Four Popular Diets, De-Coded
What does it mean to be keto-friendly? What makes the Mediterranean diet so good for you? Ever heard of DASH or Flexitarian? It seems like everywhere you look, diets are in the news. What’s the difference? Most importantly, is there a diet that’s just right for you? Here’s some information that can help sort out the ingredients of four currently popular diets. While we’re not making any recommendations, being well informed can help when you talk with your doctor about the effects of food on your general health.
Best Diets 2020
U.S. News and World Report has a 10 year history of rating diets via a panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease. The 2020 ranking puts the Mediterranean Diet at No. 1, with DASH and Flexitarian Diets tied for No. 2. The keto diet? Ranked 34 out of 35 in the Best Diets Overall category.
Rather than a weight loss regimen, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle decision. It is patterned after general principles of healthy eating that are typical to the Mediterranean countries, with its own food pyramid. The base of the pyramid is daily physical exercise and the daily sources of food that include fruits, vegetables, grains (mostly whole), olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes and seeds, herbs and spices. The next level is fish and seafood, recommended at least twice a week. Once a week moderate portions of poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt. Meats and sweets should be occasional. Drink water daily, and wine in moderation.
The DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) is also a balanced lifestyle type of diet. Promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy while managing sodium. Such foods can be helpful in managing blood pressure. The diet discourages fatty meats, full-fat dairy, tropical oils, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. The DASH diet is relatively easy to follow and find recipes, and may result in weight loss. Restaurant eating on DASH may be challenging due to salt, fat and large portions.
Have your cake and eat it, too? Well, not exactly. However, the name flexitarian comes from combining the words flexible and vegetarian. An easy way to remember the principle is “more plants/less meat.” It’s possible to lose weight on the diet, improve overall health, lower risks for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Hunger reduces when you add fiber-rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains to your diet. Non-meat proteins, such as eggs, beans and peas are also part of the meal plans. You can find meal plans and grocery lists online to get started. Exercise is also an expectation of the diet.
Think “high-fat/low-carb” when you think about the keto diet. When you fill up on fats, the body doesn’t have as much sugar for energy, so it burns the fat from your diet and your body’s stored fat. This is called ketosis. Fat can also be satisfying, which may result in lowering the desire to eat large quantities. The diet may be effective for relatively quick weight loss. Typical foods are grass-fed beef, beef brisket, salmon, skin-on poultry (especially dark meat), bacon, vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce and kale. Avoid starches such as potatoes, carrots and turnips.
In each situation, talk with your doctor about his or her opinion regarding the right diet fit for you.