Indeed, very high-fat diets, which produce ketones, are being tested as a treatment for diabetes.
A new drink containing ketones could not only help you lose weight, but could also treat epilepsy, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s
HELPING CHILDREN WITH EPILEPSY
The Drink has its roots in ketogenic diets, which are designed to raise ketone production. One medical area where a very high-fat ketogenic diet is used as standard treatment is in childhood epilepsy.
A review by the Cochrane Collaboration found that in children who weren’t responding to drugs, it was as effective as medication would normally be.
This followed a major study conducted four years ago by Professor Helen Cross, a neurologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which showed the diet was effective.
“About 30 per cent of epileptic children don’t respond to drugs and they can have a dreadful time – 100 fits a day is not uncommon,” says Susan Wood, a registered dietician who works for the charity Matthew’s Friends Clinics, which aims to make a high ketogenic diet available to all children who may benefit from it.
“We see a big drop in the number of seizures in nearly 40% of the children who go on the diet.”
It’s thought the diet helps suppress stimulation signals to the brain.
The problem is that ketogenic diets can be hard to follow. A typical high-fat diet for children with epilepsy, for instance, includes oil, butter, double cream, eggs, mayonnaise and cheese. Not to everyone’s taste.
Even more difficult on this sort of diet, you have almost no fruit or vegetables (most count as carbo-hydrates) – this can lead to mineral and vitamin shortages and a raised risk of heart disease from all the fat.
THE U.S. ARMY RIDES TO THE RESCUE
And this is where the U.S. Army comes in. Like other radical innovations, such as the internet, driverless cars and a battery-powered human “exoskeleton”, the ketone drink was the result of a commission from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is set up to research imaginative high-risk projects.
“Back in 2003 they were looking for an energy source that would improve soldiers’ mental and physical performance under battlefield conditions,” says Prof. Kieran Clarke.
“Troops weren’t taking enough rations into action because they filled their rucksacks with extra ammunition instead. As their blood glucose dropped, they became confused and sometimes ended up shooting their own side.”
Prof. Kieran Clarke had been working on ketones as a high energy source for more than a decade when she approached DARPA, who funded the research that allowed her to discover a way to make ketones in the lab.
“No one had done it before,” she says.
“We called it DeltaG, which is the biochemical name for energy, but also has a military ring to it – Delta Force and all.” She tried the new compound on rats and found it boosted physical and mental performance.
But that wasn’t all. The rats became much healthier. They lost body fat, had lower levels of triglycerides (fatty acids) in their blood and lower blood sugar levels. There were no signs of harmful side-effects.
U.S. defence chiefs are reportedly delighted with the Drink, but it’s expected to be a while before it’s taken up on a large scale by the Army.
So how does a drink that adds ketones help you lose weight if you’re not burning fat to produce those ketones in the first place? It is because ketones make you less hungry – they damp down hunger centres in the brain. This means you eat less and so you have the same weight loss as on a high-fat diet.
Meanwhile, because you’re eating less, your blood sugar levels come down (which is good for diabetics).
LOSE WEIGHT AND HAVE MORE ENERGY
Eighteen months ago, Prof. Kieran Clarke tried her ketones on rowers.
DeltaG ketones come in a thick, clear liquid that is very bitter, so in the trials on rats and humans, it has a little water added along with orange-coloured flavouring plus some sweeteners to make it more palatable – in this form it’s known as the Drink.
A group of top international rowers were given it shortly before they rowed on fixed machines in a lab.
After half an hour of hard rowing, those getting the Drink had rowed on average 50 m further in the same time than when they had a dummy drink. This was an improvement of 0.5%. It can be the difference between silver and gold.
Dr. Scott Drawer, head of research at UK Sport, who helped design the trial, said: “Ketones have been ignored as an energy source in sport. We need to look at them seriously.”
DON’T WORRY ABOUT SIDE-EFFECTS
The big idea of the Drink is that it is a way to get the benefits of weight loss and metabolic improvements that come with raised ketones without going through the pain of the diet.
But what about the dangers of high levels of ketones? Ketogenic diets are linked with constipation (through lack of roughage) and sometimes bad breath (the result of the way ketones happen to smell). Increased ketone levels may also lead to kidney failure, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease, according to NHS Direct.
Prof. Kieran Clarke believes fears about raising ketone levels are based on a misunderstanding.
“Our bodies have a parallel system designed to make use of ketones as an energy source, which is faster and more efficient than the way our bodies use glucose. Gram for gram, ketones give you 38 per cent more energy than glucose,” she says.
“The trouble is we rarely need to use ketones because we are surrounded by food. But that’s happened only in the past 50 years when everyone has had enough to eat. Before that many people would often be ketogenic.”
The ketone pathway developed as a way to provide animals and humans with energy in times of famine; it’s only if someone has uncontrolled diabetes that raising ketones is dangerous.
BUT IT’S NOT AN EXCUSE TO BE LAZY
But what do other experts think? Dr. Rhys Evans, reader in physiology, anatomy and genetics at Keble College, Oxford says: “Ketones are a superb source of energy, so it makes perfectly good sense to use them as extra fuel for the brain and muscles.”
“Kieran has pulled off a neat chemical trick creating a new version in the lab. In metabolic terms, this offers some new and exciting possibilities.”
Epilepsy researcher Prof. Helen Cross adds: “Getting the new ketones could be a boon.”
When it comes to epilepsy, neurologists are concerned about the health risks of a high-fat diet, while sticking to it can be difficult for children – a ketone drink could be more appealing.
So why haven’t we heard about this before? It’s because ketones are a natural product that can’t be turned into a top-selling treatment, so no drug company is interested.
“We have a problem raising the money just to produce enough of it to run trials cheaply,” says Prof. Kieran Clarke (which is why you won’t see it in shops for some time).
She adds: “DeltaG is not a licence to stay glued to the TV eating take-aways. It provides 10% of your total calories (each drink is around 200 calories), so if you are going to lose weight you are going to have to cut that much from your diet or you would put on weight.
“For best results, you should be eating a sensible, healthy diet, maybe some variation of the Mediterranean.”
And then there is the taste: “It tastes dreadful – just like the cold remedy Benylin – so you’d take it only if you had to,” says Prof. Kieran Clarke.
But losing weight without feeling hungry might prove pretty attractive!