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Mediterranean Diet
Nutrition

The Skinny on Popular Diets

Did getting into your swimsuit motivate you to think about dieting? If so, here are a handful of popular diets and the ‘skinny’ on their effectiveness (along with other considerations).

5 Popular Diets in 2019

1. Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet comes from countries that border the Mediterranean Sea and while each country eats slightly differently, they share the following characteristics:

  • Lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oils, herbs and spices
  • Some fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt
  • Very little red meat and sweets
  • Yes to red wine – in moderation

Overall, this diet is generally effective at weight control and popular because it is easy to follow. People from the Mediterranean area seem to live longer with less cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Pros:

  • Nutritionally sound
  • Diversity of options so easy to follow, especially for those who crave protein
  • Health benefits

Cons:

  • No set plan so you’ll have to figure it out on your own
  • Can be expensive unless you are careful to buy in-season fruits and vegetables when grocery shopping

>READ: WHY A LOW CARB DIET PLAN DOESN’T WORK

2. Flexitarian Diet

The flexitarian plan is similar to the Mediterranean diet but is even more plant-based (vegetables and fruits) with less overall meat … but it does allow the occasional indulgence of your choice of meat.

Because this diet is largely vegetarian, it’s characteristics are:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Lots of the ‘new meat’: beans, peas and eggs
  • Some dairy
  • Very little meat of any kind (occasionally allowed)

Overall, vegetarians tend to weigh less so this diet is a good choice for losing weight and weight control.

Pros:

  • Nutritionally sound
  • Lots of options so easy to follow, including the occasional meat indulgence

Cons:

  • No set plan so you’ll have to figure it out on your own
  • Can be expensive unless you are careful to buy in-season vegetables and fruits when grocery shopping

>READ: VEGAN-UARY: ONE OMNIVORE’S TAKE ON GOING VEGAN

3. Ketogenic Diet

The Keto Diet is a very high fat, low carbohydrate diet so bring on the bacon! Getting most of your calories from fat forces your body to get its energy by burning fat. This is called the ketosis state.

Example of a Keto Meal - one of the most popular diets of 2019

Avocado boats are a popular meal option for the Ketogenic diet.

Characteristics are:

  • Lots of meats and fats
  • Very few carbohydrates, less than 50 grams per day
  • Limited fruits and whole grains

Overall, while ketosis is thought to potentially have brain-protecting effects and this diet can lead to short term weight loss, its limits on carbohydrates are hard to maintain for most people. The high fat nature of the diet is also concerning as to whether it is safe over time.

Pros:

  • Blood sugar control
  • Brain protecting properties

Cons:

  • Side effects such as constipation, headaches and bad breath
  • Not nutritionally sound because it eliminates nutrient-rich fruits and grains

>READ: ARE WHOLE GRAINS A CANCER PREVENTING FOOD? KETO/PALEO MAY NOT BE YOUR FRIEND

4. Whole30 Diet

A “limited engagement” diet, Whole30 is designed to cut out certain food groups in order to reboot your eating habits and cravings. The eating plan spans 30 days and requires cutting out many foods for the month.

One of the most popular diets of 2019 - Example of a whole30 meal

The Whole30 diet cuts out grains, sugars, dairy and snacks for a 30-day window.

Characteristics:

  • Lots of vegetables
  • Some meat, seafood, eggs, fruit, natural fats such as avocado and nuts
  • NO sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy or snacks (chips, crackers, etc.)

Overall, this diet may provide fairly quick weight loss, but is unlikely to be sustainable as most people return to their previous eating habits after 30 days.

Pros:

  • Easy to figure out – has a list of can and cannot eat foods
  • Reduces ailments tied to food sensitivities such as skin problems and digestive issues associated with some of the eliminated foods

Cons:

  • Nutritionally questionable because it cuts out healthy foods
  • Unsustainable because it cuts out so many foods

>READ: HOW TO BREAK SUGAR CRAVINGS ONCE AND FOR ALL!

5. Fasting

Fasting is used in conjunction with a process called autophagy, (your body’s way of eliminating damaged, dying or dead cells from the body so that the body is better able to generate new ones).

Fasting creates stress on the body which prompts the body to clear away deteriorated cells and make way for new ones. This same process occurs with exercise, which causes small muscle tears.

Most fasting is intermittent. This means going 12 to 18 hours without food or nutrients a couple of days per week. In addition to triggering autophagy which is helpful, most fasters tend to take in fewer calories overall, resulting in weight loss or control.

Pros:

  • Easier to maintain because deprivation only occurs some of the time versus all the time
  • Fasting can lead to lower blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Cons:

  • Research is still preliminary so the benefits are as yet unproven
  • The ups and downs in fueling the body may make it difficult to sustain a very active lifestyle

>READ: AUTOPHAGY FASTING: IS IT THE SECRET TO WEIGHT LOSS AND LONGEVITY?

As you can see, some of these popular diets are shorter-term and some are designed to be followed for a lifetime. Choose a diet that works best for your preferences and lifestyle. The more you like your diet, the easier it will be to follow and the more likely it is to help you sustain a healthy weight.

>READ: WHY GOOD NUTRITION LOOKS DIFFERENT AFTER 50 

>SUBSCRIBE: Need a support group to stick to a diet? PLATE is a weight management program designed specifically for women near or over 50.

>READ: WOULD YOU BENEFIT FROM THE NORDIC DIET?

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