It seems like everyone and their Mother has a diet plan these days……anything from “extreme 30-day diet plan to “The Healthy Diet Plan For Weight Loss”, a more subtle “life-changing” diet plan. Some plans focus on reducing your appetite, while others restrict calories, carbs, or fat. Since all of them claim to be superior, it can be hard to know which ones are worth trying.
The truth is that no one diet is best for everyone, and what works for you may not work for someone else. Research has shown that most reasonable diets will help you lose some weight, compared to not being on a diet at all. Generally, according to studies, and the American Heart Association review, diets rich in plants foods and low in processed or refined foods, with moderate exercise, are best for health and weight loss.
But, here’s the catch, many popular diets aren’t based on sound scientific principles or research, meaning they actually can be bad for your health, or even life threatening. Some diets, like Wight Watchers diet is well-known, and others, like the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH (Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension), should be.
Experts in the fields of dieting, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease have determined the best diets based on the following criteria: Its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, it’s ability to satisfy hunger, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing serious illness like diabetes and heart disease.
Besides safety and health, it’s important to note that more emphasis should be given as to the sustainability and practicality of a diet, in order to produce long-term weight loss, which would be 2 years or longer. This is particularly important for those who can maintain a 5% to 10% loss in weight which will significantly reduce the risk of chronic illness such as heart disease or diabetes, according to the CDC in this review “What Is Healthy Weight Loss?”
For sure, quick loss of weight can be important for after-holiday eating or a long weekend trip to the beach, but, is it sustainable? Highly unlikely. More consideration should also be given in a practical sense, and that is, is your hunger being satisfied on a regular basis? Because if it’s not, you won’t stay with the diet.
For example, researchers around the world say what really works is not just cutting calories but satisfying your hunger with the right kinds of foods that fill you up. According to the CDC report “Eat More, Weigh Less”,
You can cut calories in your favorite foods by lowering the amount of fat and or increasing the amount of fiber-rich ingredients, such as vegetables or fruit.
In fact, women following a low-fat diet who were allowed to fill up on all the fruit and vegetables they wanted, lost 23% more weight than women on a low-fat diet alone, a new study from the United Kingdom reports. That being said, let’s look at the best “healthy diet” that will not only assist you to lose weight, but also allow you to maintain the more healthy weight long term.
Overall Best Diet
The Mediterranean Diet. It’s generally accepted that the folks living around the Mediterranean Sea live longer and happier, and suffer less than most Americans from chronic illness such as from cancer and cardiovascular ailments.
During the 1950’s Ancel Keys was shocked that people in the poorest small towns in Southern Italy were much healthier than the wealthy people in New York.
Guess what the poorest were eating? The Mediterranean Diet involves an active lifestyle, resulting in better weight control, and a diet low in lean red meats, sugar, saturated fats, and high in fish and seafood, organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, red wine, and other nutrient-rich foods, including liberal quantities of extra virgin olive oil.
The Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle (1) which simply means it is not only sustainable, but also enjoyable, making it easy to maintain. There’s a tremendous amount of variety in this diet as to country and culture, such as how the food is prepared in each culture. Although the diet has basic common food categories and principles, the Greeks eat differently than the Italians, as the French eat differently from the Spanish, but all live a very healthy lifestyle.
In 1993 Oldways created the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, along with the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization(WHO), as a healthier alternative to the USDA’s original food pyramid. Today, the Mediterranean Diet is more popular than ever, with new research, such as this Mayo Clinic Review, every month documenting its health beneﬁts, and chefs and home cooks alike embracing Mediterranean ingredients and ﬂavors.
At the foundation of the diet pyramid are the nutrient-rich foods of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil. Then comes ﬁsh and seafood, moderate portions of dairy foods, eggs, and poultry, and infrequent or less use of lean red meats and sweets. It’s highly likely that many Mediterranean foods are already among your favorites.
There are so many choices! Let’s look at some specifics of these healthy nutrient-dense foods used by the various countries and cultures:
Specifics Of the Mediterranean Diet
Lean Red Meats. The Medi Diet calls for using less red meats, for a good reason, especially fatty red meats and processed meats. However, there are certain red meats that have been proven by research like this NIH study, to be just as healthy for you as fresh fish and seafood. First of all, the source of the red meat you buy, whether it’s beef cattle or sheep or bison, should be raised on certified organic grasses only, or pasture raised, and should not be given corn or grains as food, hormones, supplements, and antibiotics, anytime in their life.
These food animals should be allowed to roam and graze in open fields the way nature intended, where they can be healthy and happy, and as a result, their meats will be leaner and healthier and rich in micro-nutrients of antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, amino acids, anti-inflammatories, and the full range of vitamins and minerals. It’s’s fine to add lean red meats to your Medi Diet and you should look for certified organic grass-fed finished red meats when you’re shopping.
Lean Free-Range Poultry. The same holds true for chicken, turkey and duck. These food animals should be allowed to gather their own food in unrestricted areas of pastures or open land, or free-range living, eating fresh organic grasses and insects (animal protein). Their meats too will be just as nutritious as the grass-fed animals, and just as healthy for you. No caged chickens or turkeys for you! Look for certified organic free-range or cage-free poultry. Speaking of caged, let’s take a look at eggs.
Cage-Free Brown Eggs. Eggs should also come from free-range or grass-fed laying-hens who are allowed to come and go as they please, from the open fields to their hen houses to lay eggs, producing nutrient-rich brown bright-yellow-yoked, nutrient-dense eggs, as per this Penn State University study. Quoting the study,
Compared to eggs of the commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
Search for certified organic cage-free or grass-fed brown eggs.
Wild Caught Seafood. Cold water fish and seafood are one of the best nutrient-rich sources of lean protein. High in micro-nutrients such as omega 3 healthy unsaturated fats, a complete range of vitamins and minerals, particularly B complex, amino acids, and anti-inflammatories., is your best protein food source.
The most important health benefit is the ratio of healthy omega 3s versus the less healthy saturated fatty omega 6s. In wild caught fish, omega 3s have a 6 to 9 to 1 healthy ratio. Ask for wild-caught or cold-water fish and seafood. And, whatever you do, don’t buy farmed-raised ocean fish and seafood!
Certified Organic Grass-Fed Dairy. And the same goes for dairy products. Except for when it’s time for milking, milk cows should also be allowed to roam freely in organic grassy pastures eating at their will, to produce highly nutritious and richest tasting milk, butter, and cheese, one can imagine. Quoting a University Of Minnesota research study,
Three daily servings of grassmilk would supply up to 58 percent of total daily omega-3 intake, making dairy by far the primary source of omega-3 fatty acids across all food groups.
Look for certified organic grass-fed dairy products.
Certified Organic Fruits. Fruits should be fresh organically grown from a reliable source, or specialty market, or better yet, from your own backyard garden, to provide nutrient-dense fruits high in micro-nutrients of antioxidants, omega 3s, amino acids, anti-inflammatories, and vitamins and minerals. The best nutrient-dense fruits are all forms of berries, and citrus fruits. Search for fresh certified organic fruits.
Certified Organic Vegetables. The same goes for vegetables which should be fresh organically-grown in any variety you prefer, or preferably grow your own. Vegetables are super healthy and can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check. The most nutrient-rich and healthiest veggies come from the cruciferous family, such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and dark, leafy greens, such as kale, turnip greens, spinach. Search for fresh certified organic veggies.
Certified Organic Nuts and Seeds. Nuts and edible flower seeds are a staple of the Medi diet, which are a very good source of plant protein, low in saturated fats, but high in healthy fats like omega 3s, and a healthy choice. The NIH study concluded that nuts have nutritional characteristics that can benefit human health, and said this,
Nut intake demonstrates benefits on health outcomes, preventing and/or treating some chronic disease related risk factors, such as changes in glycemic and lipid metabolism, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
Good choices for nuts are walnuts, hazel nuts, almonds, pecans. Most nutritious seeds are pumpkin, chia, hemp, and sunflower. Your best option is to grow your own, or buy from an organically- grown source.
Organic Whole Grains. Grains in the Mediterranean region are typically whole grain and usually contain very few unhealthy trans fats, and bread is an important part of the diet there. However, throughout the Mediterranean region, whole-grain bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil, and not eaten with butter or margarines, which contain saturated or trans fats. According to the Harvard T H Chan School Of Public Health,
growing body of research shows that choosing whole grains and other less-processed, higher-quality sources of carbohydrates, and cutting back on refined grains, improves health in many ways.
Search for organic whole grain products. No “White” bread, etc.
Fermented Foods. Fermented foods, or cultured foods, have abundant amounts of microorganisms called probiotics, along with the added benefit of being the most efficient and stable vehicle for administration. In other words, the chances of the probiotics reaching your inner gut and helping you with better digestion, are a lot higher when eaten from food, rather than taking a supplement. The Medi Diet has been around for hundreds of years, and prior to refrigeration and chemical processing methods, fermentation was the main method of food preservation.
The wonderful byproduct of this ancient technique is the formulation of hundreds, if not thousands, of various healthy probiotic strains. One example where fermented foods are helpful is with your respiratory system. One study by the Cochrane Library concluded fermented foods were effective in upper respiratory infections in children, as reviewed in this NIH study. Good examples are fermented Greek olives (not pickled), Feta, Greek yogurt, and fermented Greek wine. Yes, homemade wine! Checkout how to make homemade fermented wine. (2)
Nutritious Liquids. Non-sugary drinks are your best choice. Avoid diet drinks at all costs. Filtered water, green or black tea, coffee, pure natural orange juice, kale juice, beet juice, lemon juice, hot chocolate, red wine, especially fermented wine, fruit smoothies, cranberry juice, and ginger tea. These liquids have antioxidants and flavonoids which are good for your health.
Organic Olive Oil. The optimal choice is certified organic extra virgin olive oil in copious amounts like the peoples of the Mediterranean Sea consume. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a rich source of micro-nutrients such as antioxidants and monounsaturated fats like omega 3s (healthy fat), both of which are thought to protective cardiovascular health, stroke, and other health issues. According to the Harvard Medical School study, 75% of it’s fat is healthy omega 3s, making it very effective against fighting chronic inflammation.
Organic Peruvian Maca. Supplement with the natural whole food Adaptogen Peruvian Maca, for added health and well being benefits. P Maca is a well-balanced plant protein rich in micro-nutrients, and is a wonderful addition to the Medi Diet. Order your Mighty Maca in this review.
It’s unlikely that the Mediterranean diet has health risks, and it’s generally safe for everyone, from kids and adults to seniors, as long as you create a sensible plan. The Mediterranean Diet offers a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control. By following the Mediterranean Diet, you could also keep that weight off too, while avoiding chronic disease.
In last 70 years, hundreds if not thousands of studies have added to the body of scientiﬁc evidence supporting the “gold standard” status of traditional Mediterranean Diet eating patterns. These studies show that eating the Mediterranean way has incredible health benefits. That’s why it’s been singled out as The Healthy Diet Plan For Weight Loss. We will discuss a few of these incredible health benefits:
A Review Of Eight Studies
The Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease. In this Cochrane study reviewed by the NIH, researchers analyzed 30 existing randomized controlled trials (the “gold standard” of nutrition research) and 7 ongoing trials of the Mediterranean diet and its impact on heart disease risk.
The study found small to moderate evidence for beneﬁts of the Mediterranean diet for preventing heart disease, but note that more research is needed to better understand the beneﬁts, particularly in patients who already have heart disease.
Preventing Blood Clotting and Olive Oil. In this study, presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention session, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 63 obese but otherwise healthy adults, and also analyzed the platelet activity in their blood. Platelets are the building blocks of blood clots when they stick together. Those eating olive oil at least once per week had signiﬁcantly lower platelet activation, indicating that their blood may be less likely to clot. The study is awaiting a peer-review.
The Medi Diet and Brain Health. Scientists analyzed the diets of 2,621 young adults with an average age of 25, and than assessed their brain health 25 & 30 years later (average ages than 50 & 55, respectively). Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet in young adulthood had a signiﬁcantly lower decline in cognitive function than those not following a Mediterranean diet.
The Medi Diet and Better Bone Mass In Women. A traditional Mediterranean diet includes frequent, but low-to-moderate amounts of dairy products, mostly in the form of artisans cheeses and yogurts. In this study published in Nutrients, researchers analyzed the eating habits and bone density in 442 pre-menopausal women in Spain. Following a Mediterranean diet was linked with signiﬁcantly better bone mass.
The Medi Diet and Statin Lower Risk Of Dying With Heart Disease. Statins are a type of cholesterol lowering medication often prescribed to patients with heart disease. To see how diet might impact the eﬀectiveness of statins, researchers analyzed the eating habits and health outcomes of 1,180 older adults with heart disease for 8 years, which was published in the International Journal Of Cardiology. Those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet were 30% less likely to die from heart disease over the study period.
However, statins only reduced heart disease death risk when taken in combination with the Mediterranean diet. Furthermore, the patients taking statins in combination with a Mediterranean diet had a 50% lower risk of dying of heart disease than those just using one approach (diet or medicine). The researchers suspect that this synergistic eﬀect may be due to the anti-inﬂammatory eﬀects of the Mediterranean Diet.
The Medi Diet and Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that can cause stiﬀness and tremors, and make movement diﬃcult. In a study of 1,731 elderly adults, those most closely following a Mediterranean Diet had a 21% lower probability of showing early signs of Parkinson’s Disease than those not following a Mediterranean diet.
The Medi Diet and High Blood Pressure. In a traditional Mediterranean diet, dairy was eaten often, but in small amounts, which were typically fermented dairy products, like artisans cheese and Greek yogurt. Researchers, the study published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, and reviewed by NIH, wonder if a Mediterranean diet with slightly more dairy might still oﬀer some beneﬁts.
So they randomly assigned 41 adults at risk of heart disease to a Mediterranean diet with 3-4 servings of dairy per day, or a low fat diet. Compared to a low fat diet, the Mediterranean dairy diet resulted in signiﬁcantly higher HDL (good) cholesterol, lower triglycerides and signiﬁcantly lower blood pressure in the morning. However, more research is needed to see how a traditional Mediterranean diet compares with a higher dairy Mediterranean diet.
The Medi Diet and Lowering Depression. Scientists are eager to learn more about the link between a healthy diet and a healthy mind. In this study by Molecular Psychiatry and reviewed by NIH, researchers analyzed existing observational studies between healthy diets (measured by the Mediterranean Diet score, the Healthy Eating Index, the Dietary Inﬂammatory Index, and related scoring systems) and depression.
According to the researchers,
the most compelling evidence was found for the Mediterranean diet and incident depression.
Speciﬁcally, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 33% less likely to develop incident depression than those not following a Mediterranean diet. People whose diets scored well on some other diet scores also tended to have a lower risk of depression, though there were fewer studies using those indices.
Remember, these 8 studies on the Medi Diet we outlined, are only scratching the surface on the health benefits of this incredible lifestyle, life-changing, diet plan. We hope you agree that the healthy diet plan for weight loss is the Mediterranean Diet. If you have comments or questions, leave them below.
(1) UCLA Health Video
(2) Alex Video