The single best type of diet for overall health, according to nutritionists

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In a world dominated by celebrity fad diets that range from the
absurd, like Reese Witherspoon’s alleged “baby-food
diet
,” to the absurdly unaffordable, such as Gwyneth
Paltrow’s $200 “moon
dust
“-infused breakfast smoothie, the idea that there’s a
single best diet for improving your health might seem like
snake oil.

But it isn’t, at least according to existing research.

Several recent studies suggest that whether you’re looking for
weight loss or to improve your overall health, the best eating plans
are based around vegetables
, whole grains, and lean proteins.
In its most recent report on the best eating plans, US News and
World Report described
vegetable-based (“plant-based”) diets
as “good for the
environment, your heart, your weight, and your overall health.”
The Mediterranean diet, for example, has whole grains and
vegetables as its focus but also includes a variety of
healthy fats, like those from nuts, fish, avocados, and olive
oil
.

Those are some of the reasons that Cara Anselmo, a
nutritionist and outpatient dietitian at New York’s Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, advises her clients to ramp up
their intake of plant-based foods while cutting back on red meat
and refined carbohydrates like white bread.

To keep energy levels up and keep you full and healthy for the
long term, your diet needs to feed more than your stomach,
Anselmo tells Business Insider. It has to satiate your muscles,
which crave protein; your digestive system, which runs at its
best with fiber; and your tissues and bones, which work optimally
when they’re getting vitamins from food.


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Flickr/With
Wind


A plant-based diet accomplishes that goal by balancing whole
grains, fruits and vegetables, and proteins and fats.

This balance is also key to keeping you full after a meal and
energized throughout the day so you don’t feel the need to
overeat, Nichola
Whitehead
, a registered dietitian with a private practice in
the UK, tells Business Insider.

“You need to have a balanced meal — things like whole grains,
fiber, and vegetables — in order to sustain your blood sugar.
Empty calories [like white bread or white rice] give a temporary
fix,” Whitehead says.

Plant-based, whole food diets tend to confer other benefits as
well, like a reduced risk of
certain diseases
including heart disease, diabetes, and some
types of cancer.

“When you look at overall dietary patterns it’s a more whole
foods, plant-based diet that tends to be healthier in terms of
less disease risk,” Anselmo says. “People get caught up in things
like, ‘Well, how much iron or Vitamin C does this have?’ but the
reality is that the whole foods are just going to naturally be
higher in those things.”