I am often asked what the best diet is...Paleo? Keto? Vegan?...
My response? "Whatever works for you." But that's not entirely true. I simply don't think there is a "best," or at least, one that fits neatly into the "best diet" superlative title for every single person.
Dr. Steven Nissen, Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, would beg to differ. The Mediterranean diet, he claims, is the best option for lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. Evidence also suggests a decreased risk of the development of certain cancers as well.
The Medical community continues to agree. Every year, a panel of doctors and dietitians get together to rank diets, and every year the Mediterranean diet comes in first or second.
So what does the Mediterranean diet consist of?
Mostly fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, and nuts.
Fish and poultry a few times per week (2 for fish, 2 for poultry)
Moderate wine consumption (a glass or 2 per day)
Minimal dairy products, red meat, processed meats and sugar
Additionally, the "Mediterranean Lifestyle" is active and social, which contribute to an overall healthy life.
While I don't label myself as any one particular thing, I would say the diet I most closely follow and recommend falls more into a Mediterranean category.
I don't support omitting food groups, but rather, eating more vegetables and healthy fats. When focused on adding more of these, a diet becomes less "omit this" and more about "add more of this." In this sense, a piece of chocolate, or popcorn at the movies, or a glass or 2 of wine doesn't "wreck" your life. They just aren't the main components of a diet.
Clients often find that when they fill up on the good stuff, they don't crave less healthy options as strongly, and are better able to manage portion sizes of them.
But it's the evidence-based support of the Mediterranean diet that is most telling.
This doesn't mean other diets don't work. I've personally had success with keto cycling, intermittent fasting and periods of a more paleo focus-- but these are always temporary, corrective measures (like after traveling), not something sustainable. They are also done in a very planned and healthy way.
Here are ways I recommend incorporating a Mediterranean Diet into your life:
- Eat vegetarian 1-2 times-per-week
- Fill half your plate with vegetables
- Eat a fist-size portion of protein; no more, no less
- EAT to satiety
- Enjoy a glass of wine a few times a week
- Limit dairy, and choose high-quality grass-fed sources as often as possible
- Monounsaturated fats are your best friend
Additionally, plan ahead and don't let yourself go longer than 15 hours without food. If you eat dinner at 6, be sure to eat by 9 am the next day. If you eat later, you can maybe push it to midday. I see more damage done to hormones and metabolism by people going too long between meals, which leads to overeating. By eating regularly throughout the day, keeping snacks on hand and planning ahead based on what your day will look like, you keep your blood sugar stable and resting metabolic rate (RMR) active.
Food should be an enjoyable experience, and especially, a nourishing one. Fill your plates with real stuff.