With the rise in health issues like hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and obesity, many Americans find themselves searching for the perfect diet to lower weight and increase lifespan. Many fad diets seem appealing due to their promises of rapid weight loss and increased energy. However, diets that include juice cleansing and other forms of extreme caloric restriction are dangerous and only effective in the short-term. On top of that, the restrictions in these diets can leave people feeling deprived, making success difficult. Once a fad diet ends, lost pounds are regained, leaving people discouraged and depressed.
The key to a good diet is finding one that can become less of a “diet” and more of a lifestyle choice. The following diets are easy-to-follow, nutritionally sound and safe to follow long-term:
The Paleo Diet
The term “paleo” refers to the Paleolithic era, otherwise known as “The Old Stone Age”. This period occurred 12,000 years ago before development of agriculture and domestication of animal. Proponents of this diet believe many illnesses that are prevalent in today’s society (Alzheimer’s, hypertension and obesity to name a few) correlates to food processing and agriculture. Those practicing a paleo diet reap many health benefits by consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods which made up the diets of our ancestors.
Foods Consumed in a Paleo Diet
- Lean meats
- Healthy oils
Foods to Avoid
- Processed foods
Pescetarianism is a form of vegetarianism which includes fish and other seafood, but excludes the flesh of any land animals, such as steak or poultry. Much like the paleo diet, pescetarians avoid processed foods and dairy. Being that much of this diet’s protein comes from fish, those living a pescetarian lifestyle can enjoy the internal and external benefits that come with consuming unsaturated fats.
Three Benefits of Pescatarianism
- Healthier hair, skin and nails
- Better cardiac health
- Lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes
The Mediterranean Diet
This diet is known for increasing lifespan as well as focusing on a relationship with food that is equal parts health and enjoyment. Like the aforementioned diets, the Mediterranean diet encourages getting rid of processed foods and simple starches. However, the Mediterranean diet does not skimp on things like whole grains or dairy. Borrowing from the USDA’s original Food Pyramid, the Mediterranean diet uses its own pyramid as a guide in practicing a Mediterranean lifestyle.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid Guidelines
- Every meal should have a base of grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and healthy oils
- Fish and seafood should be eaten at least twice a week
- Eat other meats, eggs and dairy in moderation
- Drink plenty of water
- Enjoy wine and sweets in moderation
Developed from research studies, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (known as DASH) aims to lower blood pressure and prevent other associated ailments without the use of medication. U.S. News rated DASH as #1 in “Best Diets Overall.”
How to Follow the DASH Diet Plan
- Focus on whole grains
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Choose high-fiber, low-sodium items
- Include nuts and legumes
- Limit fats and sweets
First Lady Michelle Obama and the USDA traded in the traditional “Food Pyramid” for MyPlate. MyPlate makes constructing a nutritionally sound meal easy with a visual of how to make the perfect plate.
- Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
- Make a little over 1/4 of your plate whole grains
- Make the rest of your plate lean proteins
- Include a serving of lowfat or nonfat dairy
For many, dieting can seem like an uphill battle. It doesn’t have to when you focus on quality instead of quantity. Instead of counting calories or fixating on the scale, take note of the key points in the five aforementioned diet plans: cut processed foods; choose nutrient-dense items; limit sodium, and eat a variety of items. Regardless of which of these diets you feel is the best for you, each is certain to leave you feeling healthier, happier and satisfied.