Looking for the Best Diet to Follow in 2015? Here Are Your Answers
A new year is upon us, which means many people will wake up on Jan. 1 resolving to change their diet. Is this the year to go gluten-free? Paleo? Vegan? Here are the expert-picked diets for helping Americans live healthier lives, according to U.S. News & World Report. Spoiler: The best diet in the world is not the one you expect.
(Note: Despite their high ranking in the U.S. News list, prepackaged diets such as Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers were not included because of their discouragement of cooking at home.)
Meatless Mondays? How about “Meatless Everyday.” Vegetarianism got high marks for heart health and the prevention and treatment of diabetes—but it was docked points for being somewhat difficult to follow. Still, research shows Americans are eating less meat today than we used to, with 5 percent describing themselves as “vegetarian.” The number of vegans more than doubled between 2009 and 2011, suggesting that more of us are seeing the inherent benefits in a plant-based diet.
Traditional Asian Diet
Starting from the premise that people from Asian countries tend to have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and obesity than Americans, the Asian diet is one that de-emphasizes red meat while heavily featuring rice, noodles, fresh vegetables and fruit, and fish.
By emphasizing a spectrum of healthful foods and behaviors, medical professor Dean Ornish takes a more holistic approach to health than most. Instead of focusing on eating (or avoiding) specific foods, the Ornish diet focuses on getting dieters to make better choices: replacing pork hot dogs with soy ones or eating bread made with whole grains instead of white flour.
The Biggest Loser
Lauded for its weight-loss potential (ranked No. 2 by the U.S. News experts), the six-week Biggest Loser diet also aims to prevent or reverse chronic diseases like diabetes in its adherents. How? By focusing on calorie restriction, eating more of the good stuff, and increased exercise.
Less of a structured diet than an approach to eating, nutritionist Barbara Rolls’ Volumetrics diet has its followers make food choices based on their energy density and hunger-fighting attributes. For instance, adherents would eat large portions of very low- and low-density foods like fruits and vegetables and legumes, but minimize medium- and high-density foods like salad dressing and crackers. The program offers solid suggestions for how to replace higher-density foods with lower-density ones, like choosing sweet potatoes over white potatoes.
Five percent of Americans identify as full-bore vegetarians, but 7 percent—23 million—say they are guided by a “vegetarian-inclined” diet. These are America’s flexitarians, a group that’s likely suffering from lower rates of disease and living almost four years longer than their non-flexitarian counterparts. Focusing on adding foods to one’s diet rather than taking them away, the vegetable-heavy meal plan sets calorie limits of 300 for breakfast, 400 for lunch, and 500 for dinner—totaling 1,500 per day.
Much attention has been given in recent years to the diet of residents of the Mediterranean world, which emphasizes healthy fats such as olive oil, lean proteins, and unprocessed carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. (The diet is also low in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat.) Exactly how to follow the Mediterranean diet depends on which country’s philosophy you’re following, as Greeks eat differently from the French, Spanish, and Italians. For general guidance, look no further than Oldways’ Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.
This diet is about developing patterns for eating and living that you’ll follow for life—not only a few weeks. Divided into two sections, “Lose it!” and “Live it!,” Mayo has dieters focus first on adding a healthy breakfast, lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and a half hour of physical activity. At the same time, you’re supposed to cut out television, sugar, snacking, excess meat and dairy, and eating out. After two weeks, the second phase, “Live it!,” continues the practices of “Lose it!” but goes deeper, emphasizing serving limits on certain foods and increased physical activity.
Developed by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program to combat heart disease, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet combines a sharp reduction in fat (especially saturated fat) and cholesterol consumption with daily calorie maximums. It ranked highly in heart-healthy diets and healthy eating and broke the top 10 for easiness to follow.
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
Earning top honors overall, specifically for fighting diabetes and for its health attributes (as well as ranking No. 3 among heart-healthy diets), DASH has both a simple goal and somewhat simple means by which to reach it: achieve your target weight by eating the foods you’ve always been told to emphasize while cutting out the ones we’ve grown to love. Even better, it’s designed to allow dieters to ease into the plan by adding a vegetable or fruit serving to a meal or preparing one or two meat-free dishes weekly. Simple.