What's the healthiest diet?

What's the healthiest diet?
event_note  1 Jan

What's the healthiest diet?

There is no single diet that nutritionists have deemed “the healthiest.” However, there are several styles of eating that experts either have designed for optimal health or have observed to be healthy when consumed traditionally by different people around the world. Such styles of eating tend to have a few things in common—they tend to be plant-based diets, they emphasize healthy fats, no simple sugars and low sodium, and they favor natural foods over the highly processed fare typical of much of the Western diet.

For example, the Mediterranean style diet gets its name from the foods available to various cultures located around the Mediterranean Sea. It heavily emphasizes minimally processed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. It contains moderate amounts of yogurt, cheese, poultry and fish. Olive oil is its primary cooking fat. Red meat and foods with added sugars are only eaten sparingly. Besides being an effective weight loss method, eating a Mediterranean style diet is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and some forms of cancer.

Experts developed the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) specifically as a heart-healthy regimen. The combination of food types contained in the diet seem to work together especially effectively to lower blood pressure and decrease risk of heart failure. The key features of DASH are low cholesterol and saturated fats, lots of magnesium, calcium, fiber and potassium, and little to no red meat and sugar. Unsurprisingly, that equates to a list of foods similar to those of the Mediterranean diet—whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, nuts and olive oil.

As its name implies, the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) was designed by doctors to take elements from the Mediterranean and DASH diets that seemed to provide benefits to brain health and stave off dementia and cognitive decline. In practice, it is very similar to both the Mediterranean and DASH diets, but it puts stronger emphasis on leafy green vegetables and berries, and less emphasis on fruit and dairy.

In recent years, the Nordic diet has emerged as both a weight-loss and health-maintenance diet. Based on Scandinavian eating patterns, the Nordic diet is heavy on fish, apples, pears, whole grains such as rye and oats, and cold-climate vegetables including cabbage, carrots and cauliflower. Studies have supported its use both in preventing stroke and in weight loss.

What do all of these diets have in common? They’re all good for your heart, they all consist of natural unprocessed foods and they all contain plenty of plant-based dishes. Eating for your health—especially your heart health—by adopting elements from these diets is a smart way to lose weight.

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