With so many different diet trends emerging in the last few years, figuring out the right one for you can be quite a challenge. Those who follow each diet swear it’s the best thing ever developed and are quick to let you know how their lives have changed for the better.
So, which diet is ideal for you?
That comes down to several factors like what your fitness goals are, your eating patterns, and your health status. This article will take a detailed look at some of the most popular diet trends to help you determine which one works best for you.
Figuring Out The Ultimate Diet Trend
Obesity is one of the biggest health issues facing people worldwide, with rates tripling since the 1970s. About 39 percent of adults over 18 are overweight, and 13 percent of them are obese. Obesity is liked to a plethora of serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure.
As a result, losing weight is the most common fitness goal. Starting an exercise program and making changes to your diet is the most effective way to lose weight.
Your body is a biological machine that runs on the chemical energy in the foods and beverages you consume. Any excess energy ingested is stored as fat all over. Eat more calories than your body needs daily and your fat reserves will grow consistently. Don’t eat enough calories to provide your energy needs and your body goes uses your fat as energy, reducing your fat stores. Body fat is simply how your body stores excess energy. Think of fat as biological batteries.
The key to losing weight is regularly eating fewer calories than your body needs to force it to use the fat on your body for energy. Do this consistently and you will lose weight.
Exercise is the other part of the equation when looking to lose weight. Your body uses up more energy when engaging in physical activities, raising your daily caloric needs. This makes it easier to maintain a caloric surplus. For example, activities like high-intensity interval training and martial arts training can burn up to 1,000 calories per day.
Keep in mind that the average person only needs about 2,500 calories per day. Burning up to 1000 calories while exercising means you can consume up to 3,500 calories without reaching a caloric surplus. In other words, exercising gives you more leeway with your diet when losing weight.
Now that we understand what causes weight gain and what your body requires to lose it, let’s go over some of the most effective diets brought to us by the diet wars:
1) The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most delicious diets that’s excellent for weight loss and improving your overall health. Some of the health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet include improved blood sugar regulation, improved heart health, and improved brain function.
The best part of the Mediterranean diet is there are no hard rules to follow, more like guidelines that show you the way. The diet consists of many of the traditional foods that people from the areas around the Mediterranean Sea like Italy, France, Spain, and Greece have consumed historically.
People from these regions are one of the healthiest populations worldwide, with a low risk of many chronic health issues.
The Mediterranean diet encourages eating lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, and healthy fats. Processed foods with added sugar and refined grains should be kept to a minimum. Studies show that the Mediterranean diet helps to promote weight loss and prevents various health issues like type 2 diabetes, strokes, premature death, and heart attacks.
The Mediterranean diet is also linked to a lower risk of chronic issues that affect the brain like cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. It also leads to improvements in memory, cognitive function, processing speed, and attention.
Here are the main guidelines for the Mediterranean diet:
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, potatoes, legumes, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and healthy fats like olive oil.
- Eat eggs, cheese, yogurt, and poultry in moderation.
- Keep red meat, processed meat, processed foods, refined grains, refined oils, and sweetened beverages to a minimum.
The main principle behind the Mediterranean diet is to reduce your consumption of animal products and eat more healthy plant foods. Fish and other seafood should be consumed about twice weekly. The Mediterranean diet also encourages regular physical activities. Frozen, dried, and canned vegetables and fruits are okay as long as there’s no added sodium or sugar.
Foods that should be limited while on the Mediterranean diet include trans fats refined grains, refined oils, processed meat, and other highly processed foods. Water should be the main beverage you consume on the Mediterranean diet, but you’re also allowed to enjoy a glass of wine daily. Healthy beverages like coffee and tea are okay but use only moderate amounts of sugar and milk. Fruit juices are okay in moderation, but try to avoid sodas and other beverages with high amounts of added sugar.
Intermittent fasting is another recent diet trend that has been proven to bring many benefits. The practice involves not eating for periods daily or weekly. There are many variations of the diet, but fasting during a set period is the main guideline.
Some of the more popular approaches to intermittent fasting include:
- Alternate Day Fasting: This involves eating normally one day and fasting the next or only consuming a small meal that’s less than 500 calories.
- 5:2 Fasting: This involves eating normally five days a week and fasting twice.
- Daily Time-Restricted Fasting: This is the most popular variation of intermittent fasting and it involves fasting for 16-hour windows daily. That leaves you with only eight-hour windows to eat. For example, you could skip breakfast daily and only eat between noon and eight p.m.
Intermittent fasting provides many of the benefits you would expect from a diet like helping with weight loss, which improves your overall health and protects against chronic diseases like diabetes. However, research shows that intermittent fasting gives you a lot more than that.
Some of the health issues intermittent fasting protects against include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Intermittent fasting affects your body positively on a molecular and cellular level. For example, it adjusts hormone levels, making it easier to remove excess fat from your body. It also helps to jumpstart cellular repair processes in your body and alters the expression of genes.
Some of the changes that occur when you adopt the intermittent fasting lifestyle:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Fasting leads to a significant increase in HGH levels, taking them up by as much as 5-fold. This helps with fat loss and muscle gain.
- Reduces Insulin Resistance: Fasting increases your body’s resistance to insulin, improving your blood sugar regulation and making fat deposits more accessible.
- Gene Expression: Fasting leads to changes in the function of genes that protect against chronic diseases and increase longevity.
- Cellular Repair: Fasting initiates cell repair processes like autophagy where cells remove old dysfunctional proteins that accumulate inside them.
The cellular and hormonal changes that are caused by intermittent fasting lead to many health benefits like improved brain health, anti-cancer benefits, and anti-aging. The lifespan of rats placed on intermittent fasting diets increased by up to 83 percent.
There are no hard guidelines for intermittent fasting, but you generally want to consume healthy foods like whole grains, while keeping processed foods and sugars to a minimum.
3) DASH Diet
The acronym DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is one of the most effective diets around for weight loss, but it was designed specifically to prevent and treat high blood pressure. The DASH diet revolves around consuming foods that are rich in essential minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These nutrients help with blood pressure control.
The DASH diet limits foods that are high in sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat. Research shows that the DASH diet can lower a person’s blood pressure in as little as a couple of weeks. It also lowers bad cholesterol levels in the blood. High low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and high blood pressure are two significant risk factors for stroke and heart disease.
The average person consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily, but the DASH diet aims to cut it down to less than 2,300 milligrams. That’s about one teaspoon of salt. Some variations of the DASH diet limit sodium consumption to as low as 1,500 milligrams daily.
The DASH diet is a flexible diet that allows you to eat a wide range of low-sodium foods. It suggests eating lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, poultry, beans, nuts, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
The main guidelines you should follow to adhere to the DASH diet include:
- Consume foods that are rich in protein, fiber, magnesium, calcium, and potassium
- Most of the foods you consume should be low in saturated fat
- Stick to low-sodium foods without any added salt
Some of the things you can do to reduce your salt intake include:
- Stick to fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables (without added salt)
- Don’t use salt when cooking foods like rice, pasta, or potatoes
- Substitute salt with sodium-free flavorings
- Consume mostly lean cuts of meat and fresh or frozen skinless poultry and fish
- Pay more attention to food labels and opt for low or salt-free options
4) MIND Diet
The MIND diet was developed to prevent the loss of brain function and disorders like dementia as you age. It combines guidelines used by the DASH and Mediterranean diets to create a dietary system that focuses on improving brain health.
The acronym MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH intervention for neurodegenerative delay. The Mediterranean and DASH diets are widely viewed by health experts as two of the healthiest diets around. Think of the MIND diet as a variation of the DASH diet that incorporates foods recommended by the Mediterranean diet that improves brain health and function.
For example, the Mediterranean diet recommends eating lots of fruits, and fruits are known to improve brain function. The MIND diet recommends eating berries in particular for this reason. There are no hard rules when it comes to the MIND diet. Following it is as simple as eating more of the ten foods it recommends and less of the five foods it suggests you limit.
The foods the MIND diet recommends include:
- Green leafy vegetables: Aim to consume at least six servings per week.
- Fresh vegetables: Add some fresh, non-starchy vegetables to your green veggies at least once daily.
- Berries: Consume berries like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries at least twice per week.
- Nuts: Aim for a minimum of five servings of nuts each week. Try to vary the nuts you consume.
- Olive oil: Use olive oil as your main cooking oil when preparing dishes.
- Whole grains: Try to consume at least three servings of whole grains daily.
- Fish: Consume fish at least once weekly. Stick to fatty fish like sardines and salmon.
- Beans: Try to get at least four servings of beans per week.
- Poultry: Consume poultry like turkey or chicken at least twice weekly. Bake, boil, or grill your poultry and avoid frying as much as possible.
- Wine: You can have up to a glass of wine daily since some studies show wine in moderation is great for brain health.
It’s okay to eat foods that aren’t on this list while on the MIND diet. Just make sure the foods listed above make up the bulk of your diet. Some of the foods you should avoid on the MIND diet include:
- Cheese (no more than a serving a week)
- Margarine and butter
- Red meat
- Pastries and sweets
- Fried foods
5) The Flexitarian Diet
The flexitarian diet is a dietary system that allows you to get most of the benefits of vegetarian or vegan diets without giving up meat completely. It’s an effective diet for weight loss and provides many benefits like improved heart health, cancer prevention, and improved blood sugar regulation.
Vegans avoid meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and other animal products, while vegetarians eliminate meat from their diet. The flexitarian diet doesn’t have rigid rules like either diet. It simply gives you guidelines to create your dietary plan with like:
- Eat mostly whole grains, legumes, and vegetables
- Focus more on plant proteins instead of animal proteins
- Eat mostly unprocessed foods, in their natural forms
- Limit your sugar intake
Stick to pasture-raised meats and wild-caught fish for your animal proteins. Go for organic animal products as well, like eggs and dairy products.
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