If you’re like many people I know, this might involve changing your diet to better manage a chronic illness, such as hypertension, heart disease or diabetes, or to generally improve your energy levels and nutrition.
If so, I have terrific news! US News and World Report released its annual rankings of diets this week.
Three of the diets highlighted include the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Ornish diet and the Mediterranean diet. These were the top three for heart health.
The Mediterranean diet was ranked number one overall – for the fourth consecutive year – and the DASH diet tied for second overall with the Flexitarian diet. The Flexitarian and Mediterranean diets tied for the top spot for diets that help manage diabetes.
What do all of the top diets have in common? They focus on nutrient-dense foods. In fact, the lifestyle modifications I recommend are based on a combination of the top diets and the evidence-based medicine that supports them.
For instance, in a randomized cross-over trial, which means that patients, after a prescribed time, can switch to the more effective group, showed that the DASH diet is not just for patients with high blood pressure.
The DASH diet was more efficacious than the control diet in terms of diabetes, weight loss, as well as in HDL (“good”) cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure.
Interestingly, patients still lost weight, although caloric intake and the percentages of fats, protein and carbohydrates were the same between the DASH and control diets.
However, the DASH diet used different sources of macronutrients. The DASH diet also contained food with higher amounts of fiber, calcium and potassium and lower sodium.
Therefore, diets high in nutrient-dense foods may be an effective way to both lose weight and treat or prevent disease.
Of course, if you’ve tried to change your diet in the past, you probably know that not every diet is easy to follow, even after you get beyond the “changing my eating habits” part of the equation.
Choosing a diet that works for both you and others in your household can be tricky. And, let’s face it, no one wants to make two meals – or more – to accommodate everyone’s needs.
According to US News and World Report, the easiest to follow are the Mediterranean diet, which took the top spot, the recently redesigned WW (Weight Watchers) diet, which took second place, and the Flexitarian diet, which came in third.
If you’re not familiar with a Flexitarian diet, which we noted also tied for the second-best diet overall, its name is a combination of “flexible” and “vegetarian,” and its focus is on increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and minimizing – but not necessarily eliminating – your intake of animal products.
For many, this lack of rigidity can help, whether the goal is to transition to a complete vegetarian lifestyle eventually or to manage the different palates around the table.
I encourage you to read more about each of these diets and select one, in consultation with your physician, that will help you meet your personal health goals – from both nutritional and manageability standpoints.