According to a recent New York Post article, three of the top twenty goals for 2020 were health and wellness focused.1 The basics of improving your diet should be pretty simple, right? Cut back on portions, eat more greens, drink plenty of water… but what about all of the other information available? While diets promising quick results are enticing, it can be difficult to navigate through nutrition facts and fiction. The annual U.S News and World Report Best Diets publication, compiled by a panel of health experts, takes a look at 35 different diets and ranks them from best to worst by:
- Ease of following
- Nutritional completeness
- Short and long-term weight loss effectiveness
- Prevention and management with diabetes or heart disease2
By breaking down the best and worst diets of 2020, we’ll take a closer look at nutrition trends, find evidenced-based recommendations and hopefully push YOU down the road to improved health!
Best Overall Diets
What it is: The Mediterranean diet emphasizes regular intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, healthy fats and moderate portions of fish, poultry and eggs. Unlike the traditional American diet, the Mediterranean Diet recommends limiting red meat and added sugars, such as desserts.
Other recommendations: This plan encouraged meals with friends and family, regular physical exercise and the occasional glass of red wine.
Pros: Ranked the best diet overall, experts approve of the Mediterranean Diet because it’s easy to follow, encourages a nutritionally sound approach and is supportive for heart health and diabetes.
Cons: Cost of the recommended items can vary and meal planning and preparation is a must.
What it is: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet focuses on intake of foods rich in potassium, calcium, protein and fiber. Include foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and reduced fat dairy products. Foods high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar should be eaten sparingly.
Other recommendations: Combine this diet with regular physical exercise and the right amount of calories to aim for a healthy weight.
Pros: Experts rank the DASH diet high for its role in disease prevention and management as well as simplicity in following.
Cons: Meal preparation and cost are two barriers that need to be considered when incorporating the DASH diet into your healthy lifestyle.
The Flexitarian Diet6
What it is: Created in 2009 by a registered dietitian nutritionist, the Flexitarian diet combines the two words, flexible and vegetarian. Calorie goals for this plan are individualized based on health goals. An emphasis is placed on eating mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, eggs, plant-based protein, and sugar and spices. For the occasional craving, meat is allowed.
Other recommendations: Include regular exercise and strength training to optimize results.
Pros: Numerous health benefits have been associated with the Flexitarian diet. Experts rank this diet high because it is nutritionally sound and easy to follow with many simple recipe options available.
Cons: If you aren’t much of a cook and don’t LOVE fruits and vegetables, this diet may not be for you.
Worst Overall Diets
The Dukan Diet7
What it is: Marketed as a diet for fast weight loss—in fact, 10 pounds in the first week—the Dukan diet is a four-phase diet heavy on protein and very low in carbohydrates.
Nutritional concerns: Experts ranked this diet low for risk of nutritional deficits and lack of compatibility with evidenced-based nutritional goals for diabetes and heart disease. While weight loss has been reported by Dukan diet participants, clinical trials demonstrating other health benefits of this diet have yet to be completed.
What it is: Originally a method for seizure management, the Keto diet has picked up recognition in recent years for its potential effects on weight loss and diabetes management. Following a very low carbohydrate diet (think less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day), and consuming a diet high in fat, the body shifts into a state of ketosis and uses fat for energy. Regular inclusion of meat, greens, cheese, fats and sugar substitutes are encouraged and replace whole grains, fruit and starchy vegetables.
Nutritional concerns: While this diet can result in quick weight loss, much remains unknown and lacking clinical evidence for other health benefits. Due to the need for more research and the high saturated fat content of this plan, experts rank the keto diet low in nutritional value, ease of following and compatibility with other healthy diet recommendations.
What it is: The Whole30® diet is a trial and error approach to cleaning up your diet to improve overall health and energy. On this 30-day plan, grains, sugar, legumes, alcohol and dairy are eliminated. Instead, the diet consists of vegetables, meat, seafood, eggs, certain fruits, herbs, natural fat, spices and seasonings. Eliminated foods can be reintroduced after 30 days with your body’s response being used as a measure of tolerance to these food items.
Nutritional concerns: While this short-lived plan may not be harmful, experts ranked this diet low in overall diet, health benefits and ease of following due to the restrictive nature of the diet, exclusion of many foods showing health benefits and lack of clinical evidence supporting the Whole30® diet.
Food For Thought
When breaking down the pros and cons of different diets, there is a lot to consider. Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can be helpful to find the right plan for you and to provide support to help you overcome the all-too-common obstacles of willpower and motivation. Remember, the more the “diet” is part of your regular lifestyle the more likely you will stick with it. Here’s to meeting your health and wellness goals in 2020 and beyond!
Stacey Phillips, MS, RD is a clinical dietitian working with general medicine, oncology, CKD, renal transplant recipients and living kidney donor patients. Outside of her work, Stacey is passionate about improving the resources available to individuals with chronic kidney disease and actively participates on several renal dietitian committees.
If you have more questions about the best diet for you, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions. Email us at email@example.com to request a direct consultation with a dietitian today!