Looking to make dietary changes in 2023? There are plenty of options if you’re looking for a new meal plan or hoping to make dietary lifestyle changes.
One way to eat continues to top the list for experts.
The Mediterranean diet ranked No. 1 on US News & World Report’s Best Diets for 2023 list, which was released on Tuesday. The list includes 24 diets that have been reviewed by a panel of health experts. This is the sixth consecutive year that the Mediterranean diet has been ranked first.
In addition to landing the best overall category, the Mediterranean Diet took first place for Best Plant-Based Diets, Best Diets for Bone and Joint Health, Best Family-Friendly Diets, and Best Diets for a healthy diet.
So what makes this diet so special?
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The Mediterranean diet is approved by experts
“I love that the Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, and offers a wide variety of foods,” says Gena Hamshaw, a registered dietitian in New York who was not on the US panel. News. .
“Nutritionalally, I like that it can help people eat more fiber and healthy fats. Mediterranean eating habits generally encourage people to try more plant-based foods and whole foods. .”
The eating pattern is sustainable, says Elizabeth Huggins, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Hilton Head Health who was not on the US News panel.
“A lot of others — and I’ll say diets in a dietary sense, not an eating pattern — but when you look at the diets out there, they might have quick results,” she says. “But can people support them?”
Usually the answer is no, she says.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet follows traditions of how residents of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea have traditionally eaten.
“There is no Mediterranean diet. Greeks eat differently from Italians, who eat differently from French and Spaniards,” US News and World Report says in its announcement. “But they share many of the same principles.”
There are 21 countries around the sea including Italy, Greece, Croatia, Lebanon, Monaco and Turkey.
“I think it has the potential to sound maybe foreign or exotic and unfamiliar, you know, like an average American,” Huggins said. “But when you get down to it, it’s really consuming a lot of vegetables… consuming fruit, beans.”
What foods should you eat on the Mediterranean diet?
The diet is characterized by eating mostly plant-based foods, including fruits and vegetables, while also incorporating beans, nuts, whole grains, seafood, and lean poultry. There is also an emphasis on unsaturated fats from sources such as extra virgin olive oil.
An occasional glass of red wine is also considered an acceptable part of the diet.
“Characteristics of this eating style include an emphasis on mono- and polyunsaturated fats (such as those in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish), lots of fruits and vegetables, and protein coming largely from fish and legumes, as well as poultry and eggs,” Hamshaw says.
What foods should be avoided in the Mediterranean diet?
Red meat, Hamshaw says, is allowed but eaten more rarely than other proteins. According to US News & World Report, whole dairy products, sweets, processed meat and snacks, sugary drinks, butter, sugary drinks and alcohol should also be limited.
The diet is one of the best-studied diets: Research has repeatedly backed its possible benefits, Hamshaw says.
“This type of low-fat diet leaves little room for the saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium that flood the standard American diet,” says US News & World Report. “People who follow a Mediterranean-style diet have a longer life expectancy, report a better quality of life, and are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”
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How to start the Mediterranean diet
Huggins says an easy way to get started is to think about what vegetables you like and choose to incorporate those vegetables more into your diet. And if you’re looking to continue incorporating meat, start thinking about how to reduce the portion of meat and use it as an “accent” while adding alternative proteins like beans into your diet.
What are the benefits of a Mediterranean diet?
“Due to its emphasis on heart-healthy unsaturated fats, the diet has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke,” Hamshaw says. “Additionally, the diet tends to be high in phytonutrients that may benefit cognitive function over time.”
US News & World Report adds that the diet has also been found to potentially prevent type 2 diabetes, likely reduce symptoms of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including arthritis, and may even help depression, according to the report. publication.
But it goes beyond just health, according to analysis by US News and World Report.
The diet is “family friendly” – most family members can eat Mediterranean dishes without much modification – it is well balanced “for all ages”. It is also “economical” and does not require a lot of specialized items. And, since the diet is primarily plant-based, it’s also “planet-friendly.”
Who Should Try the Mediterranean Diet?
Overall, it’s a good option for anyone to try, according to dietitians.
“From a health perspective, I would recommend it to almost anyone,” says Hamshaw.
Its key features – botanicals, whole grains and limited saturated fats – can be tailored to suit a person’s individual likes and dislikes.
“I think anyone could try it for sure,” says Huggins, noting that if someone has dietary restrictions, they can just adjust the diet to their needs.
But that does not mean that the eating style is well suited to everyone’s lifestyle.
“Whether or not it’s culturally appropriate and aligned with a client’s tastes is another matter, and my recommendations always take preference and culture into account,” Hamshaw says.