Plant-based eating has gained popularity in the past decade.
The Mediterranean and DASH diets both emphasize whole foods and heart-healthy fats.
People remain curious about high-fat, low-carb diets, such as keto and paleo.
Healthy fats and lean proteins have dominated the past decade of diet trends, as research supported the benefits of eating like some of the longest-living people on earth.
The healthiest diets of the decade emphasized whole foods, especially plants, and limited processed food consumption, according to rankings by a panel of diet and nutrition experts with US News & World Report. Refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and red meat fell out of fashion as whole grains, fruits and veggies, and lean protein gained more space on the plate.
Insider looked at US News' Best Diets rankings from the past decade, from 2013 to today. Two heart-healthy diets topped the list over the years, while restrictive diets like keto and paleo tended to score poorly in terms of healthiness, but they were among the most searched on Google.
The Mediterranean diet has been ranked the healthiest since 2018
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional eating styles of Greece, Italy, and Spain. Since ancient times, people in the region have incorporated plant foods, heart-healthy fats, and lean protein in the way they eat.
The basic eating principles of the Mediterranean diet include cooking with olive oil; eating lots of leafy greens, whole grains, and legumes; getting protein from plants, fish, and poultry; and indulging in low-to-moderate amounts of red wine.
The diet has gained global popularity since researchers noticed that people in the region tend to live longer, healthier lives. Research has supported the health benefits of the Mediterranean eating style, which include better heart health, lower diabetes risk, and less inflammation in the body and brain.
It's been named the best diet by US News for five years and counting.
The DASH and flexitarian diets are nutritionist-approved
Before the Mediterranean diet became so popular, the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet was the clinically-proven favorite for preventing high blood pressure to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. It's still widely recommended by dietitians.
The DASH diet is known for being balanced and relatively sustainable for the long term. Like the Mediterranean diet, it emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. Following DASH also means limiting saturated fats and putting an official cap on sodium (typically 1,500-2,300 milligrams per day).
In 2022, the flexitarian style of eating tied with DASH for the second-healthiest diet according to US News. Eating flexitarian means consuming more plants and less animal products, which can look different depending on the individual.
The keto diet is the most searched — and one of the toughest diets to follow correctly
The high-fat, low-carb diet has been ranked last on the US News Best Diets report, which is reviewed by a panel of diet and nutrition experts each year. But if the ranking was based on public curiosity, keto would top the list.
The ketogenic diet entered the mainstream post-2017, shortly after podcaster Joe Rogan introduced millions of listeners to a cast of keto experts. Buzz about the bacon-heavy diet spread rapidly on social media, and in 2019, keto was ranked the second-best diet for fast weight loss.
Going keto means cutting carbohydrates and getting about 70% of calories from fat, which is meant to send the body into a state of "ketosis." If done successfully, the diet prompts the body to burn fat for energy instead of glucose, which comes from carbohydrates.
However, the diet is notoriously unbalanced and difficult to follow correctly. Modified versions of keto won't have the intended effect of burning fat, and followers who consume lots of saturated fat may incur additional health risks.
The Paleo diet picked up interest in the 2010s
The Paleo diet is supposed to emulate how ancient humans ate over 2 million years ago, long before the invention of farming. The main staples of the diet include nutrient-rich plants, seeds, nuts, fish, and lean meats.
Followers of the so-called "caveman diet" are meant to avoid all processed foods and cut out ingredients related to agriculture. Grains, dairy, and most legumes are off-limits, as are starchy tubers like potatoes.
Interest in the Paleo diet, which was first introduced in the 1970s, may have peaked in the 2010s. It was the most-Googled diet of 2013 and 2014, according to FoodBeast, even though the prehistoric eating plan has gotten plenty of backlash.
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