Scientists have just discovered new health benefits for people who follow the DASH diet, also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which was originally designed to help reduce blood pressure.

The diet is high in nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and low in red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and sodium. According to a new study in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, following this eating regimen also helps prevent a series of other chronic illnesses including cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

"In addition to offering other health benefits, consuming a DASH-style diet could help reduce the risk of developing kidney disease," said study leader Casey M. Rebholz, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. "The great thing about this finding is that we aren't talking about a fad diet. This is something that many physicians already recommend to help prevent chronic disease."

Researchers estimate that kidney disease affects 10 percent of the U.S. population, which is more than 20 million people.

According to this new research, people with normal weight who followed a DASH diet were less likely to develop kidney disease than overweight or obese participants.

"What this tells us is that we need to pay attention to diet before diseases develop. That is the right time to intervene," Rebholz added. "After disease develops, we may not be able to prevent the development of other chronic diseases. It may be too late."

Back in January 2015, the DASH diet was named the best overall diet for the fifth consecutive year, outpacing Weight Watchers and the Mediterranean diet.

"The DASH diet has been our top diet overall for five years now and this is the fifth year we are evaluating and ranking diets," Angela Haupt, senior health and wellness editor at U.S. News & World Report, said at the time. "Our experts, who rate these diets for us, say it will end up being very good for your waistline, in addition to your high blood pressure, because it is such a common-sense, balanced diet.”

Source: Rebholz C. Crews D. Grams M. et al. DASH Diet and Risk of Subsequent Kidney Disease. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 2016.