There are so many different diets out there — low carb, low fat, high protein, keto, paleo, vegan, Mediterranean just to name a few.
The issue for many of us is that we simply do not know which one to choose.
The reality is that any diet will work if you follow it, so choosing the right diet comes down to choosing the right diet for you. So here is a run-down on the most popular diets out there and the pros and cons of each.
When it comes to health outcomes, you cannot go past the Mediterranean Diet — the simple formula of tons of fresh fruit and vegies, lashings of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish and little to no processed food is the recipe for a healthy heart and long life.
The only issue is that the Mediterranean Diet is not overly prescriptive which means it is healthy but won't necessarily support weight loss unless you also paying attention to your calorie intake.
What began with the 5:2 or two exceptionally low calorie days has now become the 16:8 where you eat all of your calories in an eight hour time window or all of your meals between 10am and 6pm or 12pm and 8pm.
The benefit is metabolic — meaning it appears a prolonged period overnight without food helps to kick start a number of the body's hormones including those that regulate fat metabolism. Time restricted eating also tends to naturally limit calorie intake. You won't lose 1-2 kilos a week using fasting but you will lose 1-2 kilos a month without having to work very hard.
MODERATE CARBOHYDRATE DIETS
A moderate carb diet includes between 30 to 40 per cent carbs or carbs such as bread or grains in the morning with a taper at night.
Programmes such as the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet follow this formula and it is an effective, sustainable way to shift 500g each week while still enjoying some carbs in your eating plan.
Moderate carb diets work as they slightly reduce fuel intake and overall calorie intake in a user friendly diet and they suit individuals who are moderately active with 15kg or less to lose.
LOW CARB DIETS
Low carb diets can contain anywhere between 10 to 20 per cent carbs and shift the body into ketosis where fat burning is the default metabolic state.
The popular keto diet is a low carb diet and as such features little if any fruit, cereals, grains, starchy vegetables or sugars.
Low carb diets are extremely effective in achieving fast weight loss but the issue is sustainability as they only work when your carb intake is incredibly low.
This means basing your meals solely around meat, fish, eggs, salad and green vegetables and good fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds all the time and for many this is not a preferred way of eating long term.
Low carb diets are great to begin weight loss and suit people who have 20kg-plus to lose and are looking for a weight loss kickstart. Meal replacement programmes or VLCD too are included in this group, which again tend to support weight loss in the short term but are rarely sustainable unless incorporated into a balanced, sustainable, calorie-controlled meal plan long term.
More and more people are choosing a plant based lifestyle hence the growth in vegan products available in supermarkets. A vegan diet unlike a vegetarian diet includes no animal foods whatsoever meaning that the diet is based around legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
While these foods are all exceptionally healthy and mostly lower in calories than diets that include animal-based proteins, vegan diets are not necessarily lower in calories than other diets.
As such, if the goal is also weight loss, a vegan diet will still need to be calorie controlled.
Especially popular a couple of years back, the paleo diet is a high protein, low carb diet which focuses on meats, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds minus the dairy and grains.
A regimen that has clear guidelines as to which foods can or cannot be included often results in relatively quick weight loss thanks to its relatively low carbohydrate content.
Long term — as is the case with many diets — the issue tends to be sustainability as dieters get sick of eating only proteins and salads teamed with coconut oil and the lack of dietary fibre can also cause gut discomfort.