‘Best Diet’ of 2019 Has Some Weight-Loss Drawbacks

An Arivale Hot Topic

Jennifer Lovejoy, Arivale Chief Science Officer, PhD
Jennifer Lovejoy
Arivale Chief Science Officer, PhD

There’s a new best diet for 2019 – at least according to one group of experts. But, eaters take note: this year’s top diet isn’t without its drawbacks, especially for people looking to lose weight in the New Year.

2019’s Best Diet

Every year, a panel of experts put together by US News and World Reports reviews popular diets across a variety of categories and comes out with its “best diet” recommendations. In 2018, the top spot was a tie between the Mediterranean and DASH diets.

In 2019, the Mediterranean diet alone holds the top spot, followed by DASH at number two and a “flexitarian” diet at number three. The Mediterranean diet was also named the “Best Diabetes Diet,” “Best Diet for Healthy Eating,” “Best Plant-Based Diet,” “Best Heart-Healthy Diet,” and “Easiest Diet to Follow.”

As noted in a CNN story about the new diet ratings, what the top three diets have in common is a focus on minimally processed foods – especially fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes – and flexibility, which includes recognizing that occasional indulgences – be that a dessert or glass of wine – are important in a healthy dietary pattern. Being overly rigid about food rules and restrictive about choices can lead to unhealthy behaviors and is a set-up for yo-yo dieting.

Arivale’s Take

We agree the Mediterranean diet is an overall healthy diet choice for most people. In addition to the heart and diabetes benefits highlighted by US News and World Reports, the Mediterranean diet is part of the basis of the “MIND” diet, which has been shown to have benefits for age-related cognitive decline.

However, there are a couple caveats when it comes to the Mediterranean diet.

First, it didn’t make the top 10 list for weight-loss diets – and there’s a good reason for that. All that olive oil that’s part of a traditional Mediterranean diet is high in calories and can undermine weight loss.

Fortunately, if your goal is to lose weight and you’re interested in the other benefits of a Mediterranean diet, there’s a simple solution: implement a Mediterranean diet but strictly limit your olive oil intake. Use non-stick cookware or cooking sprays in place of olive oil when cooking, and season your food with herbs and spices rather than adding a lot of oil. That way you’ll still get all the heart and brain benefits of the Mediterranean diet without the added calories. Plus, because minimally processed foods are so filling, you’ll feel less hungry and have an easier time sticking to a reduced-calorie plan.

The second caveat is the alcohol in a traditional Mediterranean diet. While moderate intake of alcohol has been shown in some studies to be heart-healthy, other studies suggest more caution is needed. And if you’re working on weight loss, alcohol is another source of empty calories that can make following a reduced-calorie plan difficult. For those adopting the Mediterranean diet for brain health, it’s important to note that while moderate alcohol intake may have a preventive effect, once there’s any sign of Mild Cognitive Impairment studies show alcohol should be avoided.

The bottom line when it comes to overall healthy diets is simple: keep it minimally processed and mostly plant-based while allowing flexibility and the occasional indulgence. There are many healthy diet plans that meet these goals: Mediterranean, DASH, flexitarian, vegetarian, MIND, and others. The key is to choose a plan that works with your lifestyle so you can follow it for the long-term.

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[Arivale Hot Topics address health stories currently in the news. The Arivale Clinical Team’s commentary on these news articles is not a review of the scientific evidence, nor an endorsement of a specific study, and is not meant as official medical opinion.]