The Mediterranean diet, based on traditional eating habits in regions of Greece, Italy, and Spain, has been named the best diet overall for the fifth consecutive year by a panel of experts for US News & World Report.
Rich in plant-based foods, with moderate amounts of lean proteins and healthy fats, the diet also earned top ranking as the easiest diet to follow, best plant-based diet, best for heart health, and best for diabetes.
The rankings were determined by a panel of specialists in nutrition, heart health, diabetes, and weight loss. The panel analyzed 40 popular diets, ranking them on criteria such as how easy they are to follow, potential for short- and long-term weight loss, and potential to influence certain diseases like diabetes.
Experts have praised the Mediterranean diet for being nutritionally balanced, easy to maintain over time, and inclusive of a wide range of foods, including red wine. Extensive research suggests it’s linked to a longer, healthier life. It can be time consuming to follow, though.
The Mediterranean diet is linked to benefits like lower risk of disease and healthy aging
The Mediterranean diet is based around how people eat in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which includes so-called “Blue Zones” where people tend to live the longest, healthiest lives.
Since the diet incorporates a wide range of traditions and ingredients, it doesn’t focus on specific recipes. Instead, the basic principles include eating plenty of produce like leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, herbs and spices. It’s also rich in healthy fats, like olive oil and nuts, as well as lean protein from sources like fish and poultry.
Research suggests these eating habits are linked to benefits like better heart health, lower risk of diabetes, less inflammation, and may stave off age-related cognitive decline.
The diet is easy to follow and sustain long-term
One of the biggest draws of the Mediterranean diet is that it includes a huge variety of foods. It doesn’t cut out any foods or restrict calories. As a result, people are unlikely to experience any risks from Mediterranean eating, according to the expert reviews. The flexibility for individuals to follow the diet based on their own preferences and lifestyle makes it easy to maintain long-term, according to people who follow the diet.
Other well-balanced, adaptable diets, like the DASH and flexitarian diets, were also ranked highly by experts.
In contrast, more restrictive eating plans, like the keto diet and Dukan diet, ranked poorly, since they’re more challenging to maintain over time. Severely restricting food groups or calories can also create a risk for nutritional imbalance or disordered eating, research suggests.
If you’re looking for fast weight loss or convenience, Mediterranean eating may not be ideal
No diet is perfect for everyone. Among the few downsides of the Mediterranean diet is that it takes time and knowledge to prepare healthy foods, and ingredients can sometimes be costly, according to the expert reviews.
Since the diet wasn’t designed for weight loss, it doesn’t mandate how much you should eat or provide specific meals or eating structure, which may make it hard to lose weight quickly, experts said.
It does encourage moderation with red meat, sugar, and processed foods, which means it can work for weight loss, particularly as part of a healthy lifestyle, research suggests.
Whether the Mediterranean diet can help you lose weight depends on how it compares to your current diet and your specific meal plan, including portion sizes.
Article by Gabby Landsverk for Insider©