Why the Mediterranean Diet Is Still the Best Diet of Them All

It's claimed the top spot for the third year in a row.

January 09, 2020
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Photo by: Enrique Díaz / 7cero/Getty Images

Enrique Díaz / 7cero/Getty Images

For the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named the Mediterranean Diet the Best Overall Diet. The diet also come in at the top spot on four other lists including Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Easiest Diets to Follow, Best Diets for Diabetes, and Best Plant-Based Diets. Why is the Mediterranean Diet reining supreme? Here is insight into the U.S. News diet rankings, what the Mediterranean Diet is all about and a few recipes to get you started.

How the Rankings Work

Each year, U.S. News has an expert panel of the country’s top nutritionists, dietary consultants, and physicians specializing in diabetes, heart health, and weight loss. Twenty five panelists are given an in-depth survey, which scores 35 diets in seven areas including ease of compliance, likelihood of losing a significant amount of weight in the short and long term, and effectiveness against heart disease and diabetes. Although there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diets, these rankings together with recommendations from your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help you adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Why the Mediterranean Diet?

Compared to diets like keto and Whole30, the Mediterranean Diet isn’t very restrictive. In addition, it is more like a lifestyle as opposed to a strict daily regimen. The diet is based on research that has found that folks living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less from diseases like cancer and heart disease. Potential benefits of following the Mediterranean Diet include weight loss and brain and heart health, cancer prevention and control and prevention of diabetes.

Because the Mediterranean Diet is more of an eating pattern as opposed to a hard core structured diet, it may take some time to figure out how you should eat and the activities you will do to stay active. Basic food guidelines include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and flavorful herbs and vegetables. Healthy fat like olive oil is commonly used, and fish and seafood is enjoyed at least a few times a week. Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt are consumed in moderation and sweets and red meat are eaten on occasion. Wine is encouraged (though not required) — one glass a day maximum for women and two a day maximum for men.

Mediterranean Diet Pros and Cons

The Mediterranean Diet can be convenient as you can find many recipes that fit the lifestyle and when dining out, you can also find restaurants that serve grilled chicken breast or baked fish on the menu. The Mediterranean Diet also does not eliminate any food groups and is a well-balanced plan. Because it consists of lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes you will get plenty of fiber to help you feel full. Plus, those healthy fats like olive oil, olives and avocados have healthy fats that are satisfying.

A few setbacks of the diet are figuring out the meal plan that works best for you. In addition, the diet only promotes two servings of milk and dairy (compared to three listed in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans), but you can easily add an extra serving in at any meal or snack. If you love red meat, you can choose lean and very lean cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Because of increased trimming practices over the past several decades, there are many more lean cuts of meat available at grocery stores. Also, although the diet may seem to encourage fresh produce – you will get the same benefits by choosing canned or frozen produce. Just make sure the canned vegetables are low in salt (or rinse before using), and the canned fruit are packed in their own juices or extra-light syrup. Frozen fruit should be without any added sugar and frozen vegetables should not contain buttery or other high-fat sauces.

Recipes for Getting Started

To get started on this plan, start by gathering your favorite Mediterranean-style recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a few snacks. You can even start with a few Mediterranean style meals a week and work your way up. Over time, you can slowly add in a few recipes each week, until you build up an individualized Mediterranean recipe repertoire. Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Breakfast

Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans and Vegetables: Robin Miller

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Lunch

Katie Lee makes Mediterranean-Spiced Chicken and Eggplant, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen

Dinner

Food Network Kitchen’s Hummus Dips, Classic Hummus with Fried Chickpeas and Parsley Oil

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

Snacks

Classic Hummus with Vegetables

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