Choosing a Diet

It seems that every few years a new diet makes headlines and calls itself a miracle to lose weight. Before it was all fat-free. The oil was bad and bagels, plain pasta and salads with a splash of lemon juice were all the rage. Subsequently, protein-rich diets affect the scene. Meat reigned supreme and a sandwich in your burger was dietary suicide. Mediterranean, 40/30/30, vegan: everyone has taken their place at the head of the table.

An innovative 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine provided key comparisons and offered an in-depth view of the most popular plans. The researchers found that after two years, obese subjects on a low fat diet had on average only lost 7 pounds. Those with a Mediterranean diet, characterized by high levels of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, have lost about 10 pounds and those with a low-carbohydrate diet have lost more weight, about 12 pounds. The researchers also found that a low-fat diet gave the least amount of health benefits. Subjects of the Mediterranean diet were more likely to improve blood sugar levels and low-carbohydrate followers had the highest improvement in cholesterol levels. However, all diets have been successful in one way or another and the study could not see how sustainable diets were. Sustainability is a determining factor for the overall success rate.

When it comes to choosing the right plan for you, make sure you discuss all the options with your doctor. To help you get started, these are some of the most common plans.

Low-Carbohydrate and High-Protein Plans

Cardiologist Robert C. Atkins began the low-carbohydrate madness of the 1970s. The Atkins diet limits carbohydrates by emphasizing proteins and fats. Followers go through the phases during which they eat between 20 and 100 grams of carbohydrates a day. The Institute of Medicine recommends taking 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates a day.

The South Beach diet is another popular low-carb weight-loss program that cardiologist Arthur Agatston created in 2003. On this plan, dieters should get about a third of their daily calories from carbohydrates.

Due to the fact that many starchy fruits and vegetables are rich in carbohydrates, low-carbohydrate diets generally avoid them along with bread, cereals, beans, potatoes and rice. Sugar is also strictly limited. A typical menu may include a cheese omelet cooked in butter, a casing made up of cured meats, cheese and mustard wrapped in lettuce or a large spinach salad with chicken or steak, goat cheese, mushrooms and salad dressing.

How can you lose weight by eating meat and eggs? The theory behind low-carbohydrate diets is that a reduction in carbohydrates leads to lower levels of insulin, which cause the body to burn stored fat for energy. Many people will lose weight on a low carbohydrate diet. Initially, this is due to the loss of water. Foods that are low in carbohydrates and high in protein often have a diuretic effect. Furthermore, because you are eating large amounts of fat and protein, you will be satisfied longer. As with any diet that largely eliminates or limits an entire food group, you will probably consume fewer calories.

That being said, it can be difficult to live without fruit, cereals or sugar. Many people find that they lack energy and consequently suffer from daily training and vigilance. According to the Mayo Clinic, replacing carbohydrates with protein sources rich in saturated fat and cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Limiting fiber-rich products and whole foods can cause constipation and other digestive problems. Finally, since low-carbohydrate diets force your body into a state where your body burns its fat as fuel (ketosis), you may have symptoms such as weakness, nausea, dehydration, dizziness and irritability.

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