meat and vegetables
meat and vegetables

When it comes to choosing a diet, it can be overwhelming to determine which one is the best for you. However, the annual list of best and worst diets by US News & World Report can provide some guidance. Let's explore the science behind some of the top-ranked diets, discuss their pros and cons, and look at the key takeaways.

Top Diets of 2023: What Diet Plan Best Fits With You?

Featured Diets: Mediterranean, Dash, flexitarian, Mayo Clinic, Mind & Carnivore

The Mediterranean diet has claimed the top spot for the fifth year in a row, It is renowned for its heart-healthy benefits. This diet emphasises consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil. The science behind this diet is based on the Mediterranean region's traditional eating patterns and their positive effect on reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes (1). This diet has also been linked to weight loss and improved cognitive function (2).

vegetable salad
vegetable salad

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet focuses on reducing sodium intake whilst encouraging and promoting a diet rich in other minerals including potassium, magnesium and calcium. The DASH diet leans heavily towards the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. The diet plans are based on 1600, 2000 or 2600 calories per day. Its scientific basis lies in its ability to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension (3). This diet is also associated with weight management and improved overall health (4).

sliced vegetable and fruits on board
sliced vegetable and fruits on board

The Flexitarian diet, ranked third, is a flexible, mostly plant-based eating approach that allows for occasional consumption of meat and other animal products. The flexitarian concept was born in the 1990s and has grown increasingly more popular with those wishing to reduce their carbon footprint whilst improving their health. Scientific evidence suggests that adopting a flexitarian diet can lead to weight loss, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and improved overall health (5). This diet focuses on incorporating more plant-based foods while still providing the option to consume animal products in moderation.

Vegetables with a small offering of Beef
Vegetables with a small offering of Beef

Weight Watchers (WW) diet ranked fourth on the list due to its focus on portion control and flexible eating. It promotes a balanced approach to weight loss and weight maintenance by assigning point values to different foods. Scientific studies have shown that this approach can lead to significant weight loss and improved adherence compared to other diets (6).

The Mayo Clinic Diet and the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet both tied for fifth place. The Mayo Clinic Diet focuses on long-term lifestyle changes and emphasizes consuming whole foods, while the MIND diet combines elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, with a specific focus on brain health. These diets are backed by scientific evidence suggesting that they can improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases (7).

On the other hand, the worst-ranked diet, the carnivore diet, is heavily meat-based and lacks essential nutrients. This diet restricts the consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and long-term health issues (8). Other poorly rated diets include the Whole30 diet and the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, which may lack scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness and long-term sustainability.

Based Health Nailed (Logo) Nail Your Health!
Based Health Nailed (Logo) Nail Your Health!

Pros and Cons

Mediterranean Diet

Pros:

- It's considered heart-healthy due to the high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.

- Reduces chronic disease risk like Alzheimer's, cancer, and heart diseases.

- Promotes longevity and optimal health.

Cons:

- It may be high in fat because of the inclusion of olive oil and nuts.

- It may be more expensive to maintain due to the demand for fresh produce and seafood.

Key takeaway:

- The Mediterranean Diet includes healthy, balanced meals that are beneficial for the heart and overall health, although it may be costly.

DASH Diet

Pros:

- Specifically designed to lower blood pressure levels.

- Emphasizes vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

- Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Cons:

- May be challenging to follow due to reduced salt and sugar intake.

- Rapid changes in diet may lead to temporary digestive issues.

Key takeaway:

- The DASH Diet is ideal for those with high blood pressure, but it requires discipline and a change in dietary habits.

Flexitarian Diet

Pros:

- Flexible, allowing occasional intake of meat and other animal products.

- Encourages plant-based meals.

- Can contribute to weight loss.

Cons:

- May be inadequate in protein for individuals with high protein requirements.

- The flexibility may potentially lead to overeating.

Key takeaway:

- The Flexitarian Diet is a balanced, flexible switch to plant-based eating but careful monitoring is needed to meet daily nutritional requirements.

Weight Watchers Diet

Pros:

- Flexible, doesn't ban any foods.

- Promotes mindful eating.

- Offers community support.

Cons:

- The points system can be confusing.

- May not stress the importance of nutrient-dense food.

Key takeaway:

- The Weight Watchers Diet can be good for consistent weight management but individuals must still focus on nutritional content.

Mayo Clinic Diet

Pros:

- Encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

- Structured and provides clear guidelines.

- Focuses on long term lifestyle changes

Cons:

- Initial restrictive phase can be challenging.

- Might require time for meal planning and preparation.

Key takeaway:

- The Mayo Clinic Diet is good for sustainable weight loss and overall health improvements, but it requires commitment.

Mind Diet

Pros:

- Aims to promote brain health and reduce Alzheimer’s risk.

- Combines key components of DASH and Mediterranean diets

Cons:

- More research is required to confirm its effects on brain health.

- Might be less structured, which can be challenging for some.

Key takeaway:

- The MIND Diet targets brain health and longevity, with potential benefits, but more research is needed.

Carnivore Diet

Pros:

- May lead to rapid weight loss.

- Simplicity as diet contains only animal products

Cons:

- Completely excludes plant-based nutrients, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

- Potential for high intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.

Key takeaway:

- The Carnivore Diet is simple and can lead to rapid weight loss, but lack of nutritional variety may lead to deficiencies and health risks.

The Bottom Line

By making mindful and informed choices when it comes to our diets, we can embark on a journey towards improved health and well-being that is both sustainable and balanced. The key lies in embracing diets that are based on whole foods, which have been scientifically proven to offer long-term benefits for our bodies.

Numerous well-researched diets have emerged as excellent options for those seeking a more wholesome approach to nutrition. The Mediterranean diet, known for its emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil, has garnered widespread acclaim for its positive impact on cardiovascular health. Similarly, the DASH diet, designed to lower blood pressure, promotes a balanced intake of nutrients by prioritizing lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

For those seeking a flexible yet mindful eating plan, the Flexitarian diet offers the perfect solution. This approach encourages a predominantly plant-based diet while allowing for occasional inclusion of meat and animal products. Weight Watchers, on the other hand, provides a comprehensive and customizable program that focuses on portion control, making it a popular choice for sustainable weight loss and overall health improvement.

The Mayo Clinic diet, developed by renowned experts, offers a well-rounded approach that promotes healthy habits across various food groups while emphasizing the importance of physical activity. Lastly, the MIND diet combines the principles of the Mediterranean and DASH diets to specifically target brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

However, it is crucial to remember that one size does not fit all, if you're not sure, it's perhaps advisable to consult with a registered dietitians before embarking on any diet journey. Their expertise will ensure that the chosen diet aligns with individual needs, promoting overall well-being and addressing any specific health concerns.

So, let us take this empowering step towards a healthier lifestyle by choosing a diet that not only offers scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness but also resonates with our unique requirements. By doing so, we can enjoy the long-term health benefits of a sustainable and balanced approach to whole-food based nutrition, all while prioritizing our well-being and achieving our health goals. If we couple a good diet with exercise and great sleep its a ticket to a long, happy and healthy life.

References

1. Bach-Faig, A., Berry, E. M., Lairon, D., Reguant, J., Trichopoulou, A., Dernini, S., & Medina, F. X. (2011). Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. Public Health Nutrition, 14(12A), 2274-2284

2. Estruch, R., Ros, E., Salas-Salvadó, J., Covas, M. I., Corella, D., Arós, F., ... & Serra-Majem, L. (2018). Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. New England Journal of Medicine, 378(25), e34.

3. Sacks, F. M., Svetkey, L. P., Vollmer, W. M., Appel, L. J., Bray, G. A., Harsha, D., ... & Karanja, N. (2001). Effects on Blood Pressure of Reduced Dietary Sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 344(1), 3-10.

4. Kusumoto, M., Venkitachalam, L., Song, Y., Brush, J., Wright, J. D., & Faselis, C. J. (2019). Effect of the DASH Diet on Blood Pressure in Adults With Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Current Hypertension Reports, 21(10), 82.

5. Eckel, R. H., Jaici, J. M., Ard, J. D., de Jesus, J. M., Houston Miller, N., Hubbard, V. S., ... & Yanovski, S. Z. (2017). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 00, e000000000000, F1-F40.

6. Chen, S., Crimarco, A., Myers, C. A., & Dunham, A. K. (2015). Effects of Weight Watchers on Health Behaviours and Weight Loss Among Adolescents. Journal of Paediatric Health Care, 29(6), 525-532.

7. Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F. M., Bennett, D. A., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2015). MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 11(9), 1007-1014.

8. Genoni, A., Lyons-Wall, P., Lo, J., Devine, A. (2020). Cardiovascular, Metabolic Effects, and Dietary Composition of Ad-Libitum Palaeolithic vs Australian Guide-To-Healthy Eating Diets: A 4-Week Randomized Trial. Nutrients, 12(11), 3370.