Those who wish to change their diet among the good resolutions of 2024 can consult the annual ranking written by the American magazine US News & World Report. The Mediterranean diet is on the podium of the best diets ever for the seventh consecutive year, followed once again by Dash, a food plan promoted by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute American to counteract or prevent hypertension. In third place, occupied last year by the flexitarian, comes the Mind diet, a dietary pattern beneficial for brain health. The ranking was drawn up by a group of experts, doctors, nutritionists and epidemiologists, who evaluated, one by one, 24 different dietary regimes.
Mediterranean diet and Dash diet
“The constant first positions of the Mediterranean diet and Dash are not surprising: there are many studies that demonstrate their effectiveness on the reduction of chronic or degenerative diseases and on the promotion of longevity. In fact, they are two very similar regimes, which differ above all in the use of salt: if in the Mediterranean it is already very reduced, in the Dash it is practically non-existent” he comments Laura Rossinutritionist at Crea.
by Elvira Naselli
The Northern European paradox
It’s a shame that the Mediterranean scheme, since 2010 UNESCO intangible heritage of humanity, is little followed in the countries where it was born. “In the 1950s, as the biologist described it Ancel Keys, was the way the populations of southern Europe, such as Greece, Spain and Italy, ate, particularly in the south. Over the years, however, these countries have moved away from the Mediterranean diet, while the nations of Northern Europe, thanks to accurate nutritional prevention programs, with the promotion of the consumption of fruit and vegetables and the reduction of products of animal origin, they are adopting it more and more, adjusting the Mediterranean model according to their local products. Maybe they don’t use olive oil, but rapeseed oil, which has a similar fatty acid profile.”
In Southern Italy we eat less Mediterranean food than in the North
In 2023 Crea conducted anational survey to evaluate adherence to the Mediterranean diet in the various Italian regions: “We have observed a more marked trend of distancing in the regions where it was born, such as Campania” says the expert, “and according to national data they are also the areas in which the prevalence of childhood obesity is higher.”
The diet for the brain
Bronze medal for Mind dietfocused on foods capable – according to studies conducted by the American nutritional epidemiologist and creator of the diet Martha Clare Morris – to improve brain performance by potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline. In particular, it suggests consuming seven servings of green leafy vegetables per week; five half-cup portions of berries a week, to snack on nuts almost every day, to consume fats especially from fish and oil, reducing butter and cheese.
“The Mediterranean is also called into question for brain health, in particular for the prevention of some forms of dementia, and may also have an effect on slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease, although there is not enough data to support that it is a tool to prevent it” specifies Rossi. “On Mind, which is basically a Mediterranean scheme, reference is made mostly to observational studies, which have a different strength from intervention studies, but connect the diet with positive cognitive effects.”
The other rankings
Among the other rankings drawn up by US News magazine you can find the list of the best plant-based diets, where the flexitarian, a regime that is very attentive to the consumption of red and processed meats. “Flexitarian” is the fusion of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian”: those who follow this diet are vegetarian most of the time, but do not completely eliminate meat, which they will only consume on special occasions. Studies show that a flexitarian diet can help improve your overall health, as well as be more respectful of the planet.
by Elvira Naselli
The best diets for losing weight
The best diet to lose weight, however, would be the Weight Watchers, a dietary program born and spread in the United States, where adult obesity rates are higher than those in Europe. “It is an American company that offers weight loss services, including specific food products. It organizes programs in which the people who sign up are highly followed and participate in groups, motivating themselves and comparing their experiences, somewhat according to self-help model of Alcoholics Anonymous” continues the Crea nutritionist.
In second place among the slimming regimes is the always awarded one Mediterranean. “There are studies that have compared a low-calorie Mediterranean diet with a high-protein diet: at two years the second one works better, because you eat as you like but the proteins are more satiating and therefore you consume fewer calories; at four years, however, there is an increase in weight in those who have followed the high-protein diet, because they are used to an unbalanced diet that is difficult to maintain in the long term; while the low-calorie Mediterranean diet teaches you to eat less, but in a balanced way”.
Also effective for the waistline volumetric, agrees the expert. “It divides foods into four categories, based on caloric density, and essentially suggests satiating yourself with foods that have a lot of volume and few calories, such as broths, soups, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. There is a risk of a bit of monotony, but If a person has difficulty keeping portions down, this type of diet can be helpful.”
The ‘fast slimming’
Finally, among the fast slimming products, the famous one dominates again this year ketogenic and the Atkins. Rich in fat and low in carbohydrates, the keto diet aims to achieve weight loss through fat burning. “The secret is to induce the organism to one state of ketosis, forcing him to burn fats instead of sugars (i.e. carbohydrates) to produce energy and affecting his fat mass. To achieve ketosis, however, you need to eat a very low amount of carbohydrates every day: around 2 grams per kilo of desirable body weight, i.e. what you would like to achieve with the diet” highlights Rossi.
by Giulia Masoero Regis
“Born in the therapeutic field for the nutritional treatment of epilepsy, especially in children, ketogenic should be done under medical supervision, and for no more than a week to ten days, even if it is actually very popular as a do-it-yourself regime because it makes you lose weight quickly.” Seeing the scale needle drop in the space of a few days can be motivating, “however then you have to follow a nutritional re-education, otherwise if you go back to eating as before, the lost kilos will immediately return” warns Rossi. Therefore the Atkins diet has the four-phase system on its side: “The initial attack phase is to all intents and purposes ketogenic, but the advantage is that in phase two the rebalancing of the diet begins with the gradual insertion of carbohydrates and then, in the third and fourth phase, provides advice for maintaining the weight lost in the long term”.
by Irma D’Aria
Among the methods for losing weight quickly, a program is also suggested (called HMR), based on the use of meal replacements, such as bars or solutions to dissolve in water. “For these products, EFSA has approved the claim “adjuvants in weight loss” because they force you to have very strict caloric control” concludes the nutritionist. “They are expensive programs, which are followed for a limited period of time, but which can be useful, like the others in this category, if a person needs to lose many kilos quickly to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes”