What do the best diets have in common?

plant based diets

Back in January of this Year, US News and World Report delivered its results on its annual “Best Diets” ratings, listing 38 popular diets in order on how they fared when it came to health and weight management. Can you guess what the top 10 have in common?

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There is never a shortage of new diet books on the shelves. Unfortunately, many of them are useful only for short term weight loss and way too many of them endorse habits that could ultimately harm your health.

The best diets are those that take a variety of factors into consideration.
• Is the weight loss rate healthy (too rapid and you will lose muscle mass)
• Is the diet sustainable (too strict, and you are destined to splurge and overeat at some point)
• Is the diet relevant to your own health conditions (you have different needs based on your age, your risk factors, and your current health situation – so one size does not fit all)
• Does the diet meet all of your micronutrient needs (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants)

So when it comes to true healthful eating, which diets are “up to snuff”, according to a panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease?

Those that focus on plants.

The Best Diets Overall were assessed and ranked by their rating in several categories (being easy to follow, its ability to produce both short and long term weight loss, nutritional completeness, safety, and prevention/management of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease)

The Number One Diet Overall was the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The focus nutrients in this diet are those that will help improve one of the most common health conditions in the US today – high blood pressure.

While DASH does not endorse strictly a vegan diet, it does encourage followers to significantly cut back on meat and to load up on vegetables and whole grains for heart-healthy nutrients such as potassium and fiber (and even encourages several meat-free meals a week). It also suggests substituting fruit for sweets.

The Mediterranean Diet comes in second. Many people think of fish when they think of the Mediterranean diet – but this is not the focus of the plan. The main tenet of the Mediterranean diet is to eat primarily plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Instead of butter, utilize a plant-based oil such as olive or canola.

Third is the MIND diet. While the first two primarily focus on heart health, the MIND diet encourages positive changes to protect the brain. It is actually considered a hybrid of the DASH and the Mediterranean diet according to developer Martha Clare Morris, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University. Again, the diet is primarily plant-based, encouraging leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans and whole grains. Butter, cheese, red meats and fast foods are all avoided on the plan.

Rounding out the top 10 are:
The Flexitarian Diet – This is a name given to people who eat primarily plant-based foods, but aren’t ready to completely give up animal products entirely. They refer to themselves as “Flexible Vegetarians”

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Mayo Clinic Diet – Way back when, a printed diet circulated around offices claiming to be a Mayo Clinic endorsed diet. As I recall, it was a very low carb/high protein diet that encouraged several servings of grapefruit. This actually never was written by anyone at the Mayo Clinic. The team came out with their own healthy diet in 2010 and it encourages low energy dense foods (ie: plants with lots of fiber and not extra calories)

The TLC Diet – TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes and is intended as a guide to help lower cholesterol. What raises cholesterol? Saturated fats and cholesterol – found in animal foods. Additionally, trans fats can also raise bad cholesterol, such as those found in packaged foods – regardless of whether or not they are vegan.

Weight Watchers – Again, not specifically a vegetarian or vegan diet, but Weight Watchers has always encouraged fruits and vegetables by giving them lower “point” values because they are low calorie and filling.

The Fertility Diet – OK, so not everyone is interested in this book at first glance if you are not trying to get pregnant. But the diet offers some good advice for improving women’s health – including cutting out red meat and eggs and increasing “plant protein” foods (like beans and whole grains).

The Volumetrics Diet – Developed by Barbara Rolls, PhD, this diet is another that focuses on energy density. Plant foods are encouraged because they are high in fiber, water and nutrients but low in calories.

Jenny Craig Diet – Although this made US News’ list of Best Diets, from a vegan standpoint, it isn’t the most friendly. But as with most low-calorie diets, plants are encouraged because they are filling.

Ornish Diet – Dr. Dean Ornish is well known for being one of the first to suggest that a vegetarian diet was best for preventing, managing, and even reversing heart disease symptoms. The diet is considered lacto-vegetarian, as he does allow low fat dairy – but does discourage all meat (both red and white).

Vegetarian diet – Most people who choose plant based take the vegetarian diet as a first step (eliminating meat, but keeping milk and/or eggs). It is a great opportunity to introduce more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your meals and snacks. It also makes you more thoughtful about your meals, which can lead to weight loss if you plan correctly.

Interestingly, the vegan diet ranked #16, but it wasn’t because the diet isn’t healthful. It was primarily because of the difficulty some have in following the plan. It cites such barriers as cost (for special foods, out of season produce – all factors which can easily be hurdled!) and availability (such as dining out in restaurants). They also mention the challenge of reaching all of your vitamin needs.

But that is what Emaxhealth is here for! To help you with your vegan diet planning so that you do achieve all of your nutrient needs with delicious food – and not at an exorbitant price tag.

Reference:
US News and World Report - Best Diet List found at http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall

Photo Credit:
Wikimedia Commons

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