The new year is a popular time to review your health, lifestyle and eating habits. And health experts too have hit the ground running with a comprehensive review of 41 different diets and diet trends. Each was checked out and ranked in accordance with its likely effectiveness, using criteria such as safety, how easy it would be to manage the diet, nutritive values and help with weight loss. In addition, each diet was also rated for its contribution to maintaining good heart health and preventing diabetes.
Some of the highest-scoring diets for 2019 identified by the survey are detailed below:
The traditional Mediterranean diet is the healthy eating plan, which gained the highest approval rating from experts. This diet incorporates all the core features of a good heart-healthy diet which can also help prevent major chronic diseases. So it’s full of small portions and tried-and-trusted ingredients like fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as whole grains, nuts and avocados. Not forgetting, of course, a healthy dash of olive oil, and other rewards such as the odd glass or two of red wine – which always makes any diet easier to follow.
Statistically speaking, a Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the overall risk of mortality by as much as 25 per cent – a real bonus with such tasty food options. Other health benefits can be expected too, including reduced levels of harmful cholesterol, a lower risk of heart disease, and greater protection against cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, there is also evidence to suggest women who follow a Mediterranean diet enhanced with mixed nuts and extra-virgin olive oil may be reducing their breast-cancer risk.
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet
The DASH diet was originally conceived as a way to lower your blood pressure by adopting healthy eating habits. However, dietary experts consider the DASH approach can make a valuable contribution to your overall health which actually goes well beyond the diet’s primary aims.
So what does DASH involve? This is a diet which prioritises healthy foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and leafy greens. In addition, eating fish and skinless poultry is also encouraged, but participants should note the DASH method aims to reduce sodium levels and thus aims to limit your intake of salt, sweets and red meat.
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This diet encourages what it terms ‘flexitarianism’, in other words, a more relaxed approach to vegetarianism. The basic idea is you are encouraged to eat a lot of plant-based foods, but meat is not completely banned. Promoters of the flexitarian diet say you should think of the scheme as a practical way of adding new and beneficial foods to your own diet rather than as a regime designed to eliminate certain items. And as you might predict, it’s mostly sources of protein such as peas, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, which you are persuaded to try.
Author and registered dietitian, Dawn Jackson Blatner is credited with introducing the new concept in her book “The Flexitarian Diet”. Experts scored this diet highly for its nutritional balance and also considered it easy to follow. It’s regarded as a sensible option for anyone looking to achieve long-term weight loss, and there are clear heart health benefits too. Those who find dieting tough may be heartened to learn that the odd steak or burger every once in a while is not totally frowned upon.
The MIND diet
Another acronym-heavy choice, the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay or MIND diet seeks to combine the benefits of a DASH diet and a Mediterranean-style diet in one powerful package. So, therefore, this hybrid MIND diet has the primary aim of preventing dementia-type illnesses and slowing down the loss of brain function which tends to occur as part of the ageing process. While there is no evidence that following this diet could reverse a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease, research seems to suggest it could reduce your risk of contracting a dementia-type condition by anything up to 53 per cent. Focusing on an intake of mostly plant-based food, the MIND diet offers a broad choice of berries, leafy green vegetables, nuts, poultry and fish as a means of combatting cognitive decline.
The Weight Watchers diet
Although the Weight Watchers diet expressly aims to help dieters achieve weight loss, experts have been impressed with the way its emphasis on living a healthier lifestyle also brings far broader benefits. Probably one of the more detailed plans, the Weight Watchers system extends beyond food options alone to embrace additional support and motivational elements such as online chat forums and sometimes live meetings to attend.
All this seems a far cry from the Keto diet, one of 2018’s seriously on-trend dietary solutions. With Silicon Valley execs and celebs such as the Kardashians heavily sold on the idea, it’s not difficult to see how this fat-burning diet caught the popular imagination. However, it’s strict regime proved very hard to follow, and some believe this plan can even risk liver and kidney problems.