There are several popular diets that people try to follow to achieve their goals, from losing weight to achieving and maintaining optimal health. But which one is the best? In many cases these diets differ significantly one from the other, but surprisingly they all tend to do a good job when it comes to achieving these goals, at least in the short term.
What Do Diets Have In Common?
Many of the most popular diets tend to limit, exclude or prioritize certain macronutrients or type of foods, like low-carb, low-fat, high-protein, vegetarian, or vegan diets, just to make a few examples.
A very interesting scientific article by Katz and Meller  explored the health benefits of various popular types of diets and identified the common elements they have in common. They looked at the common elements of diets and researched the reasons why all these diets were able to bring health benefits, despite being so different one from the other. A concise summary is presented in the table below, taken from their article.
As you can see in the table, all these popular diets have an important element in common:
Most diets limit refined starches, added sugars, processed foods, the intake of certain fats, and put emphasis on whole plant foods, with or without lean meats, fish, poultry, and seafood.“Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” Scientific Review
Which Diet Is The Best?
The Award-winning author Michael Pollan gives a short yet powerful answer to this question with his seven-word manifesto on diet:
Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.Michael Pollan
This easy to remember motto is very much aligned with the latest science on nutrition and can actually work exceptionally well for most people regardless their goals, from losing weight to achieving and maintaining optimal health in the long run.
The best diet, is not a diet but rather an effort to improve our eating habits in the long run. The latest science from large studies conducted by researches from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health  confirm that the best approach to eating for optimal health is based on the following seven principles.
1. Focus on quality of foods instead of calories
2. Eliminate added sugars and refined carbs, and go for whole grains
Eliminate added sugars and refined carbs and grains like wheat flour. Choose whole and intact grains like whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and foods made with them, such as whole wheat pasta or breads. These have a milder effect on blood sugar and insulin than white bread, white rice, and other refined grains.
3. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits
4. Prioritize healthy sources of proteins
Healthy and versatile protein sources include fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. They can be added to salads or paired with vegetables on a plate. Red meat should be limited, and processed meats such as bacon and sausage should be avoided. The World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared that consumption of processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans” and that consumption of red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. 
5. Choose healthy fats and maintain an healthier balance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids
Eating healthy fats and maintaining a proper balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is vital. However, the modern western diet skews this balance, favoring omega-6 fats found in processed and fried foods. Make sure you eat enough foods containing omega-3 fats from sources like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
6. Eliminate artificial trans fats
Avoid trans fats at all cost. Trans fats are made by hydrogenating vegetable oils. Many studies show a link to inflammation and conditions like heart disease. Its use has been limited or banned in many countries, including the United States.
7. Focus on changing your eating habits instead of on dieting
Diets are a temporary fix. They may help you lose weight in the short term, but they rarely lead to lasting results. This is because diets are all about restriction. They tell you what you can’t eat, rather than teaching you how to eat healthy. If you want to make lasting changes to your weight and health, you need to focus on changing your eating habits. This means making small, sustainable changes that you can stick with for the long term.
Here are some tips for changing your eating habits:
- Make gradual changes. Don’t try to overhaul your entire diet overnight. Start by making small changes, such as adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals or cutting back on processed foods.
- Find healthy foods that you enjoy. If you don’t like the foods you’re eating, you’re less likely to stick with your new habits. Experiment with different healthy recipes until you find some that you love.
- Be mindful of what you eat. When you eat, take the time to be present and aware of what you’re putting in your mouth. Ask yourself how the food makes you feel and be aware of your sense of satiety.
- Make it a lifestyle change. Don’t think of changing your eating habits as a temporary diet. Instead, make it a lifestyle change that you can stick with for the long term.
Changing your eating habits takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. When you make lasting changes to your eating routine, you’ll improve your health and well-being for the rest of your life.
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