Are you confused by the latest diet trends? The world of healthy diet plans is vast. With so many opinions out there, it’s hard to know what’s truly healthy and what’s not. Should you be limiting your caloric intake, or merely focus on eating as many nutrient-dense foods as possible? Should you be eating carbs or cutting them out altogether? Should you follow a low-fat diet or a high-fat diet? If you don’t have time to do hours of pertinent research, it’s difficult to know how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to healthy diets and weight loss.
If you seriously want to lose weight, you may be ready to follow any one of the popular diet trends of today, but how do you know which are merely fads, and which promote lasting health? How do you know what works, and has the proven studies and scientific research to back it up?
Part of the reason that there is no scientific consensus on the best diet is that everyone is different. Genetics play a role in how your body responds to different foods, and a diet that serves one person or group may not serve another.
For example, some people thrive on a diet packed with whole grains, while others do better limiting grains because their bodies don’t produce the particular enzyme needed to digest carbohydrates properly. DNA tests can prove extremely helpful in helping you determine what kinds of foods works best for your genes.
We have identified four healthy diet plans proven to improve health and reduce risk factors for disease. The right diet for you may depend on certain genetic variants. Take a look at each one below.
The Mediterranean Diet
You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet; it’s been around forever. It’s timeless and highly effective for many people. It also helps prevent heart disease, as a 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows.
The Mediterranean diet is not an exact diet plan; rather, it’s based on foods naturally found in the Mediterranean region. That means it leaves some room for personalization. It focuses on getting healthy fats from olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil. It encourages lots of vegetables and limited amounts of animal products. Processed foods, soda, sweets, and refined grains are totally out, but wine can be included in moderation.
To break it down, this particular healthy diet plan is made up of about 45% complex carbohydrates, 20% proteins, and 35% healthy fats.
The Low-Fat Diet
Some of us have a cocktail of genes that make us sensitive to dietary fat and susceptible to becoming overweight developing type 2 diabetes. If this is you, a low-fat diet might be your best bet. It consists of leafy greens and other vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins like chicken, fish, and eggs.
A low-fat diet means no more than 25% of fat in your calories for the day. The foods to avoid with a low-fat diet are refined and processed foods, simple carbohydrates, fried foods, desserts and ice cream, as well as high-fat dairy products like cheese. You can eat low-fat dairy in moderation, and red meat only every once in awhile. Watch out for low-fat or fat-free processed foods, such as low-fat flavored yogurt, which often contain sugar and other additives that can cause inflammation and lead to weight gain.
The Low-Carb Diet
For those of us who lack the digestive enzyme necessary for digesting carbohydrates, a low-carb diet is beneficial. According to a 2007 study, it’s also one of the most effective diets for weight loss. If you choose to follow this healthy diet, you’ll want to cut out processed and refined carbohydrates. These include white sugar, white bread, white rice, pre-packaged baked goods — you get the idea.
If your goals include weight loss, you may start out with a period of extremely low-carb intake. Then you could begin to incorporate some foods that are higher in carbs, such as sweet potatoes and come lower carb fruits. In time, up to 40% of your daily calories could consist of complex carbohydrates. Other foods eaten are leafy greens, non-starchy veggies, high-fiber fruits, and lean proteins like chicken, seafood, beans and legumes, and fatty fish. All forms of sugar should be limited, including honey, maple syrup, dried fruits, and high-carb fruits such as pineapple and mango.
The Balanced Diet
A balanced diet incorporates foods from all the major macronutrient groups. It focuses on nutrient-dense foods that come from the fat group, the carbohydrate group, and the protein group. This particular diet plan is a bit freer, but it also cautions against eating too much red meat, sugar, and refined foods. Whole foods that contain loads of nutrition are key. You just don’t have to limit any of the macronutrient groups as you do with a low-fat or low-carb diet. As with the other three diet plans, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables are the main focus.
Adapt these diets to suit your needs
All four of these healthy diet plans welcome variations. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, for example, you could easily adapt any of the four diets to meet your needs. A low-carb diet could easily be taken a step further to meet the needs of a ketogenic diet plan. Pregnant women, nursing moms, competitive athletes, or seniors could also modify their ideal plan as necessary to meet their nutrient goals.
How to know which diet plan is best for you
If any of these four diets naturally resonate with you, pay attention to that. Some of us know our bodies really well, and simply reading about these diet plans may have you thinking, “yep! That’s the one for me!” If you have no idea, or simply want to invest in sound, scientific proof, DNA testing can reveal how your own genetic variants influence your body’s response to different foods. This information can provide a world of knowledge about your body and how to maintain your ideal weight and reduce your risk of disease.
No matter which healthy diet plan you follow, eating a wide array of colors is a good way of ensuring you get all the nutrition you need. The same compounds that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors also deliver various benefits in the form of antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients. Whole foods are always best. Limit foods that comes in boxes and packages. That means it’s always better to choose fresh blueberries over a blueberry bagel (which may not even contain any real blueberries).
Of course, it goes without saying that any of these four diet plans should be supplemented with regular exercise. Exercise is important not only for weight loss, but also for boosting energy, improving sleep, and reducing your risk of disease. Move as often as possible and choose exercise that makes you feel good. That doesn’t have to mean putting in hours on the treadmill — it can also mean activities such as dancing, rock climbing, or yoga.
At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs are custom tailored to help you meet your goals and to address the underlying factors that can make weight loss difficult. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!