New Year, new healthy eating plan? We round up the best diets so you can suss out what fits your lifestyle
So it’s January, the beginning of the year when we all think about New Year’s resolutions and diets (or at least eating healthier) for the year ahead. But what diet is “the best”? U.S. News & World Report ranked 40 diets and at first place for best overall diet (taking into account diet effectiveness and sustainability) was the relatively unheard of DASH diet, tied with the Mediterranean diet. Meanwhile, the popular Keto diet tied for last place. We round up some of the most popular diets and healthy eating trends so you can decide which one might be best for you.
While the 5:2 diet is too extreme for some (you fast 2 full days out of the week), the 16:8 diet is about fasting for 16 hours out of your day (most of the time when you are asleep). You then have a window of 8 hours to eat – by skipping breakfast (you can still have a cuppa) and then have your first meal at 12pm. You are allowed to eat (healthily) for 8 hours till your last meal at 8pm, after which you must fast.
Expert opinion: When you fast, you force your body to use up and burn all the sugars and reserves before you load yourself up with more calories at the next meal This approach for weight-loss and hormonal control, as well as prolonging your life and decreasing your chances of diabetes and cancer, has some recommending it while others feel you are missing out on the most important meal of the day.
Celebs eating 16:8: Hugh Jackman & Nicole Kidman
The US government-endorsed DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a lifelong approach to healthy eating. It’s all about balance and moderation, and doesn’t require you to cut any food groups. DASH says yes to whole grains, fruit, vegetables, protein and low-fat dairy products, and limits salt and foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meat, full-fat dairy and sugary drinks.
Expert opinion: DASH has been chosen as the #1 diet 8 years in a row by US New & World Report because it is proven to improve health, lower high blood pressure and has a balance of healthy food groups.
Celebs eating DASH: Jennifer Hudson and Jessica Simpson
Ketogenic (“Keto”) diet is a very low-carb diet that forces your body into fat-burning overdrive. Ketones are produced via the liver, from fat if you eat very little carbs and only a moderate amount of protein. This, instead of glucose, is used to fuel your body and brain. Your body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat, which forces the fat-burning. It’s a fast and furious way of shedding those pounds with immediate results.
Expert opinion: With its emphasis on unusually high-fat-plus-low-carb content, experts have some reservations about the Keto Diet and have concerns for people with liver or kidney conditions, who should avoid it altogether.
Celebs eating Keto: Gwyneth Paltrow and Halle Berry
The Paleo Diet, also known as “the caveman diet”, only allows food that our ancestors could forage and process internally. So no processed foods, sugar, dairy, unusually legumes and grains and yes to meat, fish, vegetables (including roots), fruit and nuts. As fat is not frowned upon, healthy fats like coconut butter and avocado help you feel full and satisfied so this can feel like a more sustainable eating plan (especially as the occasional wine is allowed … did cavemen drink wine?). As well as weight-loss, Paleo claims to have a positive effect on general health and giving you more energy.
Expert opinion: Opinion is divided on whether this is a safe diet (as some say whole food groups shouldn’t be excluded unless medically needed).
Celebs eating Paleo: Jessica Biel and Uma Thurman
The Mediterranean Diet is another lifestyle choice eating plan with a real emphasis on how you eat – socially with family and friends and slowly enjoying your food (so no scoffing lunch at your desk by yourself at the office!). The general guidelines are to choose and eat food groups from the Mediterranean Food Pyramid — so plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, complex carbs and fish while avoiding processed foods, sugar and refined oils.
Expert opinion: It’s been proven that this diet contributes to lifelong health as well as weight-loss, with no known side-effects (although if you are looking for a quick fix, do note this is more of a lifestyle change.) Studies have also shown this diet to preserve your brain volume with age.
Celebs eating Mediterranean: Penelope Cruz and Jennifer Garner
If you aren’t quite ready to take the leap and cut meat from your diet and become a fully fledged Vegetarian, then why not try the Flexitarian Diet? You guessed it, the Flexitarian Diet reduces the consumption of meat without fully giving it up by using a 80:20 rule of eating meat only at the weekends. Eat meat less (but spend more money on better quality, organic meat) and get more vegetables, pulses and fruit into your diet.
Expert opinion: Experts are very happy with the Flexitarian Diet’s nutritional completeness and safety. Flexitarians weigh 15% less than their meat eating counterparts – you tend to eat fewer calories. Not surprisingly this diet links to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes, not to mention the fact that you will live longer.
Celebs eating Flexitarian: Jamie Oliver & Cameron Diaz
Weight Watchers has been around for many years and proven to be very effective for weight-loss. Every food and beverage item has a SmartPoints value so you can decide which dish worth the same calories is smarter (in terms of saturated fat, sugar, and protein) to choose. This is a diet where you are counting and recording your daily points A big part of the plan is the support network and meetings to encourage you to stick to your goals. This paid weight loss diet claims you can drop up to 2 pounds per week.
Expert opinion: Experts say that Weight Watcher’s is a healthy and balanced approach to eating.
Celebs who have done Weight Watchers: Jennifer Hudson & Oprah Winfrey
It is proven that people who live here in Asia have lower rates of heart disease, cancer and obesity, and they typically live longer, too. And this is largely due to their diets, which are the food groups found in the Asian Diet Pyramid. The diet consists of lots of Asian vegetables (bok choy, eggplant, taro roots, yams, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts) plus spices, rice, noodles and soy products such as tofu. Seafood is optional each day whilst meat is only allowed once a month. So if you love your meat – this isn’t the diet for you.
Expert opinion: Experts think the Asian Diet is relatively safe and nutritious. Some are however concerned about dieters double-dipping into the soy sauce and downing heaps of refined white rice.
Celebs eating Traditional Asian: Lucy Liu
With it’s main aim to boost ovulation, improve fertility and support a healthy pregnancy – this diet includes foods that are dense in specific nutrients needed for hormonal function, production, egg and sperm health, and fetal development. It helps provide all the building blocks for a healthy baby. Cut out trans fats and fuel up on leafy greens, whole grains, eggs, legumes, and organic fish alongside drinking lots of water and a glass of whole milk daily.
Expert opinion: It’s a diet that most people can follow even if you are not planning on having any (more) babies soon. It’s pretty healthy and balanced.
Eating specific foods that make your body more alkaline is the trick to this diet. The theory is that some foods such as wheat, refined sugar, processed food and even meat can cause your body to produce acid, which is bad for you. This is all about measuring the pH of acids and alkaline in foods. Lots of vegetables and fruit (only fresh and not dried), lentils, soy products and sprouted grains. The rule of thumb here is 80% alkalising foods and only 20% acid forming – and you need to apply this rule at every meal.
Expert opinion: According to experts, there is no scientific research to back up any of the claims of the Acid Alkaline Diet.
Celebs eating Acid Alkaline: Elle Macpherson & Jennifer Aniston
As with all these diets, we would advise to consult your doctor before embarking on any drastic changes.
All images sourced via Unsplash