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U.S. News and World Report has compiled a list of the best diets for 2015. After examining 35 of the most popular diets, experts identified the best diets overall and broke up the diets into several different categories, including "Best Plant-Based Diets." Plant-based diets are proven to be better for your health and the health of the environment. Studies have proven that diet and climate change are inextricably linked.
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Diets rich in meat and dairy produce higher amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and have been linked to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure among other illnesses. In contrast, plant-based diets have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, curtail high blood pressure and lower plasma lipids. For the rankings, experts used criteria such as a diet's "ability to deliver weight loss, provide good nutrition and safety, and be relatively easy to follow."
If you want a diet that is good for you and good for the Earth, look no further than these diets:
The so-called “mediterranean diet” is nothing more than the typical diet consumed in countries like Spain, France, Greece and Italy, and even countries like Turkey and Morocco, a region where incidence of heart disease is low. It’s also connected with reduced risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, the Mediterranean diet is a sensible, balanced diet that is low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat. Instead it emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean protein.
2. Flexitarian Diet
The flexitarian diet is a very similar concept to the Mediterranean Diet with a plant-heavy emphasis. It is a combination of the words "flexible" and "vegetarian," the idea being that you eat meat but very sparingly. The diet promotes the "new meat"—tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds and eggs. Just like the Mediterranean Diet, this diet helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevents diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.
3. Ornish Diet
Proposed by Dean Ornish—a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in nearby Sausalito—the diet stresses "nutrition, exercise, stress management and emotional support options as a guide toward achieving any goal, from weight loss to preventing or reversing chronic diseases." Ornish breaks foods down into five categories from most to least healthy and encourages people to aim for the most healthy categories as much as possible. The health guru also recommends active lifestyles and meditation to maintain body weight and manage stress.
4. Traditional Asian Diet
Those looking to move away from the western diet have looked east and found that Asians tend to have lower rates of cancer, heart disease and obesity and also have higher life expectancies than their counterparts in western countries. There is obviously no one Asian diet, as the continent is home to a vast number people with various food cultures, but, the diet is generally composed of rice, vegetables, fresh fruit and fish. Experts laud it for its "diverse foods and flavors," but caution "if you don't like rice and noodles, forget it."
5. Vegetarian Diet
This diet tied with traditional Asian diet for fourth place. A meat-free diet has the same health benefits of the aforementioned diets, as well as, the reduced impact on the planet from eschewing industrial-scale animal agriculture. Oldways, a nonprofit nutrition organization, updated their dietary guidelines for vegetarians and vegans. As reported in U.S. News, Sara Baer-Sinnott, Oldways’ president, explained: “‘Vegetarian eating is at an all-time high, and it’s essential for people to realize that vegetarian diets are more than just cutting out meat. Balancing and planning are important.’” It's important to make sure you are getting adequate protein, iron and other nutrients that meat provides.
6. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The concept behind this diet is that "Chronic inflammation causes chronic disease. Reducing inflammation prevents age-related disease and promotes overall wellness." This diet—developed by Andrew Weil, a doctor and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine—promotes "healthy fats, fiber-rich fruits and veggies, lots of water and limited amounts of animal protein, except when it comes to oily fish." Weil also encourages regular exercise and a low-stress lifestyle.
7. Engine 2 Diet
Low in fats and high in plants, this diet was created by Rip Esselstyn, a firefighter (hence Engine 2), former professional athlete and medical expert. It's a twist on the vegan diet, in which Esselstyn recommends you eat vegan but also cut out vegetable oils too because "They strip the plant of its nutrients, and leave in its place a lot of saturated fat and calories." Some of the experts caution that the diet leaves out important nutrients and might be too extreme.
8. Vegan Diet
Tying with the Engine 2 diet, the vegan diet goes beyond vegetarianism to exclude dairy, eggs and other animal products. Vegans opt for this diet because of the proven health benefits, the reduction in animal cruelty and an even lighter footprint. Despite its benefits in avoiding or reversing diabetes and heart disease, some experts worry that "It’s more restrictive than other plant-based options, offers no built-in social support, and may skimp on important nutrients."
9. Eco-Atkins Diet
Just like the original Atkins diet, this one promotes a low-carb regimen. Dieters are encouraged to eliminate all meat or eat very small amounts of lean protein. Eco-Atkins prescribes high-fiber foods and focuses on "beans, nuts, high-protein veggies and grains such as couscous and pearl barley." The diet certainly isn't the best. Experts say "It’s restrictive and offers little guidance."
10. Macrobiotic Diet
There isn't one macrobiotic diet. Instead, it's an approach to food that stresses "natural, organically and locally grown, whole foods." Whole grains make up the majority of your daily intake along with vegetables, beans and soybean products. "Fruit, fish and seafood, seeds and nuts might be on the menu once or twice a week, but dairy, eggs, poultry, red meat, and anything artificial, processed, or with chemical additives will almost certainly be absent." There's a reason it's last on the list. Experts say it's very limiting and hard to follow.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?