The most popular diets: which is the healthiest and most sustainable?

most popular diets

There are most popular diets that are valuable for our healthier life. We know that following a balanced diet is, without a doubt, a benefit for our health. In addition, under the concept of “being on a diet” or “following a diet” other driving forces can be found, such as, for example, aesthetic aspects or respect for the environment.

Therefore, it is important to determine the nutritional and sustainability properties of any diet. In this way, we can guide our decisions towards the harmony between benefits, both health and environmental. Most of us like junk foods which affects our health.

Sustainability and nutrition indicators

One of the environmental indicators with the greatest media impact is the  carbon footprint  (HC), related to global warming associated with the emission of greenhouse gases. It is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent that a product generates in a period of time throughout its life cycle.

This indicator has taken hold in an important way in the food sector, with  various eco-labels that certify its value  (figure 1). These eco-labels can be grouped based on the information they transmit to the consumer. For example, they can indicate low emission levels ( Climatop  – Switzerland),  ranking  of emission levels (ConsciousTM – USA), score with emission ( Carbon Trust  – UK) and carbon neutral (Climate Neutral Product – Holland).

Eco-label food factors
eco-label food factors

Figure 1. Example of some eco-labels related to the carbon footprint that are applied in the field of food. In dark blue some of the countries with the implementation of carbon footprint eco-labels in the food sector.

In turn, there are various nutritional indicators in the scientific literature that analyze the benefits of different dietary patterns. One of them is the nutrient-rich diet (NRD 9.3), a dimensionless value related to the intake of 12 nutrients. Of these, 9 weigh positively (protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E) and 3 negatively (sodium, saturated fat and total sugar), based on the  values ​​recommended by the FAO and WHO.

Characteristics of some most popular diets

Most popular diets
Healthy Diet

The general characteristics of various and most popular diets evaluated in this article are outlined below..

•  The Okinawan diet:  On the Japanese island of Okinawa is one of the longest-lived and healthiest populations in the world, people live an average of 97 years largely due to their lifestyle habits, among which is their diet, which also makes them one of the most the world’s thinnest and lowest body fat index communities.

•  The Atlantic diet:  Common in the area of ​​Galicia and the north of Portugal, it stands out for the consumption of fish, vegetables and vegetables typical of the area. It also includes milk and dairy products (especially cheeses); cereals; pork, beef and poultry and olive oil.

•  The Mediterranean diet:  Emphasize the consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes and vegetables, as well as whole grains, fish, soft meats, nuts and olive oil. It is associated with the dietary patterns of the countries of the Mediterranean area, mainly Spain, Italy and Greece.

•  The  paleo diet:   It is based on the consumption of foods similar to those that could have been consumed during the Paleolithic era, that is, it includes those that would be obtained through hunting and gathering such as lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The paleo diet limits the foods that emerged with agriculture during the Neolithic Age, such as dairy products, legumes, and grains.

•  The vegetarian diet:  It consists of the majority substitution of products of animal origin by equivalents of vegetable origin. Although there is no single type of vegetarian diet, we can characterized it by the consumption of fruits, vegetables, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts, also including products such as milk and dairy products and eggs.

•  The vegan diet:  In general terms, it is based on the total substitution of products of animal origin for vegetables, and therefore, avoids the consumption of meat, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, honey and other animal products in the diet.

•  The Nordic diet:  It is based on foods traditionally from northern Europe: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The priority food consumption focuses on green leafy and root vegetables, berries or berries, fruit, whole grains, legumes, dairy products and fish (typically salmon, mackerel or herring, which are consumed several times a week).

•  The Andean diet: It is one of that most popular diets made up of all products from Peru. It includes potatoes, a multitude of cereals (such as quinoa, maca and kiwicha), fruits (such as soursop, aguaymanto and carambola), shellfish and fish (essential ingredients of ceviche)


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