Every year, the U.S. News uses a panel of nutrition experts to rate the upcoming year’s top diets and reviews them in detail for the general public. The top 40 most popular diets are scored by short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, diabetes, heart, ease of compliance, nutritional completeness, and health risks. For an in-depth review of their expert opinion, please visit the U.S. News article reviewing all of the diets here. However, if you would like the Spark-Notes, Reader’s-Digest, one-paragraph-or-less version of the reviews, continue reading below to find a short run-down of the diet and my personal opinion on their effectiveness paired with a few research references backing up the claims.
What the diet is: This diet aims to mimic the lifestyle of those living in countries bordering the Mediterranean sea which, in brief summary, consists of being active, controlling weight, and eating a diet that is low in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat. Due to its emphasis on lean protein and fish, this diet also provides plenty of heart healthy Omega-3’s and also encourages plenty of vegetables and fruits.
My opinion: In my opinion, this is a very achievable and well-rounded diet. I agree with its general principles and I agree with the first place ranking. The biggest drawback of this diet is that it does not have strict guidelines for those who appreciate more structured guidance. This diet can look very different to different people, so the customizability is a positive aspect for those who are good at self-monitoring, but may be difficult for those who like more structure and guidance. The results that have been shown with this diet, both anecdotally and in research studies, lends credibility to the diet’s effectiveness.
What the diet is: The acronym DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension, which is why this diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy as a means to increase nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and fiber and lower sodium to achieve reduced hypertension. Sodium should be capped at 2,300 mg a day at first and then eventually lowering to less than 1,500 mg.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet is an excellently well-rounded diet that is an easy-to-follow approach to dieting. It is not particularly restrictive and allows the individual to customize the diet to their lifestyle. The step-down method of reducing sodium from 2,300 g to 1,500 mg allows time for the taste buds to adjust and is a better method than the “cold turkey” method that many other diets take. I believe that this diet is sustainable and can be followed long-term which is why I agree with its high ranking.
What the diet is: This diet is basically a vegetarian diet with a little more flexibility, as the name suggests. The point of the diet is to eat as a vegetarian the vast majority of the time; however, when the urge hits the individual is free to indulge in that craving.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet has a good principle. I believe that the health benefits to following a vegetarian diet are substantial as long as the individual who is following the diet is educated enough in nutrition to fill the gaps in nutrition that a vegetarian diet can cause. However, the flexitarian diet reduces the risk of this complication by allowing for the occasional meat option. I believe that this diet is a much more achievable option for individuals who are more motivated and interested in the vegetarian diet but who are not convinced they could fully commit.
What the diet is: This diet was created with the goal of preventing the onset or progression of age-related mental decline. Fish and seafood are the primary sources of animal protein, olive oil is the main source of fat, wine is allowed in moderation, and red meats and sweets are only allowed on occasion. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains along with beans, nuts, and lean animal proteins are the mainstays of this diet, especially with leafy green vegetables and berries.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet is another option that is achievable to follow long term with the flexibility that it allows. Although seafood is encouraged as the main protein source, it still allows for other meats, and its main objective is to promote produce such as leafy green vegetables and berries which is also a very feasible guideline to follow long-term.
What the diet is: This diet has been around for as long as some of us can remember. This diet has stood the test of time, but there have been a few updates that make this diet more conducive to overall health and wellness rather than just weight loss. The premise of this diet is that the individual has an allowance of so many points in one day, and each food is assigned a point value. No food is off limits as long as it fits into the sum of points for the day without going over. One such adjustment is that over 200 foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, have been made 0 points to encourage their plentiful consumption. There is a subscription fee for this diet, so it may become pricey.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet is a very valuable option for those who need a support system and accountability to be successful in their diet. Also this diet may be pricier than others, that value is paid back to the user in the form of more structured guidance through the point system and the ability to speak with advisors from the program. I also believe that the adjustments that have been made to add 0 point foods such as fruits and vegetables to the plan only encourages people to add more of these to their diets to fill their hunger and is a great motive to get such individuals to eat more produce. Overall I believe that this is a feasible diet for someone who is looking for extra help to achieve their dietary goals.
What the diet is: The Mayo Clinic diet is based off of an updated food pyramid that emphasizes fruits, veggies, and whole grains. The diet emphasizes the ability to eat greater amounts of lower energy dense foods. For example, one candy bar has the same amount of calories as several cups of certain vegetables.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet has potential, but the major drawback of this diet is that it costs to subscribe to. It costs $5 per week or $65 for the entire quarter (13 weeks). This is quite pricey and might deter people from following this, especially long term. However; the efficacy of this diet, when followed, has proven to be very effective.
What the diet is: This diet is not as much of a structured diet as it is an approach to eating. This diet divides food into four categories which are very low, low, medium and high density. The very low density foods include non-starchy vegetables, broth-based soup, and low-fat dairy while very high density foods are crackers, chips, chocolate candies and cookies.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet could be confusing for an individual to follow. The “density” levels are not very clear and it would take considerable practice to learn all of the densities of the food. The diet encourages a standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner and several snacks in between. This increases the possible margin for error. I believe that this diet may be too confusing for many individuals, but could prove promising for those who are motivated enough to buy and read the book and understand the density levels.
What the diet is: The acronym TLC standards for therapeutic lifestyle changes and has the ultimate goal of cutting cholesterol. The diet calls for eating plenty of veggies and fruits, breads, cereals and pasta and lean meats. The diet highly increases the amount of fiber in order to decrease cholesterol and also greatly reduces saturated fats for the same reason.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet is pretty general and encompasses the guidelines of several other popular diets that are top-rated. While the diet offers some guidance through the manual, it also takes an adjustment period during which an individual must become more proficient at reading food labels.
What the diet is: This diet aims to incorporate Scandinavian tradition and culture into a healthy diet that Americans can follow. There are 10 concepts underlying the diet: Eat more fruits and vegetables every day. Eat more whole grains. Include more foods from the seas and lakes. Choose high-quality meat – but eat less meat overall. Seek out more food from wild landscapes. Use organic produce whenever possible. Avoid food additives. Base more meals on seasonal produce. Consume more home-cooked food. Produce less waste. This diet also focuses on choosing grains that are lower glycemic index.
My opinion: In my opinion, this diet is a good idea especially in the way of becoming more environmentally responsible as a culture; however, there are several drawbacks to the diet. The first drawback is that to truly follow this diet would be very impractical. Staples of the Nordic diet are elk meat, rapeseed oil, Icelandic yogurt, lingonberries, rutabaga and herring which are all common in Denmark but are hard to obtain here in the states.
What the diet is: This diet is low in fat, refined carbs, and animal protein. However, this diet is not entirely about food and the diet plan also emphasizes exercise, stress management, and relationships. Foods are ranked into groups of 1-5 from most to least healthy. Aerobic activities, weight training, and flexibility exercises are highly encouraged. Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are highly encouraged for stress management.
My opinion: I appreciate the well-rounded advice of this diet. I agree that mental health plays into physical health and I appreciate the inclusion of stress management and healthy relationships. Although the plausibility of cutting out meat as a significant protein source takes away from this diet’s achievability, I still believe that the flexibility of allowing occasional meat consumption makes this diet still very possible. As I recently learned, the Ornish diet is one of the very first dietary protocols that is covered by MediCare under cardiac rehabilitation treatment in hospitals.
Published by Complementary Nutrition (Meagan Dzekunskas, RDN, LD)
My name is Meagan and I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I graduated from the Human Nutrition and Dietetics program of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL and the Dietetic Internship at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX. An interest in nutrition and food's interaction with the human body has been passed down in my family through the generations. My goal is to foster this curiosity in you and encourage you to question everything you have ever heard about nutrition. In this social media era it's difficult to know what you can believe. I hope to be a reliable, trust-worthy source of information on all of the latest health fads, crazes, and trends.
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