The idea of eating healthy seems simple enough: avoid foods with added sugar and salt, enjoy foods rich in fiber and antioxidants, and eat lots of vegetables. However, it’s not so simple when you have to choose between a number of diets that all claim to get you there as soon as possible. How do you know which one is right for you? Well, thanks to the science of nutrition, you now have an answer.
While it’s never a bad idea to try out a new diet or lifestyle, especially if it makes you feel and look better, it’s important to understand the research behind it all. This way, you’ll know what advantages and disadvantages you’re likely to experience. Luckily for you, we’ve done the research and analyzed the evidence to find out which diets are the best for your health. Let’s take a look.
The Best Diets Based On The Least Significant Evidence
When you’re choosing a diet for yourself or someone you love, it’s important to focus on what will make the biggest difference: your health. Fortunately, there are several diets that have been proven to have the least significant impact on your health. Let’s take a look at them.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular healthy diets. Forbes has ranked the top 30 diets according to their importance to health, and the Mediterranean diet came in at number six. The diet stresses the importance of balancing nutrition with plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and moderate amounts of protein. The important thing to note about this diet is that it’s not limited to a certain food group; you can mix and match the food you eat from the different food groups to create a meal that’s right for you.
A 2018 study from the United Kingdom’s Oxford University compared the diet to a typical Western diet. For 11 weeks, the participants in the study ate what they wanted while following the Mediterranean diet or the Western diet. At the end of the study, the participants on the Mediterranean diet had better scores in several areas of their health, including their cholesterol levels and blood pressure. They also had higher levels of the “good” cholesterol, also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, than the participants on the Western diet. However, the two diets had the same score in terms of the “bad” cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
The takeaway from the study is that the Mediterranean diet promotes healthier cholesterol levels and blood pressure. People who want to try out this diet for themselves or for a loved one should eat more veggies, fruits, and whole grains while cutting back on the amount of meat and unhealthy fats they eat. Going meatless one day a week can help bring down your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, so long as you do the same on the other days. Eating lots of natural foods is also important, so try to avoid processed foods and takeaways where you can.
The DASH Diet (The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)
DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. The acronym DASH was first used in 2013 when the American Heart Association (AHA) published findings from a study comparing the diets to see which one affected blood pressure the most. Since then, the AHA and other health organizations have found that people who follow the DASH diet have better blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This diet emphasizes the need to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as avoiding meat, dairy, and sugar. The DASH diet also suggests that you limit the amount of sodium you eat, so keep a careful eye on your daily sodium intake.
A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology compared the DASH diet to a typical Western diet. For 12 weeks, the participants on the DASH diet followed a diet that was high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while cutting back on the amount of meat they ate. At the end of the study, the participants lost weight and their cholesterol levels and blood pressure decreased significantly. The DASH diet is a popular choice for people who want to reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, some people who follow the diet need to take blood pressure medication, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor before you start following the diet.
The Low-FODMAP Diet
Let’s not forget about gluten, the common wheat and other related grains that are a main source of gluten in most diets. These are the guys that irritable bowel disease (IBD) and other gastrointestinal issues are known to come from. People with IBD suffer from severe stomach cramping and pain as well as diarrhea and constipation. While there is no evidence that gluten causes these issues alone, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s involved. And what’s worse is that many people with celiac disease cannot detect gluten even when they are consuming it, making this food group a hidden source of inflammation for them. This is why, for people with IBD and those who want to avoid the issues that come with it, a low-FODMAP diet is the solution.
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. The acronym is an abbreviation for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, which are non-digestible carbohydrates. They pass through the small intestine undigested and are subsequently fermented by colonic bacteria. This diet assumes that a significant portion of the gastrointestinal issues people face are due to the food they eat and the reaction it causes in their bodies. The idea is to slowly reduce the amount of gluten, dairy, and other grains you eat while trying to get your body back to a healthy state. This is why a lot of the food on this diet is bland and why you eat less of it: to avoid any reactions that may result from its consumption.
A 2017 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition compared the effects of the low-FODMAP diet to a typical Western diet. For 10 weeks, the participants on the low-FODMAP diet followed a diet that was very low in gluten, dairy, and grains. At the end of the study, the participants lost weight and their bowel movements became regular, resulting in improvements in their gastrointestinal health as well as their cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The low-FODMAP diet offers a safe and healthy way to lose weight as well as improve your overall nutrition. However, people who want to avoid gluten, dairy, and grains should be careful when choosing the foods they eat because they cannot offer much in terms of variety.
Based on the evidence we’ve discussed, it’s clear which diets the medical doctor’s advice your physician will give you when it comes to nutrition. While the Mediterranean diet has been proven to have many health advantages and is low in calories, most people will still opt for the quick fix of a candy bar instead. For those who want to lose weight or improve their overall health condition, the low-FODMAP and DASH diets offer an excellent solution. These diets emphasize the importance of taking the time to choose natural foods rather than whatever is available quickly and easily, and that includes cutting back on the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners you eat. As always, it’s important to consult with your physician before starting any diet or new lifestyle, especially if you’re not sure what will happen. Try these out if you’re curious and see how much healthier you can eat when you work with a nutritionist.