Best and Worst Diet Plans for Weight Loss, Heart Health, and More
- October 14, 2021
For original article click here
There’s no perfect diet for everyone. So before you pick a plan, be sure to do your research on what it can and can’t do for your health.iStock (2)“How can I lose weight?” Over time, millions of Americans have asked themselves that question. In fact, between 2015 and 2018, nearly one in five adults older than 20 reported that they were following a particular eating plan on a given day, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The most common diet followed by participants in the study was a weight loss or low-calorie diet, followed by adiet for diabetesmanagement, alow-carb diet, and a low-fat or low-cholesterol diet.
But even among these few approaches, there are an overwhelming number of different programs available, and finding the right one can prove challenging. After all, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan that’s perfect for everyone.
Heart Health in the Time of COVID-19
Before choosing a health or weight loss approach, it’s important to do some self-evaluation by asking yourself some questions.
What Can You Live With in the Long Term?
“There are many diet plans on the market today that promote good health,” says Emily Kyle, RDN, who is in private practice in Rochester, New York. “The key is finding one that does not cause you stress or agony.” Ask yourself questions such as: Would the diet guidelines make you happy? Anxious? Stressed? Are you able to follow them long term? “Factors such as enjoyment, flexibility, and longevity should be strongly considered,” adds Kyle.
If the diet is a quick fix rather than one that promotes lasting lifestyle changes, this could pose a problem. In particular, extreme diets that promise big weight loss up front aren’t always sustainable — and you may end up overeating or even binge eating if you feel deprived. “Consider if the diet’s habits are ones you can continue throughout your lifetime, not just 21 or 30 days,” says Angie Asche, RD, a sports dietitian in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Which Diet Program Is Best for Your Overall Health?
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
Many diet plans cut out entire food groups, which can create nutrient deficiencies as well as health problems. For instance, if the diet is very low in carbohydrates and you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it’s probably not a good fit. And if it’s too restrictive and you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s not a good idea, either. Keep in mind that pregnancy is not a time for weight loss. Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Is the Diet Approach Safe for You to Follow?
Make sure that the diet has been studied extensively for safety — and discuss any changes with your physician or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet. (If you don’t have a dietitian, find one in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.) And do a self-check to ensure the diet fits with your own values and preferences.
“Don’t like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don’t be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
To lessen the confusion and get on the fast track to success, we got the skinny on some of the most popular diets out there today. So read on to see which plan might be best for you — and which diets to run away from at full speed!
Ketogenic Diet (Keto)
This high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbfad dietsends the body into a state ofketosis, in which the body uses stored fat for energy. Research published in Clinical Cardiology suggests the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet can be an effective weight loss method, but to be successful, you must follow the plan consistently with no cheat days — otherwise, you’re just eating a high-fat diet that may be high in unhealthy fats for no reason.(A pro tip? If you’re planning on doing the diet, consider perusingthis complete keto food listand reading up onthe healthiest fats for keto diet followers.)
Although the keto diet is popular among people with type 2 diabetes, you should avoid this diet if you have type 1 diabetes or other specific metabolic disorders.
No matter what your current state of health, you should speak with your physician before beginning theketogenic diet, according to recommendations in a paper published August 2017 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
One of this diet’s biggest hurdles? Saying goodbye to bread and other carbs. “It can be challenging to make sure to hit the low levels recommended for carbohydrates,” says Hultin. “This diet likely means a lot of planning ahead and bringing food with you to parties and events.”
You’ll also want to be prepared for some of the plan’s notable side effects, like keto-related diarrhea and constipation, fatigue, mood swings, headaches, and bad breath. These symptoms are a common part of the so-called keto flu, which happens as your body adjusts to burning fat rather than carbs for fuel, experts say.
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
With this eating style, you’re looking at a lot of menu planning and preparation. A review published in August 2017 in Nutrients suggests the diet could lead to weight loss, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns the plan could also cause certain nutrientdeficiencies, such as in calcium and vitamin D.And, therefore, according to an article published in the January–February 2016 issue of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, anyone at risk for osteoporosisshould avoid it.
This low-carb, high-protein diet has been around for decades. In fact, some say the keto diet is the new Atkins, though these popular low-carb plans are markedly different.
According to theAtkinswebsite, the plan works in phases, with a very low daily net carb allowance of about 20, 40, or 100 grams (g) in the first phase, meaning the diet would send you into ketosis. How many net carbs you need to stay under depends on the plan you opt for. (You can calculate net carbs by subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols from total carbs. This value, though an unofficial nutritional term, can give you an estimate of how much a food might affect blood sugar levels.) Unlike theketo diet, you’re allowed more carbs as the phases continue.In one November 2014 review published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, researchers found that theAtkins dietcan yield modest long-term weight loss, similar to that of the Weight Watchers eating plan.Because the diet is low in carbs, it may not be appropriate for someone who is on insulin or has diabetes — and because it’s high in protein, you’d want to avoid it if you have kidney disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“This is a great way of eating that I highly recommend to many clients, and I even model in my own life,” says Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, who is in private practice in San Diego and is the co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook. “Since the premise of the diet is designed to help people who have high blood pressure, low-sodium foods are recommended. But considering that most Americans exceed their daily sodium levels anyway, it’s not surprising that dietitians recommend this style of eating for treating many different conditions, such as heart disease and obesity.”
The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to StopHypertension, is mainly focused on reducing sodium intake and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.In one August 2017 study in Polish Heart Journal, people following the DASH diet saw an improvement in blood pressure, as well as in overall body fat.U.S. News & World Report has also consistently listed the DASH diet as a top diet in its annual rankings.
The MIND diet, or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a sort of hybrid between the DASH diet andthe Mediterranean diet. It features foods meant to slow the progression or development ofAlzheimer’s disease, the most commonform of dementiaand an incurable neurodegenerative condition that more than 5 million Americans are living with, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.Some research backs up this notion, including a study published in September 2016 in Alzheimer’s Dementia that found a link between following the MIND diet and a reduced risk of the disease.Emphasizing vegetables,berries, beans, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and wine, it also calls for a reduction insaturated fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.Because the diet focuses on cutting unhealthy fats and emphasizes eating whole, fresh foods, people who follow the MIND diet may lose weight as an added benefit.
Many diets, including Atkins and the keto diet, fit into this umbrella. A typical low-carb diet limits carbs to less than 60 g daily, but this can vary, according to the Mayo Clinic.In a September 2015 review published in PLoS One, people following low-carb diets saw modest weight loss — although study authors note that long-term effects of the diet require further research.
Following this type of eating plan can result in certain nutritional deficiencies, and children, as well as pregnant or lactating women should avoid it. “The low-carb diet is best for individuals who truly enjoy savory diets that involve more animal-based products and less sweet, refined carbohydrates,” notes Kyle.
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting — ranging from fasting for a number of hours each day up to an entire 24-hour fasting period one or two times a week. “If you’re trying to kick a habit like eating late into the night, then stopping eating earlier in the evening and fasting overnight could be beneficial for you,” says Hultin. “There are many types of intermittent fasting, so ensuring you pick one that works for you and your lifestyle is important.”
The idea is that the fasting induces mild stress to the cells in your body, helping them become better at coping with such stress and possibly helping your body grow stronger. The verdict is still out regarding the diet’s long-term effectiveness with weight loss, according to a review of preliminary animal research published in January 2017 in Behavioral Sciences.But data suggest the approach still presents potential problems, as its restrictive nature may lead to overeating or binge eating, suggests an article published in June 2013 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
“Intermittent fasting can be really challenging if you have an ever-changing schedule,” adds Hultin. “If you’re traveling and crossing time zones, it could be very difficult to follow. It might be best for people with more stability in their lives.” Intermittent fasting isn’t safe for people with type 2 diabetes, children, pregnant or lactating women, or anyone with a history of an eating disorder.
If you want to kick intermittent fasting up a notch, you may consider the Dubrow diet, popularized by the husband-and-wife duo Terry and Heather Dubrow. On this diet, you’ll fast for 16 hours and eat for 8, also called the 16:8 eating plan, a type of intermittent fasting. Over three phases, you will also limit calories, fat, and carbohydrates, which may aid weight loss, say registered dietitians.
A plus of this eating plan is that it takes a whole-foods approach, and calls for avoiding processed and packaged foods, along with sources of refined carbs and desserts in general. One minus is that the plan limits healthy complex carbs.
WW (Formerly Weight Watchers)
In September 2018 Weight Watchers International announced that it would be changing its name to WW, in what many outlets dubbed a rebranding effort. Their goal: to make the eating and lifestyle approach about wellness rather than only weight loss.
With Oprah as one of its most notable proponents, this eating plan has been around for years. Jean Nidetch founded the organization in the early 1960s, according to the WW website.It’s gone through many iterations, its most recent version being My WW+.On this plan, you’ll take a personal assessment, which takes several lifestyle factors into account in order to give you a holistic, all-over approach to weight loss. You’ll be assigned one of three different plans — Green, Blue, and Purple — which will give you varying balances between SmartPoints and 200-plus ZeroPoint foods that don’t need to be measured or tracked, such as nonstarchy veggies, most fruits, tofu, beans, and skinless poultry.Whether you’re assigned to the Green, Blue, or Purple approach, evidence suggests that WW’s plans promote long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people followingWeight Watcherswere close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan.WW might also be a good option for you if you like the idea of community support. Connect is a members-only social community for people following a WW approach, and many people find that this support is key to their success. In fact, past research suggests that participants in an online weight loss plan who were highly involved with the online community aspect of the program lost more weight over six months than participants who did not engage in this type of social networking.While the exact online weight loss plan was not specified, the community aspect is very similar to WW’s approach.
South Beach Diet
Created in 2003 by thecardiologistArthur Agatston, this low-carb diet features three phases. The first phase is the most restrictive, limiting carbs such as potatoes and rice. Each subsequent phase becomes more lenient, and the diet emphasizes lean protein, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbs such as nonstarchy vegetables. South Beach promotes lasting lifestyle changes, according to the Mayo Clinic.In one study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Disease, people who followed the first two phases of the diet noticed significant weight loss — but also experienced some shifts in satiety and hunger hormones, possibly leading to higher levels of hunger during the diet.
Like other low-carb diets, the South Beach Diet isn’t appropriate for pregnant or lactating women, or children.
Vegan and Vegetarian Diet
“A vegan or vegetarian diet is best for individuals who do not like to consume animal products, whether for health reasons, environmental reasons, or animal welfare reasons,” says Kyle. “There are many health benefits of consuming more plant-based foods, such as a reduction in chronic disease.”
There’s a large spectrum of where people can fall on a vegetarian diet: For example, vegans consume no animal products, whereas ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs. The eating style may help with weight loss, suggests a review published in August 2017 in Nutrients, but some vegans and vegetarians may become deficient in specific nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to an article published in December 2017 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.
Raw Vegan Diet
Theraw vegan dietis a more extreme version of the traditionalvegan diet. In addition to eating no animal products (that means no cheese or dairy too), raw vegans do not eat any foods cooked above 118 degrees F, the idea being that nutrients may be lost during the normal cooking process, per an article published in the spring 2013 edition ofThe Permanente Journal.While this diet can be difficult to stick with because it’s so restrictive, it does offer the same health benefits of a vegan diet.
Pescatarians are vegetarians or vegans who also eat fish. Prioritizing fish as your main protein can provide a bounty of health benefits, such as a lowerrisk of strokeand heart disease, per a May 2018 advisory published inCirculation.
You can think of think of the Flexitarian Diet as a plan for part-time vegetarians. With this approach, plant proteins, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits and veggies will be staples, with the occasional meat dish thrown in.
Because the diet isn’t as restrictive as a traditional vegan or vegetarian diet, it may be simpler to stick with — hence its No. 2 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s Easiest Diets to Follow category. Because you’ll be eating meat some of the time, you may also be at a lower risk of the aforementioned nutrient deficiencies that vegetarians and vegans may face.
While there isn’t a wealth of research on this eating approach, U.S. News points out that, because of the focus on plants, those who follow theFlexitarianDiet tend to weigh 15 percent less than meat eaters — and they have a lower risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease.
“Diets such as the Mediterranean diet are sustainable, have been shown to improve health, and aren’t restrictive or short term,” says Asche.
The Mediterranean diet is meant to reflect the eating pattern of people living in the Mediterranean. So think plenty of vegetables, fruits, olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, legumes — and only a moderate amount of red wine and dairy.
The diet can be helpful for weight loss, as well as decreasing risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to an April 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicineand the Mayo Clinic.It has been consistently ranked as a top diet in the U.S. News annual rankings.
This popular diet program is fairly restrictive — and for the first 30 days, dieters must cut out grains, legumes, most dairy, added sugar, and alcohol without any slip-ups, according to theWhole30website.The aim is to “reset” your body and to adopt dietary habits resulting in weight loss. Cutting out added sugar and alcohol has merit, but all the restrictions prove challenging and could lead to nutrient deficiencies and disordered eating.
“The Whole30 diet does not allow for any whole grains or legumes, which are extremely beneficial to your health,” says Asche. “Whole grains are rich in fiber and micronutrients and are linked to helping to lower your risk of heart disease. The fact that the diet eliminates nutritious foods is a big red flag for me.”
Mayo Clinic Diet
This diet is a scientifically sound way to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.
The Mayo Clinic created a healthyfood pyramid to go along with the diet to help participants learn which foods to eat more of and which ones to limit.The pyramid emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, plus healthy fats in smaller amounts.In the initial two-week “Lose It” phase, participants can drop 6 to 10 pounds (lb). In fact, in the diet’s pilot program, 53 obese Mayo Clinic employees lost an average of 8 lb during the initial phase.
Though not always followed for weight loss per se, ananti-inflammatory dietis rich in whole foods (including fresh fruits and veggies), and low in packaged, processed ones (like french fries and pastries), so there is a chance you will still shed pounds with this approach. But usually, folks follow this diet to help prevent or treat chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. And that’s smart, considering there’s a bounty of research to support this notion, according to Harvard Health Publishing.Adopting this diet is relatively simple. It isn’t focused oncounting caloriesor carbs, or following any sort of specific protocol. Instead of constantly thinking about thequantityof food you are eating, an anti-inflammatory is all about prioritizing thequalityof what is on your plate.
Designed forpeople with irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), the low-FODMAP diet limits certaintypes of carbohydratescalled fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, or FODMAPs for short.These are essentially short-chain carbs that the gut has a hard time absorbing, thereby stimulating IBS symptoms, according to Monash University, which conducted the research on the low-FODMAP diet.
Unlike commercial diet plans, intuitive eating doesn’t require you to buy packaged food from a specific brand. And unlike fad diets, it doesn’t ask you to count macronutrients or calories. Instead, this approach asks you to eat what you want but check in regularly with your body, so you know when you’re full and need to stop eating. It sounds simple, but it can be a sustainable way to approach healthy eating, for weight loss or otherwise, say Evelyn Tribole, RDN, a private practitioner in Newport Beach, California, and Elyse Resch, RD, who coined the term “intuitive eating” in 1995. Tribole and Resch coauthored the groundbreaking book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works and their more recent book, The Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship With Food.
Similar to intuitive eating, thesatiating dietisn’t strict — the main thing it calls for is eating whole foods, like apples, oatmeal, peppers, and salad. The idea is these fiber-, protein, and fat-rich foods promote a feeling of fullness, so you’re less likely to overeat. There’s legit science behind prioritizing these foods over packaged ones. For instance, in a randomized controlled trial published in November 2017 in the British Journal of Nutrition, obese men assigned to follow the satiating diet instead of a higher-carb diet lost more fat and weight, and had more success sticking to the eating plan.
The veteran nutrition researcherBarbara J. Rolls, PhD, created Volumetrics, an eating approach that closely resembles the satiating diet. Rolls, who is currently the director of the Laboratory of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, argues that prioritizing whole, energy-dense foods including beans, whole grains, lean meats, and fresh fruits and veggies, can help with weight management. There’s research to back up this notion. For instance, a review published in April 2016 inNutrients suggested that considering foods’ energy density could aid in weight management.
If you don’t want to commit to counting calories, monitoring macronutrients, or meal planning, theNutrisystemdiet may be a good option for you. While on this eating plan, you’ll sign up to receive premade, low-calorie meals delivered to your home. Each meal has a fixed amount of calories based on your age, your sex, and any dietary requirements you may have. Generally speaking, the macronutrient composition of your meals will be high carb, and moderate protein and fat.But the key factor for weight loss on this diet is your calorie deficit: Nutrisystem meals are designed to provide you with 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day, allowing you to lose weight while staying nourished.There are a couple of things to be aware of before you commit, though: The cost of Nutrisystem meals for one person per month works out at about $300 minimum, and you’ll want to supplement them with fresh fruits and veggies, nutrient-rich carbohydrates, and what the plan calls “extras” or “free foods” (such as condiments or add-ons) to make your plate more palatable.Also, the bulk of your diet will consist of prepackaged foods, which may not appeal to you if you usually prepare and enjoy fresh foods.
The Jenny Craig Diet
The Jenny Craig diet is a weight loss program that combines regular food delivery with one-on-one support from a coach to help you lose weight. Each day, you’ll have three Jenny Craig meals, two Jenny Craig snacks, and one snack of your choice. Then once a week, you’ll meet with your coach, who will answer your questions and provide support and motivation. The Jenny Craig diet also incorporates some elements of intermittent fasting — you’ll eat during a 12-hour window, and fast for the remaining 12 hours of the day. Thanks to the combination of intermittent fasting and low-calorie meals, you are likely to lose some weight while following the Jenny Craig eating plan.
That being said, this is another diet that relies heavily on prepackaged foods, which may cost you up to $100 per person, per week. (For reference, the USDA estimates that a nutritious, moderate-cost diet should cost between $61 and $73 per week for most adults.And that’s before you supplement your meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, which are not covered by this plan. Moreover, while you have access to a personal coach, they are not necessarily trained or accredited professionals (such as registered dietitians). That’s fine if you’re mainly seeking support and motivation while following this diet, but it’s important to keep in mind that they may not be qualified to offer in-depth health or nutrition information. Overall, though, this diet may suit you if you like the idea of being coached through your weight loss journey, and like the thought of having your meals premade and delivered to you.
As the name implies, theSlimFastdiet claims you can lose weight — fast — by limiting your food intake to SlimFast-brand shakes for breakfast and lunch, a low-calorie meal (less than 500 calories) of your choice for dinner, and three 100-calorie snacks per day. While that may sound complicated, the weight loss mechanics of this diet are not: You’ll limit your daily caloric intake to 1,200 calories for women or 1,600 calories for men, which will put you on track to lose a moderate amount of weight initially. Over time, your rate of weight loss will likely slow as your body adjusts to your new routine, and once you’ve hit your goal weight, you can replace one of your daily shakes with a second “sensible” meal of your choice.The SlimFast diet is also offered in a number of different categories depending on your dietary needs, includingSlimFast Ketoand SlimfastDiabeticWeight Loss.
While you are likely to lose weight while following the SlimFast diet, the plan’s reliance upon SlimFast shakes may be unappealing or repetitive if packaged drinks like these don’t appeal to you. Plus, the shakes and SlimFast snacks are highly processed — which means you’ll need to balance your diet with healthy whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, to lose weight healthfully on this plan.
This diet claims you can lose up to 10 lb in one week, a loss that can be dangerously fast.
The fad military diet consists of low-calorie, odd food pairings such as bun-less hot dogs withbanana, carrots, andbroccoli. “Any diet like the military diet that severely limits the amount of calories you consume or eliminates one or more entire food groups puts any individual at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says Kyle. “This can be more harmful than holding onto those 10 extra lb you’re trying to lose.”
Although potentially less harmful than some of the other fad diets out there, this type of eating plan may promote binge eating or other forms of disordered eating patterns.
Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
Proponents of this increasingly popular diet approach believe that consuming apple cider vinegar — essentially fermented apple cider — will help with both weight loss and blood sugar control.
“Although there are studies showing benefits of adding apple cider vinegar to your diet, there’s not enough evidence to show that consuming it on a daily basis promotes weight loss,” says Asche. “It is also highly acidic, which could cause irritation in some people, especially if consumed without being diluted or in large amounts.”
Take note that while apple cider vinegar has many possible uses, it also posesside effects, such as tooth erosion. It’s also no replacement for blood pressure ordiabetes medications— or for any traditional treatment, for that matter, notes the University of Chicago.
Cabbage Soup Diet
This diet has no research to support its benefits, and revolves around eating plain cabbage soup three times daily, plus other foods on certain days of the diet. For instance, on the first day you can eat fruit except for bananas, and on the second day you can have nonstarchy vegetables but no fruit. The claim? You’ll lose 10 lb in just seven days, proponents say.
While it’s true you might be successful in losing weight, it likely won’t last. Once you return to your normal eating habits, you’ll likely put the weight back on — and then some.
French doctor Pierre Dukan, MD, conceived this high-protein diet, whose proponents boast that it can lead you to lose 10 lb within the first week of the plan.
The Dukan diet consists of four phases, each with a rigid set of rules. The first phase, the “Attack Phase,” for instance, allows you to eat nothing but protein sources such as beef, chicken, eggs, and liver.
Once you reach the last phase, you’re supposed to eat three tablespoons of oat bran daily and consume pure protein one day a week, theDukan dietwebsite notes.
The diet may present nutritional deficiencies — and it should be avoided by anyone with kidney problems because it’s high in protein.
HCG, orhuman chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it forfertilityissues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal.Consequently, researchers have widely discredited thehCG diet, which involves usinghCG injections, pellets, sprays, or drops, and consuming as few as 500 calories daily. The diet is problematic not only because there’s a lack of research on hCG supplements, but also because the calorie requirement is dangerously low, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue,hormone imbalances, blood clots, and other issues. Thus, most experts agree the hCG diet is not safe for anyone, the Mayo Clinic notes.
Cleanses and Detoxes
Ranging from just-juice to just-tea cleanses, these typically short-term plans can be dangerous. “Detoxes and cleanses are usually low in calories, protein, and fiber, all nutrients that our bodies need to function,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, who is in private practice in New York City. “These plans leave you feeling hungry and cranky, causing a rebound food binge once you stop the detox.”
Plus, a healthy body does a fantastic job of detoxing itself. Bottom line? Eat a healthy diet that provides enough energy (aka calories) for you to get through the day.
The idea of this diet is to help control the pH of the body through the foods you eat — encouraging dieters to cut back on acid-forming foods such as red meat and wheat-containing products, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Although eating more fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods promotes good health, the human body does a good job of regulating its pH on its own. Eating alkaline foods cannot sway that.
“The alkaline diet often has a focus on eating lots of fresh produce and unprocessed foods, which could be a good thing,” says Hultin. “However, keep in mind that this is not an evidence-based therapeutic diet. When people take it too far — for instance, drinking baking soda — or become too restrictive or obsessive over food choices, it can definitely turn negative.”
The diet may be low in certain nutrients, including calcium and potassium, and it is not appropriate for anyone who has kidney disease or a heart condition.
Blood Type Diet
It’s no surprise that this diet, also called the Eat Right 4 Your Type diet, focuses on an eating style based on your blood type.
For instance, if you’re type O, you’d eat high-protein diet focusing on poultry, fish, and other lean meats. The diet claims better digestion and absorption of foods, although there’s no scientific evidence to back this up.
Type B? You’re supposed to cut out corn, buckwheat, wheat, lentils, tomatoes, peanuts, and sesame seeds.
The diet doesn’t take chronic health conditions into consideration — and you might develop nutritional deficiencies based on its restrictive nature.
One benefit: “The blood type diet gets people to dump processed junky food,” says Robin Foroutan, RDN, an integrative dietitian in New York City and a spokesperson for the AND.
TheCICO— short for calories in, calories out — diet has made waves on social media for its straightforward model: Take in fewer calories than you burn, and you’ll lose weight. While research shows that’s true, there’s a lack of research on this specific diet.
And because it doesn’t specify which foods you should be eating and avoiding, it may lead to nutrition deficiencies, experts warn.
Be sure to consult your doctor before trying the CICO diet.
The Body Reset Diet
Similar to the CICO diet,Body Resethas gained popularity via social media, and there isn’t any definitive research that suggests the approach is safe and effective. Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak created the plan, which is essentially a three-phase liquid diet comprised of smoothies and moderate exercise. WhileU.S. Newsnotes you may lose weight on the diet, it may be tough to stick with, and isn’t safe for people with diabetes and heart disease.
The Carnivore Diet
If you like eating meat and want to lose weight, you might be tempted to try this recent extreme diet fad that proponents have made some pretty outrageous claims about. One: that eating nothing but meat can cure you of autoimmune diseases. The problem is that there’s no good research to support that notion, or any other health claim.
Indeed, omitting foods known to be good for you — fruits and veggies among them — can lead to a bunch of unwanted side effects, includingconstipationand potentially dangerous nutrient deficiencies, reportsPopular Science.Still, since you’re cutting out so many food groups, there’s a decent chance you’ll lose weight, experts say.
Regardless of any possible benefits you might see, this restrictive approach is definitely one you’ll want to ask your doc about before you even consider diving in.
Boiled Egg Diet
The premise of theboiled egg dietis eating eggs every day. So, if you like eggs, this eating plan might be for you. There are many versions, according to The Boiled Egg Diet: The Easy, Fast Way to Weight Loss!, by Arielle Chandler. One of the most popular versions involves eating at least two to three boiled eggs per day, which is the plan that the actress Nicole Kidman reportedly used while filming Cold Mountain, according to Vogue Italia.
Because you’re allowed to eat foods besides boiled eggs, this diet isn’t sustainable or sensible for long-term health and weight loss, registered dietitians say.
TheOptavia diet, formerly calledMediFast, is a commercial eating plan that comes with prepackaged meals. There are three plans designed to help with weight loss or maintenance, per the Optavia website.Proponents say that the Optimal 5&1 Plan can lead to a 12 lb weight loss in 12 weeks, but there is no rigorous research on the Optavia diet.Also, some registered dietitians argue that the eating approach doesn’t teach people how to change their eating and lifestyle habits for the long haul.
Steven Gundry, the author ofThe Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain, popularized thelectin-free diet. Lectins are in nightshades (tomatoes, peppers), legumes, lentils, beans, seeds, and nuts.Dr. Gundryand his followers argue that lectins can increase inflammation, causegastrointestinalissues, and contribute to weight gain. While the diet may benefit some people, experts agree research on this diet is limited, and eliminating these foods is not necessary for good health.
Proponents of this diet claim that it can help eliminate extra yeast and “balance” the gut. Yet there is a lack of research on the Candida diet, and there is no proof that it can treat yeast infections or thrush, which are two conditions caused by Candida overgrowth. In fact, experts say that if any of your symptoms improve as a result of following this cleanse, it’s likely because of a simple improvement in your eating habits.
Body Type Diet
Body type diet advocates believe that knowing your body type can help you determine the best diet and exercise plan for optimal health and weight. There are three so-called body types: ectomorphs, or lean and lanky people; mesomorphs, or those who have a muscular, hourglass frame; and endomorphs, or people who are often described as curvy or stocky. The book Just Your Type: The Ultimate Guide to Eating and Training Right for Your Body Type suggests specific eating and fitness regimens for each type. Yet the premise of eating based on your body shape or where you carry fat lacks rigorous research, so keep this major limitation in mind if you want to try the approach, and be sure to work with your healthcare team if you choose to follow it.
The Golo Diet
The Golo diet may lead to some initial weight loss, but that’s likely because it restricts your caloric intake — and it’s unclear whether that’s helped by Release, the patented plant-based supplement that Golo sells on its website (starting at $49.95 for a 30- to 60-day supply).Some preliminary evidence suggests that individual components of this supplement may have a positive effect on body fat cells and glucose levels, but there is not enough peer-reviewed, controlled research available on the Golo diet or its Release supplement to prove that they can lead to weight loss. (On its website, Golo does list four studies that indicate that this diet may lead to weight loss, but these studies were relatively weak because they didn’t include a control group, and because they were all conducted by Golo, there is high potential for bias in the study results.) In general, be cautious of any diet that includes a magic pill.
The Shibboleth Diet
On this membership-based program, you’ll choose your meals according to the list of approved foods, including plenty of objectively healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low- or nonfat dairy products.That said, the Shibboleth eating plan was not developed by credentialed experts, and no evidence is provided forits claimthat it has “cracked the code on adult and childhood obesity.”The language used, such as “the fat bus” or “your perfect weight,” may feel off-putting and body-shaming to some, while others may not agree that “without a relationship with Christ, there can be no long-term success.”Moreover, as a membership-based program, the Shibboleth plan will cost you a monthly fee of $9.95, which may deter some people.
The Mayr Method
The Mayr method attracted attention after the actor Rebel Wilson credited it with her recent weight loss. To follow this eating plan, you’ll need to sign up for a stay at one of the VivaMayr luxury resorts, where coaches will prescribe you a “cure” based on four pillars: medicine, nutrition, exercise, and awareness.This holistic approach to weight loss may combine treatments such as oxygen therapy, nutritional consultation, aqua cycling, and personal training, per their website, though the individual treatments will vary depending on your choice of plan.
That being said, this is not a feasible weight loss plan for most people, mainly because you will need to travel to a Mayr clinic to receive treatment — which can be costly, time-consuming, and subject to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, while you’re likely to make progress on such an immersive retreat, it may be difficult to sustain your weight loss once the retreat has ended and you return to your normal routine. Last but not least, many of the reported therapies used on these retreats, including laxatives, are not a safe way to lose weight, some experts warn.
The Sirtfood Diet
This eating plan became popular in 2020 after the singer Adele posted a photo of her dramatic weight loss on Instagram, and the media, includingPeople, reported that she transformed her body on it.But what’s the 411 on this plan? First off, it’s named for sirtuins, a family of proteins involved in a number of metabolic functions, according to an article inMolecular Endocrinology.Proponents of this two-phase diet claim that increasing your sirtuin intake, through polyphenol-rich foods likekaleanddark chocolate, will activate “skinny gene” pathways and lead to weight loss.In the first phase, you’ll focus on limiting yourself to one meal a day, and drinking plenty of green juice (the Sirtfood-recommended juice blends several ingredients including kale, arugula, ginger, and matcha). After a few days, you’ll move up to two meals per day, along with two servings of green juice. In phase two, you’ll spend two weeks eating three Sirtfood-centric meals along with one green juice a day. Once your three weeks are up, you’re encouraged to continue eating sirtuin-rich foods and drinking green juice, but you can gradually reincorporate other approved foods into your diet as well.While this diet may lead to some weight loss, that probably has more to do with the fact that you are restricting your calories for the first phase of the plan. But at 1,000 calories per day (and, later, 1,500 calories per day), you’re falling below USDA recommendations for daily caloric intake, and you may experience hunger, mental fog, and fatigue. And while proponents of this diet tout sirtuins as key to weight loss, there isn’t sufficient research to back their claims. You can enjoy many of the purported benefits of the Sirtfood diet by simply eating with a focus on plant-based and antioxidant-rich foods.
Additional reporting by Bonnie Taub-Dix, Sheryl Huggins Salomon, Katie Robinson, Jessica Migala, Melinda Carstensen, and Laura McArdle.
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