Mediterranean. Paleo. Keto. DASH. South Beach. Atkins. Zone. Vegan. Raw
Foods. So many diets!
All promise to help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, protect
against disease or reduce your environmental footprint. Not sure which
diet is best? You’re in good company!
What you eat, and how much you eat, has significant impact on your overall
health, including your weight. Despite the fact that millions of us go on a diet every year, two-thirds
of adults and one-third of children are nevertheless overweight or obese.
Every year, U.S. News & World Report ranks the best diets overall and
in various categories, such as weight loss. Its 2018 and 2019 overall
top three diets are the Mediterranean and DASH diets (which are tied)
and the flexitarian diet. A flexitarian is a flexible vegetarian—someone
who eats primarily plants, but also eats a small amount of food that comes
All three share important characteristics: They focus primarily on plants,
whole grains, healthy fats (such as olive oil), lean protein and minimal
amounts of added sugars, fats and salts. Studies show that these diets
really do help people maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk
for many preventable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and several
types of cancer.
High protein diets, such as Atkins or Zone, and commercial diet programs,
such as Weight Watchers and Volumetrics, can help you lose weight. High
protein diets focus on controlling insulin (a hormone that plays a role
in diabetes) by limiting carbohydrates. They can lead to nutritional deficiencies
and other problems if you’re not careful. Commercial diet programs
generally provide nutritionally balanced meals in measured portion sizes.
How do different diets compare?
The truth is, no one diet is best. It really depends on your health (for
example, being high risk for one or more chronic diseases) and whether
you need to lose weight. However, here are a few common elements that
underlie a healthy, sustainable eating plan.
- Plant-based diets (made up primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains,
nuts and seeds) are nutrient rich and medical evidence shows they are
associated with positive health outcomes, including fewer cancers and
less heart disease.
- It’s not clear that low-fat diets are better than diets high in healthful
fats (for example, the Mediterranean diet).
- The Mediterranean diet, which includes high fiber intake, moderate amounts
of alcohol and meat, antioxidants and polyphenols (micronutrients), has
favorable effects on heart disease, cancer risk, obesity and metabolic
syndrome (which is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes).
- Diets that emphasize healthy carbohydrates are better than those that are
low carb. Whole grains may lower your risk for cancers and help you control
Still confused about which diet is best for YOU? Talk to your doctor. Together
you can evaluate whether you need to lose weight, lower your risk for
heart disease or diabetes or just find a healthy eating plan that works
for you over the long term.
Read on to part 2 of Fab or Fad.