The so-called best diet of 2019 actually isn't a diet at all — it's a style of eating in which no foods are off-limits and calorie-tracking or portion-measuring is not a thing. Drinking wine is even encouraged in this practice! Wondering what this magical new diet is? Well, according to the U.S. News & World Report, it's the Mediterranean diet. And compared to other diet fads of late, like the ketogenic diet or Whole30, the Mediterranean diet is easy to follow and has evidence-based health benefits.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating habits of people in countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, such as, Italy, Morocco, Spain, and Greece, explains Alyssa Pike, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition communications manager at the International Food Council Foundation. People in this region eat lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, herbs and spices, and small amounts of meat, fish, and dairy, she says. "Red meat is a rarity and sweets are less common as well, but nothing is totally off-limits," she says.
Although these eating customs have been in place for many years, the Mediterranean diet gained widespread attention in the 1960s. Since then, there have been numerous studies about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Meta-analyses and systematic reviews show that the Mediterranean diet is linked with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, Pike says.
Many of these health benefits can be traced to the fact that the Mediterranean diet is rich in plant foods that are high in vitamins and minerals, Pike says. But it's important to keep in mind that there are probably other factors besides diet — having a low-stress, physically active, social lifestyle — that contribute to the positive health outcomes, she says. So, adhering to the Mediterranean style of eating, as well as other healthy behaviours, is ideal if you want to reap the benefits.
Besides the foods involved in the Mediterranean diet, the framework for the diet could be good long-term because it's not a traditional "diet" with rigid rules, Pike says. "This style of eating follows a sort of 'eat more of this' and 'less of that' protocol," she says. Unlike most trendy diets with complicated rules, the Mediterranean diet is "based on simple tenets of healthy eating — like eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins — that have been long understood and accepted," she says. Simply choosing to add more of these foods into your diet is way easier and better for you than restricting.
If you're eager to implement the Mediterranean diet, start by incorporating fruits and vegetables, plant oils, whole grains, and fish into your meals. And don't forget about the non-food aspects of the "diet," like reducing stressors, exercising, and hanging out with friends. So, if you're fatigued by the endless array of fad diets out there, you might want to consider the Mediterranean mindset. "Of course, there are many factors that contribute to our health aside from what we eat," Pike says. "But this style of eating gets an A in my book."