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2021’s Top 3 Best Overall Diets

February 16, 2021

Today we are continuing our series on popular diets in 2021. Up for exploration is The Mediterranean Diet, The DASH Diet and The Flexitarian Diet. US News & World Report’s health experts just ranked 2021’s Best Overall Diets. The number One Best Overall Diet in 2021 is The Mediterranean Diet. With the Dash Diet and the Flexitarian Diet tied for second place.

Attempting a diet for weight loss is one thing, but once you are at your healthy goal weight? Maintaining a healthy weight requires a diet that is sustainable for your lifestyle and overall health and wellness goals. Even though these three diets were ranked as 2021’s Best Overall Diets, not every diet will work for everyone. Read further to see if any of these three diets would work for your lifestyle and diet and fitness goals.

The Mediterranean Diet

Coming in as number one on US World & News Report’s 2021’s Best Overall Diets list, is The Mediterranean Diet. It is considered an eating philosophy and not a diet in the normal sense. The people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer. Studies have shown that there less occurrences of cancer and cardiovascular ailments than the people living in the United States. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet include: weight loss and preventing heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and premature death.

There is not a specific Mediterranean diet to follow. Mostly because there are many countries with different cuisines that border the Mediterranean Sea. Greeks eat differently from Italians, who eat differently from the French and Spanish. But much of what they eat follow the same dietary patterns. The Mediterranean diet can be adjusted to your individual needs and preferences.

What to Eat

The focus of the diet is eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices. Fish and seafood is consumed at least a couple of times a week with poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation. Red meat and sweets are rarely consumed, but a glass or two of red wine is perfectly fine.

Exercise

Two and a half hours of moderate-intensity activity weekly is recommended in addition to a couple of days of strength activity.

The DASH Diet

Tied for second place in 2021’s Best Overall Diets is the DASH Diet. DASH which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is endorsed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to stop (or prevent) hypertension, aka high blood pressure. The DASH diet reduces the sodium in your diet. And the focus is on eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.

What to Eat

The DASH diet encourages fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.  These all contain nutrients such as potassium, calcium, protein and fiber which help lower high blood pressure. The diet avoids food high in saturated fat, such as full-fat dairy, high fat meats such as red meat, tropical oils and sugary sweets and drinks. The maximum sodium to consume is 2,300 milligrams a day (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) with a lower sodium option of 1500mg per day (3/4 teaspoon of salt). If you are not sure what sodium level is right for you, talk to your doctor. The typical American diet contains 3,400 mg of sodium per a day or more. The significant reduction in sodium can have a great effect on high blood pressure.

The DASH diet can be highly sustainable and effective for many people because it can be followed long term. The benefits of the dash diet go beyond reducing high blood pressure.  The DASH diet can also help reduce risks for osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that men limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day and women to one or less. The DASH diet does not specifically address caffeine consumption. If you think caffeine is affecting your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about your caffeine consumption.

Exercise

The DASH diet is not meant to be a weight-loss diet. However, you may lose unwanted pounds when you consume healthier food choices as outlined in the diet as well as begin to pair the DASH diet with physical activity.  It’s recommended to do 30 minutes of moderate activity most days, and it’s important to choose something you enjoy — this way, you will be more likely to keep it up.

The Flexitarian Diet

“Flexitarian” is a mash up of the words flexible and vegetarian. More and more Americans are trying plant-based diets or at the very least, incorporating plant-based foods into their diets. The Flexitarian Diet is a more flexible approach to vegetarianism. You can reap the benefits of loading up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, without ditching animal products entirely.  Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, is the Chicago-based author of The Flexitarian Diet, which helped inspire the popularity of the diet. No foods are strictly forbidden, though the emphasis is eating vegetarian most of the time. This diet’s approach is one that actively advocates decreasing meat consumption.

The other major advantage of going flexitarian is the diet’s straightforwardness and flexibility, says Blatner, which increases the chances that the diet would become a long term lifestyle. It’s likely you’ll shed pounds on the Flexitarian Diet. Research shows vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories, weigh less and have a lower body mass index (a measure of body fat) than their meat-eating peers. You’ll likely feel full on fewer calories once you emphasize the plant-based component of this diet – eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains. Weight loss will occur, considering the calorie deficit and if you add a little physical activity. How quickly and whether you keep them off is up to you.

Exercise

Fit guy running down stairs in a city setting.

Ideally, you should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week (or intense exercise for 20 minutes, three times per week), along with strength training at least two days per week. But anything is better than nothing, says Jackson Blatner. In “The Flexitarian Diet,” she outlines how to view the world as your gym, maintain motivation and overcome exercise barriers.

What Not To Eat

While no food groups are entirely excluded on the Flexitarian Diet, Blatner points out it’s not just about eating fewer animal products but also about making smart food choices in general. That’s why the diet also recommends you limit your intake of the following:

  • Animal protein That includes chicken, turkey, red meat, pork, and seafood
  • Processed refined grains This includes white pasta, white bread, and white rice.
  • Animal fats This includes butter, whole milk, cream.
  • Highly processed foods and beverages like pastries, soda, chips

Alcohol

If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

An under-recognized benefit of going flexitarian is its benefit to our planet, says Sharon Palmer, RDN, “The Plant-Powered Dietitian”. Palmer suggests eating less meat can help reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, research suggests the agriculture and livestock industry are the third-largest generator of greenhouse gases, right behind transportation and fossil fuels.

We hope that you’ve learned a little more about 2021’s Best Overall Diets and will avoid fad diets to find an eating plan that focuses on healthy foods, encourages portion control, and give you the flexibility to eat your favorite foods all the while fitting into your lifestyle and schedule.

We’re here to help you on your healthy eating journey. Give us a shout to see how we can customize a plan for you! We specialize in healthy office snack delivery, individual boxed lunches as well as healthy at-home snack boxes.

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