Hey guys! Today I’ve got an awesome guest post coming your way from dietitian Denine Marie.
Before you jump on the January dieting and cleansing bandwagon, you might want to skim through the annual Best Diets report just released for 2018.
For eight years, US News and World Reports has been keeping tabs on which diets are the best and worst for your health, according to an expert panel of 25 nutrition scientists, professors, and experts.
No, Gwyneth Paltrow of Goop did not make the panel.
To cut through the food fads and nutrition misinformation, experts sifted through the latest research, medical journals, government reports, and resources to rank 40 popular diets according to health, safety, ease, weight loss, and disease prevention.
The results are in, and chances are your favorite diet came in last.
For the first time, the Mediterranean Diet ranked highest in “Best Diets Overall” tying for first place with the DASH Diet, and placing the Flexitarian Diet third. Winners are scored for safety and individual categories: Diabetes, Heart-Health, Healthy Eating, Easiest To Follow, Plant-Based, Weight Loss, and Commercial Diets.
Last on the list were cult-following favorites like Keto, Dukan Diet, Whole30, Atkins, Raw Foods Diet, and Paleo Diet.
Why should you care about these rankings?
There are two things to keep in mind when interpreting these diet scores. First, there is no one diet to rule them all when it comes to health promotion and disease prevention. Each person will find certain diets more enjoyable and accessible than others. Second, dieting—restricting yourself to certain foods to lose weight—does not promote health. We understand this by studying other cultures, that live healthier and longer lives than Americans.
The rationale for the rankings is to review the safety of current diet and food trends and evaluate the scientific research underlying the health claims. Diets can offer a way to model a dietary pattern or set of healthy habits making it easier to set a course for better health.
How The Top 3 Diets Break the Mold
The top three winners excel in their rule-breaking approach to diets by promoting overall health and joyful eating. As Americans, we tend to talk—okay, obsess a little—about dieting rules, restrictions, guilt, and willpower. Yet, the top three diets flip this concept on its head, breaking apart from the pack of American fad dieting culture.
The word diet itself lists two meanings in the English dictionary: 1) “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats,” and 2) “a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.”
Americans tend to focus on the second—more restrictive—diet definition, as highlighted by the 45 million annual dieters, and weight loss purchases totaling $33 billion each year. Ironically, we fixate on following the diets rated lowest on the list for health, yet most complicated and restrictive in rules of eating. Yes, I’m looking at you Keto and Whole30.
If you are not required to follow a strict diet regime as the result of an acute or chronic medical condition, or under the medical care of a physician or dietitian, you can loosen up on the food rules…by a lot.
Most experts in health and nutrition share common ground thinking when it comes to the basics of healthy eating. These commonalities are what make the DASH Diet, Mediterranean Diet, and Flexitarian Diet shine as models for healthy eating.
Given the rise of the Mediterranean Diet over recent years, and my local perspective as an American dietitian living abroad in Barcelona, Spain, I created a two-part series highlighting the reasons why this diet ranks number one for 2018 and how to add more Mediterranean foods to your American plate this year.
Why the Mediterranean Diet Ranks #1
It comes as no surprise that the Mediterranean Diet moves into the top slot this year, racking up an impressive list of high marks for all categories related to health and disease, and ease of use.
Do not get caught up in the categories. Generally speaking, you don’t need to follow one diet for preventing heart disease, another for preventing diabetes, and a third for managing weight. An overall dietary pattern which promotes health does just that—promotes total health. Studies examining the connection between the Mediterranean dietary pattern and health have shown associations with lowered LDL cholesterol, reduced risk of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, increased lifespan, and weight management.
It was a 2013 study that shook things up with the release of the PREDIMED trial results living in Spain. Researchers reported that individuals randomized to a Mediterranean Diet (supplemented with either olive oil or nuts) were 30% less likely to have heart attacks, strokes or die from heart-related causes, compared with those randomized to a low-fat diet.
That’s when things got serious and Americans took notice.
So, what is this superstar diet exactly?
Technically, it’s not a diet at all. Many experts consider the Mediterranean Diet one of the healthiest, most enjoyable and delicious lifestyles on earth. In the second half of this series, I highlight the core components of the diet and how to adapt the foods and habits of the Mediterraneans to your modern life in America!
To learn more about my approach to food and health, you can download my free Food Fads to Freedom Toolkit with Top Ten Foods For Health and Mediterranean Power Pantry checklist—direct from my Barcelona home to you!
Special thank you to Jess, for allowing me to share this article with your readers!
Denine Marie, MPH, RDN is the founder of Healthy Out of Habit. She is a non-diet dietitian, science-wife, mother, writer, and university lecturer living in Barcelona, Spain, empowering individuals to nourish health and power life.
This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.