Best Diets For 2012

It is a new year, so naturally we are thinking about a new, healthier body. For many of us, that means taking on a diet to lose some of those pounds that found us over the holidays. Happily, the folks at U.S. News and World Reports have issued an updated list of the 25 top diets.

Why are there so many diets? How can we decide which diet is right for us? The review board at U.S. News was made up by 22 respected nutrition experts. They examined the diets and weighed (sorry) each diet's impact on weight loss, heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and overall nutrition. You can read the entire report here.

For the second year, the DASH diet won top honors. Ironically, the DASH diet was not created with weight loss in mind. The letters DASH stand for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. That hints at its true focus, reducing high blood pressure. Only later was it recognized for its value as an overall weight management and health improvement diet.  The meal guidelines are broken up into six categories.  Whole grains, like whole wheat bread, oatmeal and some cereals, contribute 6-8 servings a day.  Vegetables are 4-5 servings a day and fruits are another 4-5 servings, so this is a real change for the fast-food fans among us.  Dairy (low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt) weigh in at 2-3 servings a day for your calcium, vitamin D and protein.  That’s important because your lean meat (and they mean LEAN) is 6 or fewer servings a day.  A serving of lean meat is one ounce of skinless chicken or one egg, for example, so that’s not a lot of meat.  Total meat intake comes out to about six ounces per day.  The diet also recommends 4-5 servings of nuts or seeds per week.  Sweets (one tablespoon of sugar or a cup of lemonade) get only 5 appearances a week.  For the over-21 crowd, the diet allows two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

Runner-up honors went to the TLC diet. Like the DASH diet, the TLC diet was not initially created for weight control. TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, and refers to an eating plan that can lower cholesterol by 10% to 20% without medication. The TLC diet restricts your consumption of diary (unless it is non-fat or low-fat), most meats, and pretty much anything that contains saturated fats.  By using liquid vegetable oils (think canola, olive, peanut, and safflower oils) instead of saturated fats (lard, Crisco, butter) you can stay below the 200 milligram daily cholesterol target. With the TLC diet, your carbs should come from complex carbohydrates, like vegetables, pasta and whole-wheat bread. Simple carbs, like foods made with processed sugar, are to be minimized.  Protein, from very lean meat and low-fat dairy, should only be about 15% of your daily calorie budget. To further reduce your cholesterol, soluble fiber is recommended.  Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, pectin and bran.  Maybe have a muffin with that egg white omelet?   Be sure to use heart-healthy margarine to top off that muffin, though.

The third place ribbon goes to the Mayo Clinic diet. The Mayo Clinic Plan is a diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, proteins and dairy. Based on the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid, menu planning is easy because of the breadth of foods available. Fruits and vegetables are the foundation. Complex carbohydrates and proteins are also well represented. The only area where you may feel some constraint is with fats and sweets. The diet emphasizes heart-friendly fats, from nuts, avocados, and the like. The diet even has a daily provision for sweets, with 75 calories every day set aside for those splurges that keep life worth living.

Coming in fourth place is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet focuses on a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains (typically whole), beans, nuts and olive oil; even a glass of red wine with dinner if you're so disposed. You won't see a lot of red meat, mostly seafood and the odd piece of chicken once in a while. Most of your fat comes from olive oil, so expect that your dairy intake will be mostly from the Fat Free section of the grocery shelf. With little red meat and restricted dairy, many people take a multivitamin to be sure that they get enough iron and calcium. You will get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, though, so don't look for a vitamin that features these nutrients.

Which one is perfect for you? There is a lot to consider. You might glance at our blog post on shopping for a diet as well as our in-depth recap of diets. And remember, dieting alone is unlikely to be successful. Get a diet buddy and keep each other encouraged and accountable. If you don't have a friend who is ready to join you, just click over to and find a new diet buddy near you!

1 comment:

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