If only I had a penny every time someone asked me: ‘Which one is the best diet?’ I would be rich by now. Well what does make a diet be the ‘best diet’ for losing weight? I would say that each and every individual on this world would have their own answer. Some of the elements I would look in a diet are:
1. Good weight loss results would be one element. Losing weight is the aim so it does make sense.
2. Health outcomes and risks I would say is the next, after all you don’t want to be placing unnecessary risks on your body.
3. User friendliness, in other words how easy is it to follow and
4. Sustainability of the weight lost.
So let’s see what we get in the weight loss world. In our diet menu today you will find:
Mediterranean Style Diets – a combination of health and good weight loss results
High Protein Diets – Popular commercial diets
Healthy Diets – Focus on health
I will first exclude all those fast and radical diets which can have high risks for your health from this category. What is left is the one diet which you have tried and tested and works for you. This is very general as it could be any diet but that any diet is what works for you.
Yes there is such a thing as optimum nutrition and we will look as some diets which do offer that. However, unless a weight loss diet rocks your boat and ticks your boxes it is not the best for you. If you try to do something which you don’t particularly like you will manage to do it for so long before giving up and you could end up hating the whole thing. In addition, not everybody loses weight in the same way or rate. Choose a diet which will suit your preferences and circumstances, will have be health friendly and will return good weight loss results for you.
To make it clear, the ‘Mediterranean style’ is not one diet. The Mediterranean diet derives from the countries which are located around the Mediterranean Sea (approximately 18 countries). Each country and regions within the countries have their own dietary habits, customs, cooking practices and so on. So we are talking about a dietary pattern rather than one diet.
To the point however, the Mediterranean dietary pattern has the subject of numerous scientific studies and research over the years and it is believed to decrease the risks of developing certain diseases and returning positive health outcomes. In addition, studies suggest that it promotes weight loss.
Some examples of a Mediterranean type diets are:
The Cretan diet
It derives from the island of Crete in Greece. Although it is not a weight loss diet per se or is not designed by some weight loss/nutritional author it has been suggested by studies to be the cream of the crops of the Mediterranean style diets. You don’t have to move to Crete to follow the diet either (although it may sound as a good idea) there is a plethora of cook books and dietary information out there which can provide you with more details. The bonus is that moderate alcohol intake is one main part of the diet.
The Combination diet
It is our very own creation. It is a 2 week diet aiming mainly for abdominal fat. The diet is designed to provide flexibility and a holistic approach to weight loss. What that means is that apart from the diet you get a weight loss package which includes calorie calculator, food diaries, access to weight loss advisors and updates.
The ‘low – carbohydrate’ style of dieting is not something new, however it is in the few recent years that it has gained a lot of popularity. More and more studies suggest that diets higher in proteins and lower in carbohydrates tend to be effective in controlling blood sugar and decrease the risk of development of some health conditions. High protein diets do not go without criticism and scientist are still cautious in their recommendations for consuming high amounts of animal protein.
Why is that? Consumption of high amounts of animal protein has been connected with increasing cholesterol and blood pressure.
Studies do suggest that if consumption of high amounts of animal protein are part of a healthier diet and lifestyle (i.e. coupled with consumption of ample fruit and veg. and an active lifestyle) it actually has beneficial effects to health.
In addition, it is believed that consumption of high amounts of protein can place considerable strain on the kidneys. However, research indicates that high amounts of protein should not lead to kidney problems unless there are existing kidney conditions.
On the plus…
Studies suggest that protein tend to keep you full for longer and therefore people tend to consume fewer calories. In addition, it is suggested that it helps in controlling blood sugar better which has a number of health benefits and it can lead to fewer cravings.
The New Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet has been around for ages and is a classic high protein diet. After having received a lot of criticism of being too rigid and not incorporating any carbs resulting in low amounts of fruit and some veg. it came back in a revised version The New Atkins Diet. The New Atkins diet does incorporate more carbohydrate options and it is still quite popular.
The Ducan Diet
A fairly new diet which gained a lot of popularity after a few celebrities said they are following it. It can be easy to follow as it is not very restrictive. It does make recommendations for a healthier lifestyle rather than just losing weight and for exercise. Although it is not something new or revolutionary it can be a ‘not too bad option’ out of the commercial diets, is not extreme or unhealthy and people do report to lose weight.
The DIY diet
This is the diet which you follow at home by yourself. If following a rigid program is not your cup of tea it is easy to just make your own. The basic principles of any high protein diet are to consume a higher amount of protein, moderate amount of carbohydrates which mainly derive from wholegrain and a moderate amount of fat. On top of this add ample amounts of fruit and vegetables.
You could pick up a cook book which provides healthy, higher in protein recipes and DIY at home. Keeping an eye on the calories will need to be part of your diet if you want to lose weight. You can keep a diary at home or you could also benefit from our online diet tools which provide calorie counter, food diaries and food lists.
These are the diets which mainly concentrate on health first and weight loss second. This is not to say that other diets do not have health benefits it is more like the case that some diets have been designed to tackle some specific health issues. Needles to say however, that if you have any health issues and concerns the best point of contact is your doctor and/or health professional and you should above all follow their advice.
The DASH diet
The DASH diet claims to be designed by a team of doctors and health professionals and to also have been tried and tested before being sold to the public. The main focus of the DASH diet is to lower blood pressure and it was recently been voted in a survey as no 1 best diet.
As it concentrates on blood pressure it recommends low consumption of animal protein. Although there is a main DASH diet plan, each individual is meant to enrol to the official site and get a personalised diet plan according to the information he/she provides (i.e. age, gender, weight etc).
The plus…It does recommend seeing dieting as a lifestyle approach rather than a short event and encourages people to make lifestyle changes. It also incorporates exercise advice. Overall is not a bad diet although it can be too low on protein at times.
The minus…Just because it is designed by health professionals it doesn’t necessarily translate to this diet is good for you specifically if you suffer from high blood pressure or other health conditions. The DASH diet site also recommends checking any diet plans with your own health professional(s) as it could not suit your circumstances. Well if you do suffer from specific conditions your health professional should be advising you regarding your diet in the first place and paying for extra subscriptions may not be necessary.
Also following a very low protein diet for too long may lead to other deficiencies and that should also be discussed with your health professional.
The healthy balanced diet
It is very similar to the DIY diet. You just opt for healthy balanced food options. You can try this at home and could be your cheaper option. It may not recommended for those who are unsure where to start although there is ample of information available everywhere. Couple your diet with exercise or any physical activity and you could have excellent weight and health results.
Consulting an appropriate health/fitness professional is always recommended before making any diet and exercise changes.
A diet is what you make of it. In simple words a diet will be as good or not good depending on how you follow it and how much does it suit your personal circumstances.
Studies which have compared commercial diets between them do not necessarily find large differences in their results. Although some diets may be of better dietary quality what it really comes down to is what works for each individual.
I do exclude those diets which can harm your health though…
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Hara Hagikalfa completed her BSc(Hons) in Health and Exercise Science, Sports Science and Medicine. She is a certified Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor. You can learn more about Hara here, and connect with her on Facebook.