Sunday, December 30, 2018

Best Diets for Health 2019

What does “eating healthy” mean?  What are healthy diets to follow?  A diet not for weight loss or weight gain, but just a healthy eating pattern?  I just read that Chipotle is offering bowls for dieters.  Trouble is the “diets” they are offering aren’t the recommended ones for weight loss and good health.  Go to the gym or any restaurant and you hear people talking about diets.  Some are on a “cleanse”.  Some think they are eating healthy by following the Whole30 diet.  According to the Whole30 website, food groups like grains and dairy have a negative impact on health.  US News & World Report gives the Whole30 diet a poor rating and a low ranking.  Why?  The diet is quite restrictive and excludes grain (an important food group), legumes, even peanut butter, and dairy – another important food group.  Whole grains are hugely important in our diets for fiber, trace minerals and other nutrients.  Rather than excluding whole grains, Americans should be eating more whole grains.  Dairy foods shouldn’t be restricted as dairy foods contribute calcium and vitamin D which so many Americans are lacking in their diets.  Any diet that excludes a food group, excludes nutrients that the food group provides, is not a healthy diet.  So how do you decide what is a healthy diet? 

Each year, the US News & World Report evaluates the “Best Diets”.   For 2019, they evaluated 41 popular diets and determined which ones are best for your health and fitness.  What do they look for?  They use health experts to rank diets on a number of parameters including how nutritious the diet is, how safe it is and whether the diet protects against diseases like diabetes and heart disease.  Top spots for 2019 went to the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet. 

Three diets are ranked as the “Best Diets” for 2019
      1.   Mediterranean Diet – this diet moved to the top place for 2019 and has been written about extensively.  This diet is based on the foods people eat in countries around the Mediterranean Sea.  Not only is their diet rich in fruits and veggies, they lead an active lifestyle.  Many nutritionists and health experts recommend this pattern of healthy eating.  Rather than giving up a food group, this diets recommends foods from each food group – but healthy foods from each group.
a.       Why is this diet good for your health?  The Mediterranean diet is a good diet for disease prevention – prevention of cancer and diabetes.  It is diet for healthy hearts and a healthy brain.   And, you can use this diet for weight loss.  Basically, a healthier you.  To get started, try the 30-Day Mediterranean Diet Challenge at Eating Well.    
b.       Foods to enjoy:  fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fish.  
                                                               i.      Choose low-fat dairy – 2%, 1% or non-fat milk.  Choose low-fat yogurt.  Buy cheese that is made with low fat or skim milk like mozzarella cheese.
                                                             ii.      Whole grains – as noted in a previous blog, so many Americans have few or no whole grains in their day.  Find a way to add whole grains to your daily food intake and to your kid’s diet.  Starting the day with oatmeal or Cheerios is a good way to add whole grains to your day.
                                                           iii.      Fruit and Vegetables – 5 A Day is a start.  More than 5 A Day is even healthier.
                                                           iv.      Nuts – add a handful of nuts a day
                                                             v.      Olive oil – buy some extra virgin olive oil and use it in cooking.
c.       Foods to cut back on: red meat, foods with added sugar and foods high in saturated fat.  
       2.  DASH Diet – this diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, thus the acronym, DASH. Although it was designed to help lower blood pressure, the diet is good for your health.  U.S. News & World Report notes the diet is praised for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to control diabetes, and prevent and lower blood pressure.
a.       Nutrients – the diet emphasizes nutrients that help lower one’s blood pressure like potassium and calcium.  It encourages more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and dairy – but low fat dairy products. 
b.       Foods to limit are those higher in saturated fats like fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods, coconut oil, and foods high in salt.  Also, cutting back on added sugar but cutting back on sodas, sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets high in added sugar.
c.       To get more guidance on the DASH diet from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, get a 20 page guide, DASH Eating Plan or a 6 page guide at Lowering Blood Pressure with DASH. 
Although the DASH diet was designed for lowering high blood pressure, it is a good overall pattern of eating healthy.

       3.  Flexitarian Diet– still in third place again this year is the Flexitarian Diet.  This sounds like it would be a “quack” diet, but it is actually a diet that emphasizes many healthy foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein.  It is a diet that combines vegetarian eating and flexibility.  This diet has been around since 2009 and was popularized by Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D. in her book, “The Flextarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life”.  Well this is mostly a vegetarian diet, the flexibility comes in because you can still enjoy a burger, a steak and other meat – but on occasion. 
a.       You ADD 5 food groups to your diet:
      •   Plant-based protein = tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, eggs and seeds.
      •   Fruit – all kinds
      •   Vegetables
      • Whole grains
      • Sugar and spice – spices are super healthy so a good addition to any diet,
      •  pastries.  Oil – olive oil
      •  Protein – emphasis on fish and poultry
                b.       Foods to cut back on:  red meat, fried and fast food, butter, stick margarine (choose tub margarine) and foods with added sugar like sweets and soft drinks.

So rather than going on some crazy diet plan in an effort to eat healthier in 2019, choose one of the above diets to begin modeling your own eating after.  Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up all the foods you like to eat, but adding some foods that promote good health like more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and more low-fat dairy to your day.  Rather than focusing on foods to cut from your diet to eat healthier, focus on what healthy foods you can add to your day.  

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