According to US News & World Report, doctors and nutritionists have concluded that the three best diets as of 2021 are the Mediterranean diet, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, and the Flexitarian diet. These diets are prize-winners not only because of their stellar health benefits, but because they’re so easy to follow and allow for an abundant variety of food. Each of the three diets share an emphasis on plant-based foods, lean proteins, and whole grains- but they differ on a few keystone food groups and approaches. All three of these diets are confirmed by research to have heaps of beneficial results, but depending on your lifestyle and preferences, you may encounter some drawbacks. We poked around and weighed the pros & cons of each of these diets, so you can find the one that works for you!
You don’t actually have to be in Rome to eat like the Romans do. Enter the Mediterranean diet. Inspired by the local cuisine of the Mediterranean region, olive oil and fresh fish are emphasized alongside whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and seeds & nuts. In addition to being delicious, the Mediterranean diet has been proven to promote heart health and help with weight management. In a study published in JAMA Network Open, those who followed the Mediterranean diet were found to have up to 28% lower risk of heart disease compared with those who didn’t. The diet was also linked to lower inflammation, improve insulin function, and reduce BMI. The Mediterranean diet helps with cancer prevention due to the high contents of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients from the whole food sources. However, the diet’s emphasis on fresh seafood might prove troublesome for those in landlocked areas. Additionally, some experts question the diet’s incorporation of alcohol - red wine is traditionally enjoyed at meals in the Mediterranean. Even still, other doctors conclude that consuming some alcohol has a net health benefit, if served with a balanced meal. We’ll toast to that.
The DASH diet has been promoted by the National Institute of Health in order to prevent and control high blood pressure in Americans. As such, one major advantage of following the DASH diet is knowing just how many doctors have studied and confirmed its benefits. In fact, one group of researchers concluded that "the DASH dietary approach might be the most effective dietary measure to reduce blood pressure among hypertensive and pre-hypertensive patients”. The DASH diet includes daily servings of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and grains. It limits sweets, sodium, and saturated fats. As such, this diet is flexible and accessible - it’s ease of eating leads to long-term followers and lifelong wellness. One major challenge of the diet is keeping track of your daily meals in a food diary, though. Additionally, the diet emphasises healthy blood pressure, not weightloss. So those who prioritize slimming down might be happier following a different diet!
You can think of the Flexitarian diet as “vegetarian, most of the time”. This diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins. And although a strict vegetarian diet might cite environmental or ethical reasons for fully abstaining from meat, the flexitarian diet allows for the occasional portion of fish or meat. One advantage of the Flexitarian diet is that it is very flexible (hence the name!) which increases the potential for long-term commitment. Additionally, cutting back on meat can help reduce your carbon footprint, since commercial agriculture has been shown to be a major contributor to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This diet was also shown to help with weight loss, improve blood pressure, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. That said, certain essential nutrients like iron and vitamin B12 can be difficult to find in plant-based sources, so flexitarians may need further supplementation to support their health.
While these diets each have certain minor disadvantages, the drawbacks are far outweighed by the benefits. Healthy living is a long term commitment, so finding a diet that you enjoy is a critical piece to the puzzle of life well led. Eat well. Be happy!