Home Healthy Eating New year, new you? Here's what experts say is the best diet for 2021 – USA TODAY

New year, new you? Here's what experts say is the best diet for 2021 – USA TODAY

5 min read

Rasha Ali

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Adults on this diet increased their good gut bacteria in one year

New research in the medical journal BMJ showed adults who ate a Mediterranean diet for an entire year increased their good gut bacteria and decreased the bad ones.


New year, new lifestyle change? Try the Mediterranean diet.

For the fourth year in a row, the Mediterranean diet continues to be named the best overall diet, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking revealed Monday.

The Mediterranean diet, which is consistently backed by studies showing a correlation with decreased risk of disease, also nabbed the No. 1 spot for best diets for healthy eating, easiest diets to follow, best diets for diabetes, best plant based diets and best heart-healthy diets. 

The diet advocates heart-healthy foods that are typically eaten in the Mediterranean. The diet guides people to eat plenty of plants and foods that are low on “bad” cholesterol, such as legumes, nuts, wheat, fruits and veggies. For example, in this diet, you replace butter with healthy fats like olive oil, salt with herbs and spices, and red meat with fish and poultry.

Plus, it’s totally cool to have a glass of red wine on occasion. 

In one of the largest and longest studies that looks at the diet’s effect on gut bacteria, published in February 2020 by the British Medical Journal Gut, research found the Mediterranean diet could have a positive effect within just one year for older adults by reducing the “bad” ones and increasing the “good.”

Following the Mediterranean diet, the DASH and Flexitarian diet tied in at No. 2 for Best Overall Diet. The DASH diet, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, the government-backed plan aimed at helping followers lower their blood pressure while the Flexitarian diet is a modified vegetarian diet where users eat animal products in moderation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending many people’s lives, some turned to social media to joke about the “quarantine 15” after reaching for comfort food during times of uncertainty and stress.

“It’s not uncommon during periods of stress that people would reach for foods higher in sugar and fat – it’s comforting,” Carli Liguori, a registered dietitian and instructor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity at the University of Pittsburgh told USA TODAY earlier this year.

Dr. David Katz, one of the panelists who weighed in on the diets said in a statement though COVID-19 has been “overriding health concern for this past year,” it’s important to remember that maintaining a healthy diet “not only influences everything about our health over a lifetime, but it acutely affects the function of our immune system and exerts an outsized influence on risk factors related to COVID.”

Contributing: Brett Molina, Ryan Miller, USA TODAY; Rebecca King, North Jersey

More: The Mediterranean diet could help ‘healthy aging,’ study suggests

More: Meals you can make with canned goods and other pantry items during the coronavirus quarantine

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