Weight Loss Diets
"The groundwork of all happiness is health" - Leigh Hunt
Dietary intake has always played a significant role in weight gain and loss. The foods we eat usually contain three energy macromolecules; fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, which have different energy values (calories).
Of the three, fats have the highest gross caloric value at 9.45 Kcal/g, followed by proteins at 5.65 Kcal/g, then carbohydrates at 4.1 Kcal/g.
Calories are not bad nor are they good. The problem lies when your daily calorie intake far exceeds what your body burns, as the excess calories consumed will not be excreted but rather stored as fat molecules (the basis of weight gain).
When on a weight loss journey, it is worth considering the number of calories you take daily. It should be significantly below what your body burns for energy, as this will allow your body to dig into its fat reserves, breaking them down for power (the basis of weight loss).
Therefore, when on a weight loss journey, you should try to minimize the number of calories you consume per day (dieting) and maximize the ability of your body to burn calories.
How to minimize daily calorie intake.
To do this;
- You will need to fill up on foods that provide the most nutrition but the least calories like fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and whole grains e.g., berries, cucumbers, spinach, broccoli, apples, etc. According to The National Library of Medicine, it’s estimated that around 87% of people in the United States don’t eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables (1).
- You should make it a habit to drink enough water daily, especially before meals, as this will help fill you up a little (2, 3, 4).
- You are equally advised to eat moderate portions of food (5). Based on a study, people who ordered half portions of food or often shared their foods were most successful in losing weight. Do not clean your plate, and take a portion of your food home when eating out. (6, 7)
- Include proteins in every meal as they will fill you up easily, preventing you from overeating (8).
- It is preferable you cook your own food as it gives you better control over your calories.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks like soda, as they are linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes (9, 10).
- If you find it difficult to plan your meals, seek help and make healthy swaps.
Weight loss diets
Watching what you eat isn’t only one of the best ways to lose weight, it is also very necessary for overall good health.
Today, a number of healthy weight loss diets exist, and while this is advantageous because it provides variety, it has made it difficult for some people to choose what to start with.
Here are some best diets for weight loss and overall health:
1.The Mediterranean diet
It is based on the traditional dishes of the Mediterranean people of Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Italy.
Scientists observed that these people were exceptionally healthy and equally had a low risk of many chronic conditions (11).
This diet consists of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, beans, and healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fish.
Consumption of red meat is limited to once or twice a week. Studies have shown that those on the Mediterranean diet have the potential to lose 5 – 10% of their body weight and could achieve even more with physical activity.
Another study showed that these individuals are also twice as likely to keep this weight off for life.
Apart from weight loss benefits, this diet equally has numerous health benefits and can lower the risk of developing heart diseases and other chronic conditions (12).
2. DASH Diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
The DASH diet is a healthy-eating plan designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension).
The diet restricts foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars, and encourages foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which help control blood pressure.
The standard DASH diet limits sodium to 2,300 mg a day. This is in line with the recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day, which is about the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of table salt.
A recent study of obese older adults who followed the DASH with a personalized, calorie-limited plan diet, found that they lost weight and decreased body fat.
In addition, you get the anti-inflammatory, high-fiber, heart-healthy benefits of following this diet.
3. Vegan and Vegetarian diets.
A little bit stricter than the traditional vegetarian diet, vegans exclude all meat and animal products (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, honey, and eggs).
Whereas, vegetarian diets restrict meat of all kinds but allow dairy products.
Eating high-quality vegan food, like leafy greens and plant-based proteins can help you lose weight.
The National Library of Medicine confirmed that those on a plant-based diet have a lower average BMI than those who eat animal products.
In the long run, vegans and vegetarians are more likely to stick with the diet than those on other plans, because they were motivated by ethical and moral beliefs rather than just weight loss, a 2020 Australian study reported.
4. Flexitarian and Plant-Based Diet
Plant-based and flexitarian diets are very pro-plant diets but give you the flexibility to include some meat and dairy once in a while.
Unlike veganism which is stricter than vegetarianism, flexitarian and plant-based diets are rather softer, allowing you to include some animal products in your diet, though not too much.
Being pro-plant diets, sticking with the low-calorie plan can help you lose weight and improve your health.
According to a study, people who followed a flexitarian diet had lower BMIs and lower rates of metabolic syndrome than people who regularly ate meat.
A six months study revealed that overweight and obese adults who followed a plant-based diet lost an average of 26 pounds.
5. Volumetrics Diet
Regarded as one of the best diets for weight loss and overall health, by U.S. News & World Report, Volumetrics was created by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Penn State University.
It was designed to be a lifestyle change—not a quick fix and simply divides food into four categories based on food’s calorie density you are advised to fill up more on foods in the categories that provides the most nutrition for the least number of calories.
This includes foods in category one like non-starchy fruits and vegetables, non-fat milk, and broth-based soup, and in category two like starchy fruits and vegetables, grains, breakfast cereal, low-fat meat, legumes, and low-fat mixed dishes like chili.
The fewer calories consumed, the more weight you are likely to drop. Hence, making it very effective for weight loss.
A 2016 study showed a significant relationship between low-energy-density diets and weight loss.
6. Pescatarian diet
Similar to the Flexitarian diet, the Pescatarian diet is another pro-plant diet but allows room for fish and other kinds of seafood.
You can equally lose weight on this diet if you stick to the low-calorie plan.
7. Ketogenic diet
A ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs.
The reduced carbs permit the body to enter into a metabolic state called ketosis, in which the body starts turning fats into ketones, which are molecules that can supply energy for the brain.
Ketogenic diets are effective in weight loss and preserving muscle mass and also improving type 2 diabetes and heart diseases (12, 13, 14).
One old study showed that people on a ketogenic diet lost 2.2 times more weight than those on a low-calorie, low-fat diet. Triglyceride and HDL (good) cholesterol levels also improved (15).
Some studies have suggested that a ketogenic diet may be more effective than a low-fat diet for weight loss, even after matching the total calorie intake.
However, the elimination of certain food groups, high intake of saturated (unhealthy) fats, and ketosis itself make ketogenic diets dangerous in the long run, especially for the heart, kidneys, and liver (16, 17, 18).
If you ever want to start a ketogenic diet plan, do it under medical supervision, we recommend the Mayo Clinic Diet – Healthy Keto.
What makes a good weight loss diet plan?
- It should be sustainable: you should be able to do it forever not just for a few days or weeks. If you can’t sustain the plan, you will fall back into old eating habits, regain weight, and cause the weight loss journey even more difficult – yo-yo dieting
- It should be adequately nourishing: trying to lose weight does not mean you should eliminate certain nutrients from your diet. Eating unbalanced or very low-calorie meals will in the long run affect your overall health.
- It shouldn’t be overly restrictive: being overly restrictive will make it too hard to follow, hence causing you to result in old eating habits and yo-yo dieting.
Weight loss diet programs we recommend
There’s a lot more to losing weight than just dropping pounds.
Dieting is one of the most effective ways of losing weight but if done inappropriately, can lead to serious long-term health complications.
The truth is, you can’t do this on your own
In that light, we always advise you seek medical supervision before embarking on your weight loss journey or choosing a diet plan.
We advise you to work with a complete team of weight loss experts, nutritionists, dietitians, and fitness coaches.
That way, you will get all the health and nutritional advice and the necessary support materials for healthy weight loss.
We recommend some of the most trusted and renowned institutions like; the Mayo Clinic, and Weight Watchers (WW),