The annual list from U.S. News and World Report was just published. Here are the best diets, as well as a few duds that aren’t likely to be safe or sustainable.
U.S. News and World Report just released their Best Diets of 2021 list, which is compiled annually by a panel of experts who assess modern and traditional diets for protection, ease of implementation, nutritional value, and weight loss effectiveness. The best diets for 2021 must also be good at preventing diabetes and heart disease, with published research weighing heavily in their rankings. Here are the top five diets, along with my thoughts as a registered dietitian on each.
1. Mediterranean diet
This year, I completely expected the Mediterranean diet to come out on top once more. For a long time, the eating pattern has been regarded as the gold standard for nutrition, disease prevention, wellbeing, and longevity. Vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, pulses (beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas), and olive oil are all abundant in the Mediterranean diet. It restricts refined foods and sugar, as well as red meat, thus providing a broad variety of anti-inflammatory antioxidants naturally.
Numerous studies have shown that people who live near the Mediterranean Sea and eat the region’s conventional diet live longer and have less chronic diseases, such as heart disease, which is still the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. It’s also been linked to improved sleep quality and the prevention of depression.
The Mediterranean diet is nutrient-dense and offers a wide variety of filling foods and flavours. It is, however, an eating style rather than a diet with strict guidelines. As a result, there are no clear recommendations for portion sizes, calorie targets, or meal combinations. However, actually changing your diet away from refined foods and toward more fibre and nutrient-dense produce and whole foods will help you lose weight.
2. DASH diet
Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, but it isn’t just for people with high blood pressure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, promotes DASH (NIH).
This diet borrows elements from the Mediterranean diet, but it’s a very unique and well-studied eating style. DASH has been shown in studies to encourage weight loss, protect heart health, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers, in addition to lowering blood pressure. Depending on one’s regular calorie requirements, DASH suggests specific portions from different food groups.
DASH has been around for more than two decades, and I’ve given several people advice on how to implement it. It’s easy, and while the rate of weight loss with DASH can be sluggish, it’s long-term sustainable. My one gripe is that there aren’t many obvious alternatives to animal protein for those following a plant-based diet. It also contains less healthy fats than I usually recommend.
3. Flexitarian diet
A flexitarian diet is predominantly vegetarian, with the addition of meat or fish on occasion. A transition to a more plant-based diet has been linked to lower body weight and a lower incidence of chronic diseases, including better metabolic markers, blood pressure, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to numerous reports.
In terms of the number of days a week meat products are eaten or the total composition of a day’s worth of meals in terms of portions of vegetables, whole grains, and so on, there is no one way to adopt a Flexitarian diet. The easiest way to stick to this diet is to eat as many whole plant foods as possible and limit your consumption of heavily refined foods, even though they are completely plant-based. Instead of a vegan cheeseburger with chips, go for a grain bowl with leafy greens, veggies, quinoa, lentils, and tahini.
4. The WW (Weight Watchers) diet
WW has a high ranking because it is well-researched, well-established, and does not take an extreme stance. The newer edition is also set up differently, with different ways to execute the schedule depending on participants’ diet and lifestyle choices. Personal mentors, an app, trackers, tips, health information, and a 24/7 chat service are all open to WW users. There’s also an opportunity for those who don’t want to lose weight but want to develop healthier behaviours.
The WW approach is adaptable, and unlike traditional commercial weight-loss plans, it does not include food sales. One possible drawback is the rate, which ranges depending on the package selected but can vary from $54.95 per month to $54.95 per month plus a $20 setup charge.
WW, in my opinion, works best for people who excel in a group, enjoy using modern media, and choose an eating schedule that offers consistency while allowing for flexibility.
5. Mayo Clinic diet
The Mayo Clinic diet is focused on personalised health care, schooling, and science at the prestigious American academic medical centre.
The lifestyle, which is backed up by a book and a website, is focused on tested and proven good habits backed up by science. There’s a big focus on doing 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, consuming more whole foods like veggies, berries, whole grains, and healthier fats, and limiting sugar to what comes naturally in fruit.
“Lose it!” and “Live it!” are the two steps of the strategy. Without counting calories, the first emphasises 15 main behaviours to concentrate on and which ones to avoid. After two weeks, the next move is to find out how much calories you need to lose or sustain your weight, as well as how to eat such calories in a safe, nutritious manner. However, no ingredients are entirely off-limits, since the diet emphasises a long-term, sustainable lifestyle.
For $5 a month, you can get a digital version of the app that aims to help you “eat well, get going, log good behaviours, and keep motivated.” Personalized menu plans, menus, portion management manuals, motivational tips, diet and exercise books, routine trackers, walking and running guides, and fitness tips for all fitness levels are included. The website also has positive stories from men and women who have lost weight and changed their fitness by sticking to the diet.
6. MIND diet
The MIND diet incorporates elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets to establish an eating pattern focused on brain wellbeing, such as dementia reduction and age-related cognitive loss. The MIND diet, on the other hand, can be practised by someone who wants to lose weight and improve their general health.
The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) is a specific acronym for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. MIND highlights elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets that are especially supportive of the brain because both have such good evidence to support their healthfulness.
MIND’s main recommendation is to consume more of ten brain-protecting ingredients, such as green, leafy vegetables, almonds, bananas, beans, olive oil, whole grains, fish, meat, and wine, rather than following a strict diet (no more than one glass daily, preferably red). The strategy also lists five things to avoid, including butter and margarine, cheese, red meat, fried food, and pastries and desserts, all of which have been linked to poor brain health.
MIND is a newer diet than both the Mediterranean and Sprint, but there are fewer reports on its impact. The published analysis, on the other hand, is remarkable. In one survey of over a thousand older people, those who adhered to the MIND diet the most had a 53 percent lower chance of Alzheimer’s disease than those who strayed the most.
One drawback to the diet is working out how to turn the instructions into detailed menu plans and recipes. Although books and online tools may help, tailoring the strategy to your eating habits and weight loss goals can necessitate professional assistance.
Diets that ranked poorly
The Dukan diet, which came in last, and the Keto diet, which came in second to last, were among the diets that earned the lowest scores. These programmes lose points for their restrictiveness, possible food deficits, and lack of studies on long-term feasibility and health effects, even though they can result in initial weight loss. There are critical considerations to make if you’re thinking about starting a new diet.
I’ve come to a few solid conclusions based on my years of counselling many people. First and foremost, a diet that aids weight loss but jeopardises your physical or mental well-being is not a positive or long-term solution. Second, maintaining a healthy weight requires the development of long-term routines. It’s obviously not the ideal solution for you if you can’t see yourself committing to a schedule six months or a year down the line.
Finally, weight loss and fitness aren’t about being perfect or following rigid rules. The ultimate formula is all about finding the right balance. The idea might not be as appealing as the latest fad diet, but it is the ultimate weight-loss and health solution.