Dear Readers: As we begin anew in 2023, many Americans will resolve to eat better, exercise regularly, and take better care of themselves. The U.S. News & World Report ranked twenty-four diets for 2023. A panel of nutrition experts made up of Registered Dietitians, Professors of Nutrition, and Medical Doctors evaluates the diets. Assessment is based on seven categories: the ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, the ease of following the diet, the diet’s ability to prevent heart disease and diabetes, its nutritional value, and its safety.
The #1-ranked diet is the Mediterranean Diet. By now, most of us are familiar with this diet. It is a plant-based meal plan rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Red meat is eaten no more than once a week, and red wine is often enjoyed with meals. The Mediterranean Diet is associated with lower rates of heart disease and diabetes than Western diets.
Tied at #2 are The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and Flexitarian diets. The DASH diet is a well-balanced plan emphasizing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and unsaturated fats. Meat is limited to 6 ounces daily, and salt is below 2,300 mg daily. It even allows five servings of sweets each week. Alcohol is permitted in moderation, but remember, these beverages tend to be high in calories.
The Flexitarian Diet, rounding out the top three, is a vegetarian diet that allows meat once in a while. The term “flexitarian” was coined by dietitian Dawn Blatner Jackson. On this diet, you get the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and the satisfaction of a steak when you are craving meat. In her book, Jackson outlines three stages of the diet that gradually decrease the amount of meat in your diet. The goal is to focus on eating more plant foods. Moderate alcohol intake is allowed (2).
The top three diets are the same as last year and for good reason. Let’s shine a light on another healthy diet. The Mind Diet has gained recent attention and placed #4. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH intervention for neurodegenerative (dementia) delay. The MIND regimen focuses on fruits (especially berries), vegetables, olive oil, and whole grains. Protein sources are fatty fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. Red meat, cheese, and sweets are limited, and fried foods are highly discouraged. One glass of wine is permitted daily.
All of these diets focus on lifestyle changes, which evolve gradually. It takes time. Fortunately, when we eat healthier, we feel better, encouraging us to continue. Other common threads are the emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A healthy diet is well-balanced and allows a variety of foods from all food groups.
Until next time, be healthy!
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