Your Paleo Diet Isn’t Actually Paleo

The concept of The Paleo Diet, in its simplest form, is “don’t eat anything a caveman couldn’t eat”—as if they possessed some long-forgotten nutritional knowledge of what’s good to eat and what’s not. But a new study suggests that paleolithic people ate just about anything. If they had gotten the chance to dive-bomb a bag of Doritos, they would have.

The study, led by Laura Weyrich from the University of Adelaide, confirms what you may have already been thinking. “Cavemen” ate whatever they could find in order to survive, or so says their DNA. Some ate a lot of meat, like woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep. Others had entirely vegetarian diets, munching on mushrooms, pine nuts, tree bark, and moss. Weyrich explains to The Atlantic:

“When people talk about the Paleo diet, that’s not paleo, that’s just non-carb. The true paleo diet is eating whatever’s out there in the environment.”

Neanderthals were adaptable and versatile, but they lived in extremely harsh conditions. There was no room to be picky. The Paleo Diet recommends you avoid foods like grains, legumes, potatoes, and dairy, but a Neanderthal would probably be thrilled to eat those. Their version of a paleo diet was “if it’s edible, eat it or die.” Of course, none of this means there aren’t benefits to subscribing to such a diet. If you like The Paleo Diet—or one of its many offshoots—and it helps you accomplish your nutrition goals, by all means, do it. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t line up with the ways paleo people actually ate.

Science Confirms Plant-Based Protein is the Same as Protein From Meat

No matter what you eat, ensuring that you’re getting enough protein is one of the biggest concerns that many of us have. Not only is it essential for those looking to build muscle, protein is good for muscular health, overall. For a long time, animal-based products have been at the forefront of our obsession with protein. However, as more and more people eschew animal products in favor of plant-based foods, plant-based proteins, such as pea protein, have been on the rise. As we start to see more plant-based proteins making their way into stores, naturally, many of us are asking which type of protein is the best. Well, one group of researchers had the same question — so they got answers.

A recent study published in this month’s issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that if muscle-building protein is what you seek, plant protein is just as good as animal protein. Researchers in this study analyzed the dietary protein intake of a sample of nearly 3,000 men and women, ages 19 to 72, as well as the sources that the protein came from such as dairy, meat, fish, poultry, fast food, and legumes. Then, they analyzed the participants’ lean muscle mass, bone-mineral density, and quadriceps strength. The results revealed that those who consumed low amounts of protein had the lowest measures of muscle mass and strength while those who ate a high protein diet had better muscular health. In both instances, researchers found that there were no significant differences in musculoskeletal health in relation to the type of protein participants consumed. However, the amount of protein consumed by participants did not seem to have a significant effect on bone-mineral density.

According to the study’s lead author, Kelsey Mangano, PhD, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, “as long as a person is exceeding the recommended daily allowance for protein, no matter the source in their diet, they can improve their muscle health.” But, Mangano also advises other factors that should be taken into account when choosing a protein source: “Choose protein sources that are lean—limiting saturated fat—and also those that are low in sodium.” What’s lean, free from saturated fat and sodium, and high in protein? Legumes!

Not only can plant-based protein go head-to-head with animal proteins, choosing plant-based proteins might be the better choice overall. A 2016 study conducted by the University of Copenhagen revealed that those who consumed meals made from legumes felt fuller for a longer period of time. Not only that, participants in the study who consumed a legume-based meal rather than a meat-based meal were shown to consume 12 to 13 percent fewer calories during the next meal. So, go ahead and give that pea protein a try.

So You Want To Go Vegan Huh? We’ve Got Some Pointers

So you’ve decided that you’d like to become vegan, but where do you start? Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can seem really daunting but often the idea of a big lifestyle change is a lot scarier than actually doing it. If you focus on making one change at a time the progression to veganism will feel quite natural. It’s important to go at your own pace and to decide on a method that works best for you. Here are some ideas and guidelines to structure your transition to veganism, just be sure to tailor them to your specific needs.

LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

Before you even begin the transition the first step is to start familiarizing yourself with veganism. This will really help you feel prepared and knowledgeable as you begin changing your lifestyle.

  • Learn the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and educate yourself about the practices and costs behind the production of animal products. Find your own personal reasons for being vegan, there’s loads of them.
  • Learn how to optimally nourish your body on a plant-based diet.
  • Start reading ingredients lists – Learn how to tell if a product is vegan and familiarize yourself with the less obvious animal derived ingredients that show up in unsuspecting products.
  • Be on the lookout for vegan products at your local grocery store, research vegan friendly restaurants and grocery stores in your area.
  • Read, watch, learn. Seek out vegan documentaries, books, magazines, websites, blogs, forums, and people. They can offer valuable insights, support, and will help you to feel more confident in your transition.

ADD TO YOUR DIET BEFORE YOU SUBTRACT FROM IT

  • Begin incorporating more whole grain, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu into your diet. Familiarize yourself with their preparation, storage, and uses.
  • Start collecting and experimenting with vegan recipes that appeal to you.
  • Find a few different quick and easy vegan meals that you enjoy and get comfortable preparing them.
  • Switch out milk for a non-dairy alternative such as almond or soy. This is an easy switch for most people but there’s a lot of options, so experiment to find which you like best.

FIND AND REMEMBER YOUR MOTIVATION TO CHANGE

There is a huge difference between adopting a vegan lifestyle and “going on a diet”. It’s easy to be tempted into straying from diet plan or “cheating”, but it’s not the same with veganism. When you know exactly why you want to be vegan you simply don’t stray from the lifestyle. This is why it is so important to learn the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and the effect animal products have on our health, environment, and humanity. Once you’ve taken the time to open your eyes to the real effects animal products have on our lives it just sticks with you and there’s no going back on that.

KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Think of all the new and delicious foods there are to try rather than thinking about the foods you’re giving up. You may find yourself surprised at how many options there really are. Some of your favourite foods are probably vegan to begin with, there’s loads of international dishes that are suitable for vegans, it can be so easy it is to veganize your old favorite meals and recipes. Don’t worry about the changes you’re making, get excited about them!

BEGIN PLANNING YOUR TRANSITION

This is where you need to seriously think about what is going to work best for you. There are plenty of ways to go vegan you just have to find what’s best for you. Some common options:

VEGETARIAN FOLLOWED BY VEGANISM

  • Remove all meat from your diet, including fish and poultry. Take care not to increase your consumption of eggs and dairy to take the place of meat, focus on including more plant-based protein sources instead.
  • Pay attention to ingredient lists, avoid products containing gelatin, rennet, and other animal products (excluding dairy and eggs).
  • If you haven’t already, begin incorporating more whole grains, beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, and seeds into your diet.
  • Once you feel comfortable to move forward you can start phasing out dairy, eggs, and honey. Feel free to do this all at once, one food group at a time, or as slowly as you need to.

SLOW TRANSITION FROM OMNIVORE TO VEGAN

  • Remove any animal products that you won’t miss in your diet.
  • If you haven’t already, incorporate more whole grains, beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, and seeds to your diet while simultaneously cutting down on the animal products that you’ll miss the least.
  • You can gradually cut down on all animal products or remove one food/food group at a time.
  • Remove barrier foods after you feel comfortable with all of the other changes in your diet.
  • Pay attention to ingredient lists, you may find it easier to begin avoiding the less obvious animal derived ingredients one at a time. You can also choose to overlook them until you’ve removed all obvious animal products (meat, seafoods, dairy products, eggs, etc.) from your diet and you feel comfortable eating mostly plant-based foods.

GO ALL OUT VEGAN

Some people find relying on vegan alternatives and convenience foods to be very helpful in easing the transition to veganism. They’re often high in protein, fortified with lots of vitamins and minerals, quick and easy to prepare, delicious, and familiar. However, some veggie burgers, veggie dogs, vegan deli slices, etc. are highly processed. Once you begin to feel comfortable with your vegan lifestyle, the use of these products should be lessened. There’s nothing wrong with eating the products in moderation, but they shouldn’t be used as your main source of vitamins, minerals, and protein for the long-term.

Veganism is much more than a diet, it is a compassionate lifestyle. These guidelines are mostly for transitioning to a vegan diet as that tends to be the most difficult part of becoming vegan. It’s also important to learn about vegan alternatives for other products in your life, such as personal care items, clothing, shoes, and other household items.

ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING & FOOD BARRIERS TO VEGANISM

If you have the desire to become vegan but find yourself struggling with the idea of cravings or giving up a particular food, don’t worry, that’s completely normal! These are challenges, but they certainly don’t have to be barriers. Most vegans stop eating animal products for ethical reasons, not because they don’t enjoy the taste of them. It might sound silly but there’s lots of cheese-loving vegans out there!

Far too often people shrug off the idea of veganism for fear of missing a particular food, or they try veganism but end up giving it up in it’s entirety for similar reasons. This is often the result of jumping into veganism too quickly with too little preparation. That’s why it is so important to take the transition at a pace that works for you so that it’s sustainable.

There’s a couple of methods that are extremely effective at dealing with these “barrier foods”.

Learn the production practices of your barrier food

Learn the ins and outs of how the particular food is produced – this is often enough to turn you off the food for good.

Cut out all barrier foods completely and wait for the cravings to subside

Cut out all barrier foods at once. Most people find that cravings for these foods only last a few short weeks and then they subside.

Try slowly introducing vegan alternatives to some of your favourite foods. For some items in particular such as cheese and yogurt you may want to give it a few more weeks before experimenting with substitutions – many people find that the longer it’s been since they’ve  had the “real thing”, the easier it is for a vegan substitution to satisfy their craving. I found this to be very true for vegan cheese. As a new vegan, non-dairy cheeses didn’t do much for me but after a few months of having little bits here and there, the flavour of Daiya really began to grow on me. Now I find it does a great job at satisfying a cheese craving!

You’ll also have to find which products you like the most and learn how to prepare them to your liking through a little bit of trial and error.

Leave barrier foods to the end of your transition

If the idea of becoming vegan appeals to you but you feel like you’ll miss a certain food too much to commit 100% to the vegan lifestyle, then start the transition and leave that food until the end. Phase your barrier foods out in a very slow, controlled manner over a few weeks or even months. By this point, you might find that removing the food from your diet is a lot easier than you thought it would be!

If for whatever reason you feel as though you just cannot commit to a 100% vegan diet because of a barrier food, that’s okay! Don’t let that stop you from minimizing your intake of animal based products to whatever extent you can. Give up all of the animal ingredients and foods that you won’t miss, and allow yourself the occasional exception whether it’s a food, holiday meal, or favourite restaurant. I advocate following a fully vegan diet and I encourage you to strive towards that as a goal, but it’s just silly to abandon veganism in it’s entirety because you love bacon or cheese too much. Don’t let yourself get caught up in trying to label yourself based on your diet, this is a sort of all-or-nothing thinking that’s simply not constructive. If allowing a little flexibility is what will help you sustain a mostly vegan lifestyle then that’s exactly what you should do! This also serves to make the vegan lifestyle a lot less daunting and more approachable to others.

HELPFUL HINTS AND REMINDERS

Every little bit counts. Whether you go vegetarian, vegan, or simply cut down your consumption of animal products, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Don’t let yourself get caught up in trying to label yourself based on your diet.

Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Adopting a vegan lifestyle isn’t necessarily difficult, but there is a learning curve. Take your time, expect some mistakes, learn from them, and move on!

Why It’s Impossible To Actually Be A Vegetarian

In case you’ve forgotten the section on the food web from high school biology, here’s a quick refresher.

Plants make up the base of every food chain of the food web (also called the food cycle). Plants use available sunlight to convert water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air into glucose, which gives them the energy they need to live. Unlike plants, animals can’t synthesise their own food. They survive by eating plants or other animals.

Clearly, animals eat plants. What’s not so clear from this picture is that plants also eat animals. They thrive on them, in fact (just Google ‘fish emulsion‘). In my new book, A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism, I call it the transitivity of eating. And I argue that this means one can’t be a vegetarian.

I’ll pause to let the collective yowls of both biologists and (erstwhile) vegetarians subside.

A transitive property says that if one element in a sequence relates in a certain way to a second element, and the second element relates in the same way to a third, then the first and third elements relate in the same way as well.

Take the well-worn trope ‘you are what you eat’. Let’s say instead that we are ‘who’ we eat. This makes the claim more personal and also implies that the beings who we make our food aren’t just things.

How our food lives and dies matters. If we are who we eat, our food is who our food eats, too. This means that we are who our food eats in equal measure.

Plants acquire nutrients from the soil, which is composed, among other things, of decayed plant and animal remains. So even those who assume they subsist solely on a plant-based diet actually eat animal remains as well.

This is why it’s impossible to be a vegetarian.

For the record, I’ve been a ‘vegetarian’ for about 20 years and nearly ‘vegan’ for six. I’m not opposed to these eating practices. That isn’t my point. But I do think that many vegetarians and vegans could stand to pay closer attention to the experiences of the beings who we make our food.

For example, many vegetarians cite the sentience of animals as a reason to abstain from eating them. But there’s good reason to believe that plants are sentient, too. In other words, they’re acutely aware of and responsive to their surroundings, and they respond, in kind, to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.

Check out the work of plant scientists Anthony Trewavas, Stefano Mancuso, Daniel Chamowitz and František Baluška if you don’t believe me. They’ve shown that plants share our five senses – and have something like 20 more. They have a hormonal information-processing system that’s homologous to animals’ neural network. They exhibit clear signs of self-awareness and intentionality. And they can even learn and teach.

It’s also important to be aware that vegetarianism and veganism aren’t always eco-friendly. Look no further than the carbon footprint of your morning coffee, or how much water is required to produce the almonds you enjoy as an afternoon snack.

A word for the skeptics

I suspect how some biologists may respond: first, plants don’t actually eat since eating involves the ingestion – via chewing and swallowing – of other life forms. Second, while it’s true that plants absorb nutrients from the soil and that these nutrients could have come from animals, they’re strictly inorganic: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and trace amounts of other elements. They’re the constituents of recycled minerals, devoid of any vestiges of animality.

As for the first concern, maybe it would help if I said that both plants and animals take in, consume or make use of, rather than using the word ‘eat’. I guess I’m just not picky about how I conceptualise what eating entails.

The point is that plants ingest carbon dioxide, sunlight, water, and minerals that are then used to build and sustain their bodies. Plants consume inasmuch as they produce, and they aren’t the least bit particular about the origins of the minerals they acquire.

With respect to the second concern, why should it matter that the nutrients drawn by plants from animals are inorganic? The point is that they once played an essential role in facilitating animals’ lives. Are we who we eat only if we take in organic matter from the beings who become our food? I confess that I don’t understand why this should be. Privileging organic matter strikes me as a biologist’s bias.

Then there’s the argument that mineral recycling cleanses the nutrients of their animality. This is a contentious claim, and I don’t think this is a fact of the matter. It goes to the core of the way we view our relationship with our food. You could say that there are spiritual issues at stake here, not just matters of biochemistry.

Changing how we view our food

Let’s view our relationship with our food in a different way: by taking into account the fact that we’re part of a community of living beings – plant and animal – who inhabit the place that we make our home.

We’re eaters, yes, and we’re also eaten. That’s right, we’re part of the food web, too! And the well-being of each is dependent on the well-being of all.

From this perspective, what the self-proclaimed ‘farmosopher’ Glenn Albrecht calls sumbiotarianism (from the Greek word sumbioun, to live together) has clear advantages.

Sumbioculture is a form of permaculture, or sustainable agriculture. It’s an organic and biodynamic way of farming that’s consistent with the health of entire ecosystems.

Sumbiotarians eat in harmony with their ecosystem. So they embody, literally, the idea that the well-being of our food – hence, our own well-being – is a function of the health of the land.

In order for our needs to be met, the needs and interests of the land must come first. And in areas where it’s prohibitively difficult to acquire the essential fats that we need from pressed oils alone, this may include forms of animal use – for meat, manure, and so forth.

Simply put, living sustainably in such an area – whether it’s New England or the Australian Outback – may well entail relying on animals for food, at least in a limited way.

All life is bound together in a complex web of interdependent relationships among individuals, species, and entire ecosystems. Each of us borrows, uses, and returns nutrients. This cycle is what permits life to continue. Rich, black soil is so fertile because it’s chock full of the composted remains of the dead along with the waste of the living.

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for indigenous peoples to identify veneration of their ancestors and of their ancestral land with the celebration of the life-giving character of the earth. Consider this from cultural ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist Melissa Nelson:

The bones of our ancestors have become the soil, the soil grows our food, the food nourishes our bodies, and we become one, literally and metaphorically, with our homelands and territories.

You’re welcome to disagree with me, of course. But it’s worth noting that what I propose has conceptual roots that may be as old as humanity itself. It’s probably worth taking some time to digest this.

Chick Fil-A: Lose Weight By Eating Chicken Nuggets Every Few Hours

There are a lot of spotlight-chasers who have made headlines for proving that yes, you can lose weight eating only [pick a fast food chain], but those “dieters” also tried to change things up with their weight-loss plans — a chicken sandwich for lunch, a burger for dinner, self-loathing for dessert. But some poorly worded healthy eating recommendations from Chick fil-A suggests that you eat some of the chain’s chicken nuggets every few hours.

SBnation’s Rodger Sherman was reading the “Great Ideas for Healthier Living” tips on the back of his Chick fil-A bag and noticed that the top tip is to “Kick off the New Year by adding one healthy habit to your routine,” with the suggestion to “Eat smaller meals (like an 8-count pack of grilled nuggets) every three to four hours.”

We’re assuming that Chick fil-A didn’t intend for their back-of-bag message to imply that you shouldonly eat its nuggets — especially since the fast food chain isn’t open on Sundays — but there is an implication that the nutrition provided by the 8-piece nuggets would suffice for a full meal.

Figuring that you sleep for eight hours a day, this means you would eat 4-5 of these nugget meals each day. That means you would only consume between 560 and 700 calories daily, far short of the 1,500 to 2,000 calorie range recommended for most adults. Even if you add in 60 calories per meal for dipping sauce, you’re still looking at between 800 and 1,000 calories a day.

While the grilled chicken nuggets are low in carbs and fats, they don’t skimp on the sodium. At 530mg per serving, you’d likely reach the upper safe limit (around 2,300 mg) of daily sodium intake every day.

Taco Tuesday: The Taco Cleanse Is Total Bullsh*t, But You Should Try It Anyway

Let me be real with you from the first sentence: The Taco cleanse –that’s the one where all you do is eat tacos–will not change your life. It won’t solve all your problems. And not even Jennifer Aniston — who recently admitted that she’d “heard of” the cleanse — will get me to admit otherwise.

Forget everything else you’ve read, this is important: The Taco Cleanse is a beautiful stomach-churning lie.

Here’s the cool thing, though: The authors of the Taco Cleanse — self-proclaimed “taco scientists” (which is not a real job, otherwise every person you got stoned with in college would be in a STEM field now) — know that tacos aren’t going to make the two thousand pounds you gained during the holidays disappear. In fact, despite not having actual doctorates in taco-logy, they have the common sense to understand that cleanses don’t work. Why? Because regardless of the cleanse, there’s no metric to judge whatever “toxins” you’re removing from your body other than the very scientific “I pooped a lot” scale.

Let’s just stop pretending and admit that without hard work and eating right and exercise, no amount of cayenne pepper, orange juice, or tacos are going to turn you into Idris Elba by February 1.

Now that we’re done unpacking my initial disclaimer, I need to be honest with you once again (because the truth has set me free, but also chained me to my toilet): You should totally do the taco cleanse… just, you know, prepare to poop a lot.

Like a lot a lot. Especially if you’re drinking alcohol with all your meals. Because that’s something that’s actively encouraged by the cleanse’s creators.

I did the taco cleanse for a week. That’s one step up from the first level of the cleanse (doing it for a day), but a giant step down from doing it for an entire month. If you’re going to try it, I suggest trying it for an entire week. Not only will you be fine, you’ll be sated.

There are several rules to the Taco Cleanse. The most important one, and the one I took as gospel, is that burritos are not tacos. Nor can you claim a sandwich is a taco if you hold it sideways. Whatever you’re eating has to be vegan, too, which is where I ran into some problems.

“What about the valuable proteins and fibers I get from eating cheese and chugging sour cream?” I asked my friend, a personal trainer I’d called up to make sure this entire thing was safe.

“Are you serious?” she asked. “Because if you are, you need to get to an ER right away. I’m worried you might be suffering a traumatic brain injury.” According to her, there are people out there who choose not to eat dairy on a regular basis. And they’re fine. Healthier, in fact.

Lest you think the Taco Cleanse is all Taco Bell without the cheese sauce (the workers at your local franchise will be very confused, but also very accommodating), you need to understand that the book you’re purchasing isn’t just a philosophical text, but also a cookbook. And aside from several pages that extol the virtues of Taco Yoga (Pretending to be an avocado seed is fun! Try it!), the majority of the book is made up of recipes that a layman could use to make scores of delicious tacos.

“What the hell is a jackfruit?” I asked my husband as I stuffed an entire tomato into my mouth right behind a flour tortilla. Finally, I drizzled Sriracha sauce directly into my open maw, because seasoning is an important part of taco-based nutrition.

“It’s a member of the fig family,” he said. “You wouldn’t like it.” He also didn’t think I’d enjoy soy curls (wrong), sweet potatoes cooked at home (right), or something called Nooch, which is an offensive diminutive for nutritional yeast — a lovely tasting item which should be spread on any and all food that you eat.

“I also don’t think that you’re following the rules,” my husband told me as I took a shot of tequila after eating a taco I’d created out of a leftover corn tortilla (the worst kind) and some lettuce we’d had lying around to feed to the rabbit. “You’re supposed to make a margarita.”

“I don’t want to waste the calories,” I told him. “I’ve got to save it for all the starches I’m going to eat.” At which point I proceeded to spend the next few days putting mashed potatoes on tortillas and complimenting myself on this major “lifestyle change.”

For people like Jennifer Aniston, who probably have a personal chef to wend through grocery store aisles looking for the ripest avocados and best-looking vine-ripened tomatoes, this cleanse may be easy. For the rest of us, particularly those of us whose cooking skills top out at ordering takeout, it might be a little bit more difficult. If you are going to commit to the cleanse, I suggest you check out the recipes on the website before you buy the book. But don’t waste time slicing pretty little cucumbers pieces. After all, your food is all going to the same place anyway. That place, of course, is hell. And the river Styx flows directly through your toilet — where you’ll be chained for at least 15 minutes a day just as soon as you start mixing margaritas and roughage.

According to vegan friends who had to deal with my terrified phone calls, I do not have a normal digestive system. And while I’m a vegetarian, my entire system is usually more clogged than the shower drains on Endor. That’s why, one friend explained, I suffered some “ill effects” from giving up dairy.

“This might be a reason to just go vegan,” she said. “Soon you’ll just feel better.”

At first, I felt horrible. I certainly didn’t expect results right away, but I also didn’t want the Taco Cleanse to be the last diet I ever needed because I was going to die like Elvis, straining on the toilet. Worthwhile to mention: Unlike The King, I had no right to expect that anyone would remember me for anything other than dying in the bathroom. For three days, I suffered while my friend reminded me that I’d “always struggled with the machinations of eliminating waste,” because she thinks the word poop is disgusting.

Four days into eating tacos at every meal (of course, one of the rules says you can eat other things, too, but I’m a weird-cleanse purist), something shifted. Whether it was the healing power of nutritional yeast and mangos (Have you combined those in a taco? You should!) or the effects of living without dairy, I’ll never know. Either way, my stomach catastrophes eased and suddenly I was feeling like I was a little more energetic, a little more fun, and just a little bit healthier. Of course, as my husband points out, it could have had something to do with the “amount of alcohol you’re drinking. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d just pickled your insides.”

Dietitians, Nutritionists, and Psychologists Have Ranked the Best Diets of 2016

Not all diets are created equal, and no one knows that more than US News & World Report, which, on Tuesday, released a ranking of the best diets for 2016. Some of the diets are designed to help you lose weight, while others focus on lowering blood pressure, improving heart health, and even bettering your chances of conceiving. But one not-so-surprising thing resonates with each plan: They’re all meant to improve health.

After months of combing through medical journals, government reports, and other sources, US News & World Report selected and ranked 38 diets. There were a lot of ties, but one diet came out on top. Here are the diets that made it into the top 10.

But first, here’s how the ranking works:

After choosing the top diets, US News & World Report reached out to a panel of nationally recognised experts in a number of fields, including diet, nutrition, obesity, and food psychology. They rank the diets on a scale of one to five – one being minimally effective and five being extremely effective – for a number of categories, four of which we’ve included here:

1. Ability to help with short-term weight loss: The diet’s ability to help you lose a significant amount of weight during the first 12 months.

2. Ability to help with long-term weight loss: The diet’s ability to help you keep it off for two years or more.

3. Easiness to follow: How easy it’ll be to switch and stick with the diet. It focuses on the ease of initial adjustment, how full you’ll feel, the taste appeal of the food, and any special requirement that might make it difficult for certain groups – like people with diabetes.

4.Health: This is perhaps the most important category, because it tells you how safe the diet is for you. The ranking takes into account the risk of malnutrition and overly rapid weight loss. It also considers any health risks the diet may pose to specific populations, like people with high blood pressure or specific nutrient needs.

Diets evaluated for their health are further ranked from five = extremely safe to one = minimally safe.

Now, on to the rankings …

No. 10. Jenny Craig – Total score: 3.7/5

Founded in 1983 by Jenny Craig and her husband, Jenny Craig Inc. specialises in weight loss and weight management. A number of celebrities, including Mariah Carey, Kirstie Alley, and Queen Latifah, have signed on to the program, which combines customised weight-management counseling with a menu of preprepared meals that customers can either have delivered to their doorstep or pick up at one of the company’s more than 700 centers worldwide.

Here’s how US News & World Report ranked the Jenny Craig diet in four categories:

Short-term weight loss: 3.8

Long-term weight loss: 3.2

Easy to follow: 3.6

Healthy: 4.2

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 8 (Tie). The Flexitarian Diet – Total score: 3.8/5

The flexitarian diet specialises in assisting with weight-loss by emphasising the importance of eating more vegetables and less meat. It’s a perfect fit for those of us who like the idea of being vegetarian but can’t manage to completely slash meat from our diets.

Instead of entirely avoiding meat, most flexitarians try to go vegetarian for three to five days a week. The idea is that by replacing calorie-heavy meats with low-calorie fruits and vegetables, you’ll shed some extra pounds.

Here’s why US News & World Report says this is one of the best overall diets of the year:

Short-term weight loss: 3.4

Long-term weight loss: 3.3

Easy to follow: 3.3

Healthy: 4.2

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 8 (Tie). Volumetrics – Total score: 3.8/5

One of the major pitfalls of diets is that they leave our stomachs grumbling at the end of the day. That’s not the case with Volumetrics, which focuses on feeling full. But it’s a slow process, so don’t expect to drop 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in two weeks on this diet.

According to the diet’s founder, Barbara Rolls, PhD, it’s not the number of calories you consume that makes you feel full, but rather the amount and types of food you eat.

Volumetrics focuses on eating mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, and low-fat dairy. But you can still splurge on fatty meats and fried food occasionally.

Here’s how this diet compares with the rest:

Short-term weight loss: 3.6

Long-term weight loss: 3.2

Easy to follow: 3.2

Healthy: 4.4

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). The Mediterranean Diet – Total score: 3.9/5

A number of celebrities have reportedly turned to the Mediterranean diet, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Penelope Cruz, Elizabeth Hurley, and Isla Fisher.

The Mediterranean diet allegedly follows the traditional cooking style of countries near the Mediterranean Sea. That means lots of fish, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil. The point of this diet is to promote heart health and prevent disease.

A study of more than 1.5 million healthy adults revealed that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

Here’s how this diet stacks up:

Short-term weight loss: 3.0

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.3

Healthy: 4.6

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). The Fertility Diet – Total score: 3.9/5

Believe it or not, what you eat may affect your chances of conceiving. “What you eat affects everything from your blood to your cells to your hormones,” Cynthia Stadd, a nutrition specialist at the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness and Women’s Health in New York City, told the website BabyCenter.com.

The doctors who founded the fertility diet – Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health – did so after a study they conducted where they found that women who regularly ate healthy fats, whole grains, and plant protein had a better egg supply than women who had a regular diet of refined carbohydrates, red meat, and saturated fats.

Here’s how the judges thought this diet fared:

Short-term weight loss: 3.0

Long-term weight loss: 2.6

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy:4.4

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). The Mayo Clinic Diet – Total score: 3.9/5

Health experts at the Mayo Clinic created this diet, which purportedly can help you lose up to 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) in a year. This diet focuses on long-term weight loss by helping you develop a lifestyle designed to help you lose weight and keep it off.

To start, followers are supposed to break five unhealthy habits and add five new healthy habits. This diet is also heavy on the exercise and recommends that followers get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise a day.

By following the diet’s guidelines, which you can find on the Mayo Clinic’s website, you could lose 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.3 kilograms) in the first two weeks. Not bad!

Here’s what the experts thought:

Short-term weight loss: 3.3

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.1

Healthy: 4.5

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). Weight Watchers – Total score: 3.9/5

Anyone who’s considered dieting has heard of Weight Watchers, the popular weight-loss program that claims you’ll lose about 2 pounds (900 grams) a week with two simple rules: eat healthy and exercise.

The diet focuses on eating foods that are high in protein and low in saturated fat, calories, and sugar. The company’s new SmartPoints food plan helps you track your eating habits. Celebrity Jessica Simpson reportedly lost 60 pounds (27.2 kilograms) with the help of Weight Watchers.

Here’s how US News & World Report ranks it:

Short-term weight loss: 4.0

Long-term weight loss: 3.5

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy: 4.3

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 2 (Tie). The TLC Diet – Total score: 4/5

No, TLC doesn’t stand for “tender loving care,” but the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet does focus on loving and caring for your body.

The main point of this diet is to lower your cholesterol rather than lose weight. It’s recommended by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program and claims you can lower your cholesterol by 8 percent to 10 percent in six weeks.

Saturated fat is a key culprit in high cholesterol, so this diet focuses on cutting saturated fat by reducing your intake of meat and whole-milk products. And while it’s not focused on weight loss, some followers do shed some pounds.

For a 2004 study, researchers put 120 overweight people on either the TLC or the Atkins diet for six months. On average, the TLC dieters lost 20 pounds (9 kilograms) each; those on Atkins lost 31 pounds (14.1 kilograms).

Here’s why this is one of the best diets of the year:

Short-term weight loss: 3.2

Long-term weight loss: 2.8

Easy to follow: 3.0

Healthy: 4.7

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 2 (Tie). The MIND Diet – Total score: 4/5

The MIND diet focuses on eating foods that may help reduce your risk of neurological disorders – in particular, Alzheimer’s. The name stands for ‘Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay’. You’ll learn more about the DASH diet below.

The diet has you eat foods that the medical literature suggests are good for the brain. These foods fall into 10 categories, including: green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, fish, beans, whole grains, and olive oil.

This is one of the easiest and healthiest diets to follow, which is why US News & World Report ranks it one of the top:

Short-term weight loss: 3.1

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy: 4.5

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 1. The DASH Diet – Total score: 4.1/5

For the sixth year in a row, the DASH diet has taken first place for best overall diet of the year.

DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” or high blood pressure. The diet tries to instill a lifelong habit of eating that either helps to treat or prevents hypertension. For those with hypertension, the DASH diet may help drop systolic blood pressure by as many as 7 to 12 points.

While salt affects everyone differently, doctors generally agree that reducing sodium intake can help with hypertension, which is what the DASH diet does.

In addition to eating healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, you should limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day. For reference, one slice of frozen pizza has 370 to 730 milligrams!

Here’s how the winner stacked up:

Short-term weight loss: 3.2

Long-term weight loss: 3.0

Easy to follow: 3.1

Healthy: 4.8

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

Diet App Claims To Help You Watch Your Weight By Scanning The Molecules In Your Food

It’s a new year, and you know what that means: new diet plans — or at least, you might be promising yourself to stick to a new diet plan. But it isn’t easy, which you know if you’ve ever sat staring longingly at the last piece of cheese on the plate, wondering whether it will totally screw up your resolution to finally lose just five more pounds. A new app and its connected smart device claims it can do just that, scan your food and let you know whether or not it’ll lead you from your chosen diet path.

Our friends at Consumer Reports are roaming the booths at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and came across the DietSensor app, which purports to help folks maintain their diets by way of a gadget that scans the molecules in food via an optical sensor. It then spits out information in the connected app with ratings on carbs, calories, protein, and fat, and tells you what you should eat for the rest of the day.

Based on the food you’ve already scanned up to that point, the app may then ask, somewhat passive-aggressively, “Sure you need to eat more?” or tell you you’re good to go.

The app will only work if you’re checking homogenous foods — so again, cheese, or a piece of bread, or a slab of honey-cured ham. If you want to find out what’s in your pizza and whether it’ll ruin your diet, you’ll have to add that information manually to your log.

It’s also a bit pricy: the gadget itself is $249, while the app will cost $10-$20 per month when it becomes available.

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Here’s What Scientists Agree On About Eating Fat

Media coverage of dietary fat has been confusing and contradictory over the years, as seen over the years on Time magazine covers.

Back in the 1960s, the magazine suggested that everyone should lower their total fat intake, which turned out to be bad advice. (Many of the replacements for fat — mainly refined carbohydrates — were actually just as bad for your health.) More recently, there’s been a backlash, and some outlets (including Time) are telling people that it’s just fine to load up on other foods that are rich in saturated fats (like butter). This, too, isn’t quite correct.

In reality, scientists have long taken a more nuanced view on dietary fat that hasn’t been reflected by the headlines. I dove into the research recently and found broad agreement on a few key points.

Scientists do believe that fat can be part of a healthy diet; it just depends on which types of fat you’re eating. Unsaturated fats (found in vegetable oils and fish) appear to be more beneficial for health compared with saturated fats (think butter and red meat), since the latter drive up the bad (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Trans fats (found in foods like margarine) are a no-no: They not only increase LDL cholesterol but also decrease the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol in your body.

So, the researchers say, you don’t need to worry too much about how much fat you’re eating as long as you’re not eating too many calories. But — and this is important — try to get most of those fat calories from foods rich in unsaturated fats instead of the other less virtuous types.

As University of Auckland researcher Rod Jackson summed up: “The original message was to eat less saturated fat, which got dumbed down to, ‘Eat less fat,'” he says. That was misguided. “But,” he adds, “this latest craze to eat more fat is an equally bad message. The evidence actually says replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat.”

Study Finds Low-fat Diets Are Ineffective for Long-Term Weight Loss

A quick glance at the health section of any bookstore will reveal a bewildering array of different approaches to weight loss, but it looks like one of the most popular options for dieters isn’t all that effective in the long run if you want to shed some excess baggage.

A broad study analysing the dietary practices of more than 68,000 adults has found that low-fat diets are ineffective for achieving long-term weight loss. After a year, low-fat diets are ultimately either comparable or less effective than other kinds of dietary interventions of similar intensity, such as higher-fat diets, including low-carbohydrate diets and Mediterranean diets.

“There is no good evidence for recommending low-fat diets,” said Deirdre Tobias, a doctor from Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study. “Behind current dietary advice to cut out the fat, which contains more than twice the calories per gram of carbohydrates and protein, the thinking is that simply reducing fat intake will naturally lead to weight loss. But our robust evidence clearly suggests otherwise.”

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 53 separate studies involving 68,128 adults – in essence, all the relevant randomised trials up until July 2014 comparing the effectiveness of low-fat diets with other types of diets.

They found that low-carb diets led to greater weight loss than low-fat diets in the long term (after one year), but the difference between the two was small – just 1.15 kilograms. Other kinds of higher-fat dietary interventions were also found to be superior to low-fat diets, but the advantage was so small it wasn’t considered statistically significant (just 0.36 kg).

In other words, if you want to lose weight, you don’t need to commit to low-fat cheese and zero dessert. Foods that are higher in fat including meat and dairy products can also be part of a healthy weight-loss diet – provided you keep an eye on your overall energy intake.

About the only good thing that can be said for low-fat diets is that they’re a more effective strategy than having no kind of restricted diet plan at all. Committing to a low-fat diet did see people losing an average of 5.41 kg compared to people who just ate their regular diet.

But the real takeaway from the study might not just be that low-fat diets are ineffective when it comes to keeping weight off in the long term. The results suggest that ‘diets’ as a whole aren’t particularly effective at helping you lose and keep the weight off. After all, even the best-performing diet analysed – low-carb – didn’t achieve a particularly impressive result after a year, and across all types of diets the researchers investigated, the average weight loss after 12 months was just 3.75 kg.

“[B]efore proclaiming the superiority of low-carbohydrate diets for the treatment of obesity, consider the magnitude of the benefit: participants prescribed low-carbohydrate diets lost only about 1 kg of additional weight after 1 year compared with those advised to consume low-fat diets,” writes Kevin D Hall of the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, in a commentary on the research.

“Although statistically significant, such a minuscule difference in weight loss is clinically meaningless. Furthermore, irrespective of the diet prescription, the overall average weight loss in trials testing interventions designed to reduce bodyweight was unimpressive.”

The question then – and one which applies to every kind of weight-loss regimen that doctors and dieticians recommend to their patients – is how to manage poor adherence to diets in the long term, since dieters tend to reach their peak in weight loss at the six- to eight-month mark before relapsing into old habits.

“Much more research is needed to determine the factors that affect diet adherence and thereby help maintain weight loss over the long term,” writes Hall. “What seems to be clear is that long-term diet adherence is abysmal, irrespective of whether low-fat or other diets, such as low-carbohydrate diets, are prescribed.”

The findings were published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.