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Best Plant-Based Diets
Plant-based diets are good for the environment, your heart, your weight and your overall health. U.S. News defines plant-based as an approach that emphasizes minimally processed foods from plants, with modest amounts of fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy, and red meat only sparingly. The experts who rated the 11 diets below put the Mediterranean diet at the top of the list. Among the qualities considered were each diet’s ability to deliver weight loss, provide good nutrition and safety, and be relatively easy to follow.
The Mediterranean diet is the top plant-based diet, earning relatively high marks in all areas of assessment. Experts declared it safe and nutritious, and though it wasn’t designed for losing weight, it works fairly well as a plan for quick weight loss. “This is a very healthy, nutritionally sound diet,” one expert said.
The Flexitarian diet did almost as well. It garnered particularly good ratings from experts for nutrition, safety, and heart-health. It’s also easy to follow because it emphasizes adding plant-based foods where you can, rather than imposing strict restrictions. “It’s a sensible eating plan,” one expert said. “It’s a realistic approach to achieving a healthier style of eating.”
Experts were impressed that the diet is nutritionally sound, safe, and tremendously heart-healthy. The Ornish diet involves lots of complex, fiber-loaded carbs (think fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains) and little fat, especially the saturated kind.
The Asian diet ranked well against other plant-based diets. Experts were particularly impressed with its nutrition and safety, though they were apprehensive about its ability to deliver long-term weight loss. Still, “the nutritional balance is better than most other plant-based or vegan diets,” one expert said.
The vegetarian diet pulled in strong scores in areas like short-term weight loss, heart health, and nutritional completeness. It’s also relatively good for managing or preventing diabetes, thanks to an emphasis on fruits, veggies, grains, and plant-based protein sources such as tofu.
The Anti-Inflammatory diet stands in the middle of its plant-based counterparts. Experts handed out lackluster 2-star ratings in categories such as overall weight loss and easiness to follow. “It makes eating very technical,” one expert warned.
Experts sent the Engine 2 Diet toward the bottom of the plant-based list. “The diet is too extreme,” one expert warned. “It’s difficult to maintain for any length of time.” Experts also questioned the plan’s elimination of vegetable oils, and said more research is necessary to determine whether that’s a beneficial move.
The experts were lukewarm on veganism, despite giving it fairly high marks as a diabetes or heart disease diet. It’s more restrictive than other plant-based options, offers no built-in social support, and may skimp on important nutrients.
Eco-Atkins wasn’t a standout on the plant-based list. It’s restrictive and offers little guidance. Still, it emphasizes filling, high-fiber foods: Following the plan means eliminating all animal products and focusing on beans, nuts, high-protein veggies, and grains like couscous and pearl barley.
As far as plant-based diets go, you can do better, the experts concluded. Following the plan is a challenge and it’s very strict. Still, you won’t go hungry—the filling menu emphasizes veggies, beans, and soybean products like tofu and tempeh.