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NIH-Supported Healthy Heart Diets Get a Big Thumbs Up

Overhead shot of bowls of healthy fruits, vegetables and nuts on a wooden outdoor table.
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Two National Institute of Health-supported diets, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC), together earned five No. 1 spots in U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 “Best Diets” rankings. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, researched, developed and tested both diets. Of 24 diets evaluated, DASH, which supports overall heart health and helps lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, ranked first in the “Best Heart-Healthy Diets,” “Best Diets for Diabetes,” and “Best Diets for Bone & Joint Health” categories. TLC, which focuses on lowering cholesterol, ranked first in the “Easiest Diets to Follow” and “Best Family-Friendly Diets” categories. To receive top rankings, a diet must be nutritious, safe, easy to follow, effective for weight loss, and protective against diabetes and heart disease.


How they Work


DASH, a long-term healthy eating plan, emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meats and poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils. It limits foods high in saturated fat, tropical oils, sodium, and those with added sugar. Studies show that by increasing fiber, protein, and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, people following DASH can naturally lower their blood pressure by 3-20 points(link is external) within weeks or months – the greatest benefit coming when they also limit salt intake to about 1,150 mg each day.


TLC expands on DASH by helping people eat more plant sterols and fiber, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits; limit saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol; reach and maintain a healthy weight; and get regular exercise, such as 30 minutes most days. Studies show TLC could lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels by 20-30% among people with borderline high or high LDL levels. 


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