There are so many diets out there today. It can get overwhelming and confusing when trying to pick one out to try. I checked out pretty much every diet I could find on the internet and narrowed it down to a top 5...not necessarily my top 5, but the top 5 that I believe will actually work and produce life altering results. Diets are not only about losing weight, but instead a nice balance of moderation, proper nutrition, and physical activity. I believe this balance is the key not only to losing weight, but also maintaining it. I also firmly believe this balance opens many doors to not only better physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. It really is a complete lifestyle change. No matter what the gimmicky ads try to tell you, there honestly is no quick fix. And at the end of the day, no one will lose weight if they are consuming more calories in than they are burning, so keep that in mind.
After my search, here are the top 5 diets I believe will not only aid in losing weight, but maintaining it, and lead to a healthier physical, emotional and mental lifestyle that is sustainable. And lets be honest- after the year we have all been through, I think we can all use a boost in our mental and emotional health.
What is it
Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing or any other purpose. The vegan diet is devoid of all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy. Motivation for this diet range from ethical or environmental concerns to improved health.
Whole-food vegan diet: A diet based on a wide variety of whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Raw-food vegan diet: A vegan diet based on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds or plant foods cooked at temperatures below 118°F (48°C).
80/10/10: The 80/10/10 diet is a raw-food vegan diet that limits fat-rich plants such as nuts and avocados and relies mainly on raw fruits and soft greens instead. Also referred to as the low-fat, raw-food vegan diet or fruitarian diet.
The starch solution: A low-fat, high-carb vegan diet similar to the 80/10/10 but that focuses on cooked starches like potatoes, rice and corn instead of fruit.
Raw till 4: A low-fat vegan diet inspired by the 80/10/10 and starch solution. Raw foods are consumed until 4 p.m., with the option of a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
The thrive diet: The thrive diet is a raw-food vegan diet. Followers eat plant-based, whole foods that are raw or minimally cooked at low temperatures.
Junk-food vegan diet: A vegan diet lacking in whole plant foods that relies heavily on mock meats and cheeses, fries, vegan desserts and other heavily processed vegan foods.
Although there are several different types, scientific research rarely differentiates between them.
Tofu, tempeh and seitan: These provide a versatile protein-rich alternative to meat, fish, poultry and eggs in many recipes.
Legumes: Foods such as beans, lentils and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
Nuts and nut butters
Seeds: Especially hemp, chia and flaxseeds, which contain a good amount of protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Calcium-fortified plant milks and yogurts: These help vegans achieve their recommended dietary calcium intakes.
Algae: Spirulina and chlorella are good sources of complete protein.
Nutritional yeast: This is an easy way to increase the protein content of vegan dishes and add an interesting cheesy flavor.
Whole grains, cereals and pseudocereals: These are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, iron, B-vitamins and several minerals. Spelt, teff, amaranth and quinoa are especially high-protein options.
Sprouted and fermented plant foods: Ezekiel bread, tempeh, miso, natto, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha often contain probiotics and vitamin K2.
Fruits and vegetables: Both are great foods to increase your nutrient intake. Leafy greens such as bok choy, spinach, kale, watercress and mustard greens are particularly high in iron and calcium.
Meat and poultry: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster, etc.
Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches, fish, etc.
Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
Animal-based ingredients: Whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, gelatin, cochineal or carmine, isinglass, shellac, L-cysteine, animal-derived vitamin D3 and fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids.
Weight loss: Vegans tend to be thinner and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegans.
Studies have shown that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss when compared to other diets. Researchers generally report that participants on vegan diets lose more weight than those following calorie-restricted diets, even when they’re allowed to eat until they feel full.
Lower blood sugar and lower risk or manage type 2 diabetes:
Several studies show that vegans benefit from lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and up to a 78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-vegans.
Vegan diets reportedly lower blood sugar levels in diabetics up to 2.4 times more than diets recommended by the ADA, AHA and NCEP.
Increased heart health:
Vegans may have up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure and 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Several report that vegan diets are much more effective at reducing blood sugar, LDL and total cholesterol than diets they are compared to.
Cancer risk: Vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer.
Arthritis: Vegan diets seem particularly effective at reducing symptoms of arthritis such as pain, joint swelling and morning stiffness.
Kidney function: Diabetics who substitute meat for plant protein may reduce their risk of poor kidney function.
Alzheimer’s disease: Observational studies show that aspects of the vegan diet may help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Increased Risk of Nutrient Deficiencies:
Vegans are at a higher risk of having inadequate blood levels of vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3s, iodine, iron, calcium and zinc, which can lead to certain nutrient deficiencies.
It is recommended to limit the amount of processed vegan foods you consume and opt for nutrient-rich plant foods instead.
Fortified foods, especially those enriched with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, should also make a daily appearance on your plate.
A well-planned vegan diet that includes nutrient-rich whole and fortified foods can help provide adequate nutrient levels.
What is it?
The vegetarian diet involves abstaining from eating meat, fish and poultry. People often adopt a vegetarian diet for religious or personal reasons, as well as ethical issues, such as animal rights.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
Lacto-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and eggs but allows dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and dairy products but allows eggs.
Pescetarian diet: Eliminates meat and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
Flexitarian diet: A mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional meat, fish or poultry.
A vegetarian diet should include a diverse mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and proteins. To replace the protein provided by meat in your diet, include a variety of protein-rich plant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, tempeh, tofu and seitan.
Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, oranges, melons, pears, peaches
Vegetables: Leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots
Grains: Quinoa, barley, buckwheat, rice, oats
Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas.
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts
Seeds: Flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds
Healthy fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocados
Proteins: Tempeh, tofu, seitan, natto, nutritional yeast, spirulina, eggs, dairy products
Most vegetarians avoid meat, poultry and fish. Certain variations of vegetarianism may also restrict eggs, dairy and other animal products. Depending on your needs and preferences, you may have to avoid the following foods on a vegetarian diet:
Meat: Beef, veal and pork
Poultry: Chicken and turkey
Fish and shellfish: This restriction does not apply to pescetarians.
Meat-based ingredients: Gelatin, lard, carmine, isinglass, oleic acid and suet
Eggs: This restriction applies to vegans and lacto-vegetarians.
Dairy products: This restriction on milk, yogurt and cheese applies to vegans and ovo-vegetarians.
Other animal products: Vegans may choose to avoid honey, beeswax and pollen.
Weight Loss: Vegetarians tend to have better diet quality than meat-eaters and a higher intake of important nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium.
One review of 12 studies noted that vegetarians, on average, experienced 4.5 more pounds (2 kg) of weight loss over 18 weeks than non-vegetarians.
Furthermore, a study in nearly 61,000 adults showed that vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than omnivores — BMI being a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.
Reduce Cancer Risk: Observational studies have shown a link in lower risk of breast, colon, rectum, and stomach cancer.
Stabilize Blood Sugar:
Studies indicate that vegetarian diets may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels and also may prevent diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar levels long term.
According to one study in 2,918 people, switching from a non-vegetarian to a vegetarian diet was associated with a 53% reduced risk of diabetes over an average of five years.
Promotes Heart Health: Studies have linked vegetarian diets with lowering levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as lowering blood pressure.
Increased risk of nutritional deficiencies:
Meat, poultry and fish supply a good amount of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as micronutrients like zinc, selenium, iron and vitamin B12.
Other animal products like dairy and eggs also contain plenty of calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins.
When cutting meat or other animal products from your diet, it’s important to ensure you’re getting these essential nutrients from other sources.
Studies show that vegetarians are at a higher risk of protein, calcium, iron, iodine and vitamin B12 deficiencies.
A nutritional deficiency in these key micronutrients can lead to symptoms like fatigue, weakness, anemia, bone loss and thyroid issues.
What is it
The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. Ketogenic diets can cause significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. This, along with the increased ketones, has some health benefits.
What is ketosis
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbs. Following a ketogenic diet is the most effective way to enter ketosis. Generally, this involves limiting carb consumption to around 20 to 50 grams per day and filling up on fats, such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils. It’s also important to moderate your protein consumption since protein can be converted into glucose if consumed in high amounts, which may slow your transition into ketosis. Practicing intermittent fasting could also help you enter ketosis faster.
Standard ketogenic diet (SKD): This is a very low carb, moderate protein and high fat diet. It typically contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbs.
Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD): This diet involves periods of higher carb refeeds, such as 5 ketogenic days followed by 2 high carb days.
Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD): This diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
High protein ketogenic diet: This is similar to a standard ketogenic diet, but includes more protein. The ratio is often 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.
However, only the standard and high protein ketogenic diets have been studied extensively. Cyclical or targeted ketogenic diets are more advanced methods and primarily used by bodybuilders or athletes.
Meat: red meat, steak, ham, sausage, bacon, chicken, and turkey
Fatty fish: salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel
Eggs: pastured or omega-3 whole eggs
Butter and cream: grass-fed butter and heavy cream
Cheese: unprocessed cheeses like cheddar, goat, cream, blue, or mozzarella
Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.
Healthy oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
Avocados: whole avocados or freshly made guacamole
Low carb veggies: green veggies, tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
Condiments: salt, pepper, herbs, and spices
Sugary foods: soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
Grains or starches: wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc.
Fruit: all fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries
Beans or legumes: peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
Root vegetables and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
Low fat or diet products: low fat mayonnaise, salad dressings, and condiments
Some condiments or sauces: barbecue sauce, honey mustard, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, etc.
Unhealthy fats: processed vegetable oils, mayonnaise, etc.
Alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks
Sugar-free diet foods: sugar-free candies, syrups, puddings, sweeteners, desserts, etc.
Weight Loss: The great thing about this diet is you can lose weight with less hunger and without counting calories or tracking your food intake.
In a study, people who followed the keto diet lost an average of 2 pounds (0.9 kg) more than the group that followed a low fat diet.
Another study in 34 older adults found that those who followed a ketogenic diet for 8 weeks lost nearly five times as much total body fat as those who followed a low fat diet.
Improved levels in diabetics and prediabetics: The ketogenic diet can boost insulin sensitivity and cause fat loss, leading to significant health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
One study found that the ketogenic diet improved insulin sensitivity by 75%.
Another study showed significant reduced levels of hemoglobin A1C, which is a measure of long-term blood sugar management.
Heart disease: The ketogenic diet can help improve risk factors like body fat, HDL (good) cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Cancer: The diet is currently being explored as an additional treatment for cancer, because it may help slow tumor growth.
Alzheimer’s disease: The keto diet may help reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression.
Epilepsy. Research has shown that the ketogenic diet can cause significant reductions in seizures in epileptic children.
Parkinson’s disease. Although more research is needed, one study found that the diet helped improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. The ketogenic diet can help reduce insulin levels, which may play a key role in polycystic ovary syndrome.
Brain injuries. Some research suggests that the diet could improve outcomes of traumatic brain injuries.
Although the ketogenic diet is usually safe for most healthy people, there may be some initial side effects while your body adapts.
Keto flu: The evidence is anecdotal. But if you do experience it, it's usually over in a few days. Symptoms may include: diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, poor energy and mental function, increased hunger, sleep issues, nausea, digestive discomfort, and decreased exercise performance. To minimize this, you can try a regular low carb diet for the first few weeks. This may teach your body to burn more fat before you completely eliminate carbs.
Low protein in the blood
Extra fat in the liver
Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors: Anyone taking this medication should avoid the keto diet since it can increase the risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.
Restrictions may feel challenging: This diet restricts many common types of foods and beverages, which may be difficult for some people.
What is it
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. It is not really a diet, more of a eating pattern. Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. As a result, humans evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time. In fact, fasting from time to time is more natural than always eating 3–4 (or more) meals per day. Fasting is also often done for religious or spiritual reasons, including in Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism.
The 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.
Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.
All foods depending on time of day.
Food during particular hours of the day.
When you fast, several things happen in your body on the cellular and molecular level.
Your body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.
Your cells also initiate important repair processes and change the expression of genes.
The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain.
Your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.
The most common reason for people to try intermittent fasting.
By making you eat fewer meals, intermittent fasting can lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.
Changes hormone levels to facilitate weight loss.
Increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline).
Short-term fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3.6–14%.
A 2014 review study found that this eating pattern can cause 3–8% weight loss over 3–24 weeks, which is a significant amount, compared to most weight loss studies. They also lost 4–7% of their waist circumference.
Another study showed that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss than the more standard method of continuous calorie restriction
Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes.
Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases.
Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease.
Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer.
Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer.
Women: There is some evidence that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for women as it is for men.
One study showed that it improved insulin sensitivity in men, but worsened blood sugar control in women.
Though human studies on this topic are unavailable, studies in rats have found that intermittent fasting can make female rats emaciated, masculinized, infertile and cause them to miss cycles.
There are a number of anecdotal reports of women whose menstrual period stopped when they started doing IF and went back to normal when they resumed their previous eating pattern.
Hunger: The main side effect of intermittent fasting.
Weak and decreased mental performance: This may only be temporary, as it can take some time for your body to adapt to the new meal schedule.
You should speak to your doctor before trying intermittent fasting if you:
Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
Have low blood pressure.
Have a history of eating disorders.
Are a woman who is trying to conceive.
Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea.
Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What is it
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries like Italy and Greece back in 1960. Researchers noted that these people were exceptionally healthy compared to Americans and had a low risk of many lifestyle diseases. Numerous studies have now shown that the Mediterranean diet can cause weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and premature death. There is no one right way to follow the Mediterranean diet, as there are many countries around the Mediterranean sea and people in different areas may have eaten different foods. The real Mediterranean diet is about more than just eating fresh, wholesome food. Daily physical activity and sharing meals with others are vital elements. Together, they can have a profound effect on your mood and mental health and help you foster a deep appreciation for the pleasures of eating healthy and delicious foods.
Eat: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
Eat in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt.
Eat only rarely: Red meat.
Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, etc.
Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches, etc.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
Legumes: Beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.
Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, etc.
Whole grains: Whole oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread and pasta.
Fish and seafood: Salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.
Poultry: Chicken, duck, turkey, etc.
Eggs: Chicken, quail and duck eggs.
Dairy: Cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, etc.
Herbs and spices: Garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, etc.
Healthy Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil.
Water should be main beverage, but coffee and tea are allowed.
Red Wine: Moderate amounts are allowed (1 glass per day)
Added sugar: Soda, candies, ice cream, table sugar and many others.
Refined grains: White bread, pasta made with refined wheat, etc.
Trans fats: Found in margarine and various processed foods.
Refined oils: Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and others.
Processed meat: Processed sausages, hot dogs, etc.
Highly processed foods: Anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” or which looks like it was made in a factory.
Preventing heart disease and strokes. Following a Mediterranean diet limits your intake of refined breads, processed foods, and red meat, and encourages drinking red wine instead of hard liquor—all factors that can help prevent heart disease and stroke.
Keeping you agile. If you’re an older adult, the nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce your risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty by about 70 percent.
Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and overall blood vessel health, which in turn may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The high levels of antioxidants in the Mediterranean diet can prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress, thereby cutting the risk of Parkinson’s disease in half.
Increasing longevity. By reducing your risk of developing heart disease or cancer with the Mediterranean diet, you’re reducing your risk of death at any age by 20%.
Protecting against type 2 diabetes. A Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber which digests slowly, prevents huge swings in blood sugar, and can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Improved mental health: A 2018 study in Molecular Psychiatry found that following a Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk of depressive symptoms or clinical depression.
Weight Management: It seems counterintuitive that a diet which emphasizes calorically-dense olive oil and nuts could help with weight management. However, these satiating fats–in conjunction with the many fiber-rich vegetables and fruits recommended—can help you feel fuller longer.
Research has found that people do not gain weight when following a Mediterranean diet. In fact, some studies have suggested the Mediterranean diet and low-carbohydrate diets lead to similar rates of weight loss after one year.
Cancer prevention: A meta-analysis found that those who adhered most closely to the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer, breast cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, head and neck cancer, and prostate cancer.
Cost: There are no expensive branded foods or special supplements that you are required to buy on the Mediterranean diet. But some consumers express concern about the cost of some foods, including fish, seeds, nuts, and olive oil.
Restrictions may feel challenging: This diet recommends reducing red meat, alcohol, and added sugar consumption, which may be difficult for some people.
Inadequate calcium and vitamin D: Those who choose to follow the Mediterranean lifestyle tend to consume less dairy, so they'll want to ensure they get enough of these nutrients from other sources recommended by the USDA.
No specific guidelines: Unlike many other eating patterns, the Mediterranean diet does not provide specific calorie counts, food portion sizes, or strict lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid. There is also no singular source for following this diet. For some who prefer a more structured eating style (especially for weight loss or weight maintenance), this may present a challenge.
Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments if you would like me to dissect into any other diets you are interested in.
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