There are thousands of diets. Some are for losing weight, while others are for gaining weight, lowering cholesterol, living a long and healthful life, and many other reasons.
A diet is best described as a fixed plan of eating and drinking where the type and amount of food are planned out in order to achieve weight loss or follow a particular lifestyle.
This MNT Knowledge Center article provides details on the most popular diets according to three criteria: the number of articles that cover them, how popular they seem to be, and how often we receive feedback on them.
The Atkins diet, or Atkins nutritional approach, focuses on controlling the levels of insulin in the body through a low-carbohydrate diet.
If people consume large amounts of refined carbohydrates, their insulin levels rise and fall rapidly. Rising insulin levels trigger the body to store energy from the food that is consumed, making it less likely that the body will use stored fat as a source of energy.
Therefore, people on the Atkins diet avoid carbohydrates but can eat as much protein and fat as they like.
Although popular for some time, the Atkins Diet comes with certain risks. Individuals considering the Atkins Diet should speak with their doctor.
The Zone diet aims for a nutritional balance of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fats, and 30 percent protein in each meal. The focus is also on controlling insulin levels, which may result in more successful weight loss and body weight control than other approaches.
The Zone diet encourages the consumption of high-quality carbohydrates – unrefined carbohydrates, and fats, such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts.
The ketogenic diet has been used for decades as a treatment for epilepsy and is also being explored for other uses. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake and upping fat intake. It sounds contrary to common sense, but it allows the body to burn fat as a fuel, rather than carbohydrates.
Healthy fats, such as those in avocados, coconuts, Brazil nuts, seeds, oily fish, and olive oil are liberally added to the diet to maintain an overall emphasis on fat.
The diet causes the break down of fat deposits for fuel and creates substances called ketones through a process called ketosis. This diet has risks including ketoacidosis for people with type 1 diabetes, however, and may result in diabetic coma and death. Although most studies are 2 years or less, there is some promising research in relation to diabetes management, metabolic health, weight loss, and body composition change.
There are various types of vegetarian: lacto-vegetarian, fruitarian vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, living food diet vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, and semi-vegetarian.
The majority of vegetarians are lacto-ovo vegetarians, in other words, they do not eat animal-based foods, except for eggs, dairy, and honey.
Studies over the last few years have shown that vegetarians have a lower body weight, suffer less from diseases, and typically have a longer life expectancy than people who eat meat.
A detailed look at vegetarianism here.
Veganism is more of a way of life and a philosophy than a diet. A vegan does not eat anything that is animal-based, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Vegans do not usually adopt veganism just for health reasons, but also for environmental, ethical, and compassionate reasons.
Vegans believe that modern intensive farming methods are bad for our environment and unsustainable in the long-term. If everybody ate plant-based food, the environment would benefit, animals would suffer less, more food would be produced, and people would generally enjoy better physical and mental health, vegans say.
Weight Watchers focuses on losing weight through diet, exercise, and a support network.
Weight Watchers Inc. was started in the 1960s by a homemaker who had lost some weight and was concerned she might put it back on. So, she created a network of friends. Weight Watchers is a huge company, with branches all over the world.
Dieters can join either physically and attend regular meetings, or online. In both cases, there is lots of support and education available for the dieter.
The South Beach diet was started by a cardiologist, Dr. Agatston, and a nutritionist, Marie Almon. It focuses on the control of insulin levels, and the benefits of unrefined slow carbohydrates versus fast carbohydrates. Dr. Agatston devised the South Beach diet during the 1990s because he was disappointed with the low-fat, high-carb diet backed by the American Heart Association. He believed that low-fat regimes were not effective over the long-term.
The raw food diet, or raw foodism, involves consuming foods and drinks that are not processed, are completely plant-based, and ideally organic.
Raw foodists believe that at least three-quarters of a person’s food intake should consist of uncooked food. A significant number of raw foodists are also vegans and do not eat or drink anything that is animal based.
There are four main types of raw foodists: raw vegetarians, raw vegans, raw omnivores, and raw carnivores.
The Mediterranean diet is Southern European, and more specifically focuses on the nutritional habits of the people of Crete, Greece, and southern Italy. Nowadays, Spain, southern France, and Portugal are also included, even though Portugal does not touch the Mediterranean Sea.
The emphasis is on lots of plant foods, fresh fruits as dessert, beans, nuts, whole grains, seeds, olive oil as the main source of dietary fats. Cheese and yogurts are the main dairy foods. The diet also includes moderate amounts of fish and poultry, up to about four eggs per week, small amounts of red meat, and low to moderate amounts of wine.
Up to one-third of the Mediterranean diet consists of fat, with saturated fats not exceeding 8 percent of calorie intake. The Mediterranean diet is the most extensively studied diet to date, with reliable research supporting its use for improving a person’s quality of life and lowering disease risk.
Doctor Tasnime Akbaraly from Montpellier, France, and team carried out a study that found that the Western style diet, which is high in sweet and fried foods, raises a person’s risk of dying early. They published their findings in the American Journal of Medicine.
Akbaraly said “The impact of diet on specific age-related diseases has been studied extensively, but few investigations have adopted a more holistic approach to determine the association of diet with overall health at older ages. We examined whether diet, assessed in midlife, using dietary patterns and adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), is associated with aging phenotypes, identified after a mean 16-year follow-up.”
The team found that study participants who strayed from the “Alternative Healthy Eating Index” had a considerably higher risk of cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular death.