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In the News: Best and worst diets for 2014

Like clockwork, many Americans are flocking to their local gyms, loading up on dietary supplements and immersing themselves with the latest diet trends in a quest to adhere to 2014 New Year’s resolutions. But which diets are the best?

According to an annual analysis by U.S. News & World Report, the DASH Diet Eating Plan or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, was named the best overall diet for the fourth year in a row. DASH was developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for people with high blood pressure and has been shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol and heart disease risk.

At the bottom of the list, the Paleo diet tied for last place along with the Dukan diet. According to this CNN article by Jacque Wilson, the Paleo diet asks for people to follow a diet similar to those who lived during the Paleolithic era; hunters and gatherers consuming lots of fresh produce and animal proteins while avoiding sugars, grains, legumes and dairy.

What’s important to consider is a low ranking doesn’t necessarily correspond to “bad” diets in all cases. According to U.S. News & World Report, top-rated diets rank highly in being easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.

The Paleo diet has grown in popularity in recent years, especially within the CrossFit community. The term “paleo” was even named by Google as the most searched diet term in 2013. The diet can be challenging to adhere to, which was one reason behind the lower U.S. News & World Report score.

But whether you choose to adopt a vegetarian, DASH, Paleo, Mediterranean or any other dietary approach, a few tried and true dietary and nutritional guidelines still hold their weight in value according to David Jacobs, Ph.D., a professor in the Division of Epidemiology & Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

“There are many ways to have a good, healthy diet,” said Jacobs. “It’s important to incorporate foods that are minimally processed and focus on a more plant-centered diet that includes a lot of variety in what is eaten and in smaller portion sizes.”

In addition to diet, don’t forget to exercise! The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. If you’re having trouble adhering to 30 minutes a day five times a week of exercise, try breaking down exercise into shorter 10-15 minute exercise two to three times a day and you’ll still experience health benefits.

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