With a giant sigh of relief, the world collectively welcomed the New Year! Calling 2020 ‘rough’ would certainly be an understatement, and with 2021 upon us, many of us have resolved to create a fresh start and better habits to improve our lives.
Of course, a major part of that is taking care of ourselves through the way we fuel our bodies. Each year, millions of Americans make diet-related resolutions to feel better, look better, and have more energy.
Yet, some of these health plans might have more clout behind them than others. With new diet trends seemingly popping up every other week, some ‘healthy diet plans’ sound alarmingly more like Emily’s in The Devil Wears Prada than anything close to what a doctor or dietician would recommend.
So, how to know where to start? To make this part simple, we did the research for you. Our findings? One diet overwhelmingly topped the list of 39 trending diet plans.
According to research, the Mediterranean diet ranks as the No. 1 Best Overall Diet for the fourth consecutive year.
Why? Studies suggest the diet can help ward off chronic diseases and improve longevity. The Mediterranean Diet also claimed the top spot in five other lists: Best Diets for Healthy Eating (tied for No. 1), Easiest Diets to Follow, Best Diets for Diabetes (tied for No. 1), Best Plant Based Diets and Best Heart-Healthy Diets (tied for No. 1), according to the U.S. News & World Report.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional cuisine that was popular in countries like Greece and Italy in the 1960s. While traditional cooking has always been of interest, this diet’s resounding claim to fame was its powerful impact on the people who kept it.
Researchers found that Europeans who followed this diet were exceptionally healthy compared to Americans.
To start, they had a lower risk of many lifestyle diseases. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can cause weight loss while also helping to prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and premature death.
Its numerous accolades were given by some major health organizations as well (a refreshing change from photoshopped influencers trying to pedal off the latest weight-loss product)!
For example, it’s recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to promote health and prevent chronic disease.
It is also recognized by the World Health Organization as a healthy and sustainable dietary pattern. Finally, it’s been named an intangible cultural asset by the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
With so much buzz surrounding such a beneficial diet, let’s dive into how it looks in practice!
The Mediterranean diet: What to eat
According to Healthline, you should base your diet on these healthy, unprocessed Mediterranean foods:
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc.
- Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
- Fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.
- Eggs: Chicken, quail, and duck eggs.
- Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc.
- Herbs and spices: Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
- Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, and avocado oil.
Whole, single-ingredient foods are the key here!
The Mediterranean diet: What to drink
- Water should be your go-to beverage.
- Moderate amounts of red wine — around 1 glass per day — is a typical, though not necessary, part of this diet as well (that’s right — go on and raise a glass to your health!)
- Coffee and tea are also completely acceptable, but you should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices, which are very high in sugar.
The Mediterranean diet: Foods to avoid
For your healthy meals to have the biggest impact, it’s best to cut out these unhealthy foods and ingredients:
- Added sugar: Soda, ice cream, candy, table sugar, etc.
- Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
- Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods.
- Refined oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and similar products.
- Processed meat: Processed sausages, hot dogs, etc.
- Highly processed foods: Anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” or which looks like it was made in a factory.
Unlike many diets that promise major rewards, it’s not usually necessary to count calories on the Mediterranean diet.
After the year we’ve all had, this fresh simplicity feels exactly like what we’ve been missing. For an easy way to shed some lockdown pounds (Cue Regina George’s *Sweatpants are all that fit me right now*), achieve your healthy goal weight, and feel better inside and out, why not give the Mediterranean diet a try?