The 5 Most Popular Diets in the U.S.—And Which One Is Most Effective
They're all getting buzz—but they're not all created equally.
There's perhaps nothing more impactful for your long-term well-being than eating healthy. Of course, with so many diets to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin. That's why the fitness and nutrition experts at Total Shape analyzed Google data to reveal the top-trending diets that have piqued the public's curiosity this year. Read on to learn which five eating plans are the most popular in the U.S. and to find out which one is most effective in overhauling your health, according to dietitians and nutritionists.
The DASH diet—which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—came in fifth for popularity, with a monthly search average of 56 per 100,000. This healthy diet aims to improve high blood pressure by restricting red meat, salt, added sugars, and fat.
"The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute developed the DASH diet as a flexible and balanced eating plan," shares Amy Fox, a certified nutritionist and the founder of the Food and Mood Lab. "It emphasizes whole foods and limits processed foods, making it an excellent option for those looking to improve their diet."
"Remember, the DASH diet is a lifelong commitment to your health and wellness; the benefits are worth the effort," the nutritionist continues. She recommends meeting with a registered dietitian to discuss personalized recommendations and strategies for success.
On the opposite end of the diet spectrum is the carnivore diet, which ranked fourth in popularity, according to the study. This particular eating plan—which is made up entirely of animal-based products such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs—saw a monthly search volume of 65 per 100,000.
Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and the author of The Candida Diet, says that following the carnivore diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies in the long run, particularly in vitamins C and E, fiber, and phytonutrients, all of which are found in plant-based foods.
Some people will also develop acute health conditions related to this diet, Richards warns. "Consuming a diet high in saturated fat, which is found in meat and dairy products, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke," she explains. "A high-protein diet can put extra stress on the kidneys, which may lead to kidney problems. A meat-heavy diet has also been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including colon cancer."
The third most popular in Google searches was the vegan diet, with an average monthly search volume of 77 per 100,000. This is a plant-based diet that replaces all animal products with fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
"Since the vegan diet omits any animal-based products, it's low in saturated fats and calories, which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and help individuals manage weight," says Chrissy Arsenault, RDN, MBA, a registered dietitian at Trainer Academy. "Vegan diets that are high in fruits and vegetables can also help you meet your essential nutrient needs and improve digestion since they're high in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber."
However, the dietitian says she doesn't generally recommend this diet to clients, since it can also lead to nutritional deficiencies. "If anything, I'd recommend a vegetarian diet over a vegan one so that there's lower risk of nutritional deficiencies. However, for those who are ethically motivated or have a strong preference for plant-based eating, a well-planned vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate and offer health benefits," she says.
Coming in second for Google searches was the keto diet, with a nationwide volume of 296 searches per 100,000. This is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that incorporates animal or plant-based proteins, dairy, and vegetables.
But Arsenault says she regularly advises clients against adopting the keto diet. "Every time a client asks me about this diet, I get gray hairs," she tells Best Life. Though she acknowledges that many people lose weight in the short term using the keto diet, she notes that most people gain that weight back since "your body can't be in ketosis forever."
Additionally, Arsenault says she finds the diet lacking in the essential nutrients that your body needs to function. "The lack of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can lead to nutrient deficiencies over the long term and is simply unsustainable," she says. The dietitian warns that many people also experience the "keto flu," which can cause headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, and more.
According to the study, the Mediterranean diet was the most commonly searched-for in the U.S., with an average search volume of 316 per 100,000 monthly searches.
"The traditional Mediterranean Diet includes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, sources of healthy fats, moderate amounts of dairy and fish, less red meat than a typical American diet, and red wine in moderation," explains Fox.
Fox says that out of all the popular diets, this one is considered the most healthy. "It's been around for a long time, and research has consistently shown that the Mediterranean diet effectively reduces chronic diseases, some cancers, and symptoms of depression. Doctors often prescribe the Mediterranean diet to treat these issues," she tells Best Life.
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