The idea that there can be a universal “best diet” seems a little dumb to me — obviously, what works best for you diet-wise is going to depend on your particular circumstances and dietary needs and preferences. That said, almost all good diets are based on same basic principles: more fruits, vegetables & whole grains + less meat, dairy, sugar and processed food. That’s not really a “diet,” per se, so much as plain old good nutrition. But in the interest of being a good sport, I point you to U.S. News and World Report’s ‘Best Diet’ rankings.
Topping the list is the DASH diet. What is this DASH diet? Should you give it a try? Let’s investigate together, shall we?
What does DASH stand for?
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
Primary Goal of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet:
Who developed this diet?
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
What’s the big idea?
Here’s the summary from U.S. News:
Nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein, and fiber are crucial to fending off or fighting high blood pressure. You don’t have to track each one, though. Just emphasize the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy), while shunning those we’ve grown to love (calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat). Top it all off by cutting back on salt, and voilà!
[So, uh .. basically: Eat healthy food. Gee, whiz; how novel! Thanks NHLBI.]
Isn’t there actually more to it than that?
Okay, okay, there is. If you check out the NHLBI’s (64-page) free guide to the DASH diet, you can find more specific information on how many calories you need for your body weight and lifestyle, how many servings of each food group you should have and recipes/menus that incorporate these foods.
While it’s all very laudable and nutritionally sound, though, there’s little here to enlighten anyone who’s already eating a pretty balanced, healthy diet. And maybe that’s the point — there are no gimmicks, no ‘eat all you want of this’ or ‘avoid all you can of that.’ This is exactly the kind of diet you’d expect from a government agency, and perhaps exactly the kind of diet the majority of America would be wise to take a little more kindly to. Good for U.S. News for picking the DASH diet, which is, like, the kind of diet you want to marry, as opposed to some of the flashier diets, like Nutrisystem or Eco-Atkins, which are probably the kind of diet you only want to have a short-term fling with (the regular old Atkins diet fell into the bottom three slots of the U.S. News rankings, along with the raw foods diet and the “paleo” diet).
The best part of the U.S. News diet rankings probably lie not with any one recommendation, but in aggregate — the publication provides thorough info about 20 of the most popular diets floating around right now. If you are looking for a diet plan a little more structured than ‘eat healthy things and don’t eat non-healthy things,’ reading up on these diets at U.S. News might be a good place to start.