Best Diets of 2019 (According to U.S. News and World Reports)
(Video version can be found on my Facebook page – Peggy Smith Wellness, January 3, 2019)
For all of you following the Mediterranean diet – congratulations – you take home the blue ribbon! For the first time, the Mediterranean diet won the best overall diet in rankings announced Wednesday by US News and World Report.
The analysis of 41 eating plans also gave the Mediterranean diet the top spot in several subcategories: best diet for healthy eating, best plant-based diet, best diet for diabetes and easiest diet to follow.
A number of studies found the diet can reduce the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, dementia, memory loss, depression and breast cancer. Meals from the sunny Mediterranean region have also been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart and longer life – not to mention weight loss!!!
The diet features simple, plant-based cooking, with the majority of each meal focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds, with a few nuts and a heavy emphasis on extra virgin olive oil. You won’t be eating refined sugar and flour except on rare occasions. Fats other than olive oil, are consumed rarely.
Red meat can make a rare appearance, usually only to flavor a dish. But meals may include eggs, dairy and poultry, but in much smaller portions than in the traditional Western diet. Fish, however, is eaten all the time on this plan.
This lifestyle approach also encourages eating with friends and family, socializing during meals, mindfully eating your favorite foods, as well as a focus on deliberate movement and exercise.
You might be wondering how does a diet become a “best diet” according to US News and World Report. Well, the judges for the diets are a panel of experts in heart disease and diabetes, nutrition, diet, food psychology and obesity and they review research about the diets from medical journals, government reports and other resources and then they rank the diets in several categories such as how easy it is to follow, its nutritional completeness, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.
The second place overall prize this year goes to the DASH diet (which stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension), with third place going to the flexitarian diet, a plant-based diet that allows meat on rare occasions. Fourth place was a tie between the brain-focused MIND diet and Weight Watchers.
I love that all of these diets have some really gut healthy things in common -they require the use of minimally processed foods and focus on fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds!!!
Foods like these reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, they balance our gut bacteria, and they’re getting at the root cause of disease!
Another amazing thing these diets all have in common is they allow for the occasional indulgence. Perhaps it’s a glass of red wine on the Mediterranean diet or a piece of cake on Weight Watchers, the top diets allow people to plan for an indulgence that many plans would forbid. So much about weight loss is mental, and being able to incorporate all foods, including an occasional treat, is really important for any healthy eating plan.
In case you were curious, US News and World Report also indicates their lowest-ranked overall diets. For this year they are the Dukan diet, the Body Reset diet, the Whole30 diet and the popular keto diet. These diets focus on high-protein or high-fat foods with minimal carbohydrates.
These diets have few substantiated claims, are extremely restrictive, harder to follow, and they eliminate entire food groups, which is really not something that’s realistic as a long term lifestyle for most people.
Weight Watchers won first place for overall weight loss and I’m a big fan of an important component of their plan: support. In addition to in-person meetings and optional one-on-one consultants, the plan offers an online community.
People really want to talk about their diets and Weight Watchers has great support built into the program. (Just wanted to self promote for a second and say that my group circles offer amazing support and accountability as well – and I’ve got a new one starting in February. Just saying!)
Second place for overall diet for weight loss went to Volumetrics, which is a diet that focuses on using low-calorie, high-density foods such as broth-based soup and nonstarchy fruits and vegetables to reduce hunger. Third place in the weight loss category was a three-way tie between the flexitarian diet, the vegan diet and Jenny Craig.
There are awards in the quick weight loss category as well. This category is for the person who needs to lose a few pounds for a special occasion, as the diets were evaluated for only a two-month period. It is so important to consider the fact that effectiveness as a short-term diet does not mean that it is a good idea for long-term weight loss, which is more important for your health and overall wellness. Unfortunately, these diets can be deceptive because of their initial success. In the short term, they may show a slightly faster rate of weight loss, but in the long term, there’s no evidence that these diets are any faster or better at helping people lose weight.
For completeness I will share that the winners in this category are the HMR diet, which is designed for those who need to improve their health quickly by losing a significant amount of weight under close medical supervision. It offers at-home and in-clinic options, and all meals and snacks are delivered for a specific period of time.
Second place was a four-way tie between Weight Watchers, a version of the Medifast meal-replacement plan called Optavia, and the Atkins and the keto diets.
In addition to winning best overall diet, the Mediterranean diet also ranked first in best diet for diabetes and tied for first place in best heart-healthy diet.
The foods in the Mediterranean diet are really high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are all key components for reducing the risk for chronic disease.
In case you are asking yourself why the news folks are ranking diets, US News and World Report says it does it to clear away clutter. New diet trends are a dime a dozen and they want to provide comprehensive, trustworthy information that highlights the diet standouts and those that don’t perform so well in an array of different categories – good and bad.
They go on to say It’s a chance for experts to help the general public separate diets that are looking for their 15 minutes of fame from diets that are based on what we know about the fundamentals of healthy eating. It’s really replacing controversy and confusion with consensus. And in an arena that tends to cause so much confusion, I think they have done us a great public service! I’m going to attach the link to their article for you to go take a look at all of the other winners and losers if you would like!
I hope this has provided some insight as you embark on what might be some dietary changes this month. If I can be of any assistance in this regard, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Until next time friends.
XO – Peggy