Review of 10 Popular Weight-Loss Diets – In a Nut Shell

Are you confused by the different diet plans that claim to provide you the easy short-cut to losing weight? Well, you are not the only one. There is a whole variety of diets and weight-loss plans out there, all claiming to be the next best thing in weight loss. While some claim to help by detoxing your body, others aim to mimic the eating habits of our ancestors. But, which of these diets work? Read on to find out.

1. The Atkins diet

The Atkins diet is a low-carb diet that is often recommended for weight loss. It was initially promoted by Dr. Robert C. Atkins, who wrote a book about it in 1972. Atkins diet claims to help you lose weight while eating as much protein and fat as you want and avoiding foods rich in carbs. It follows the theory that when you starve yourself of carbohydrates, your body starts burning fat for energy.

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The strategy

The Atkins diet follows a four-phase plan. The first phase helps in rapid weight loss. During this phase, you can eat high-fat, high-protein, with low-carb vegetables like leafy greens. Your daily carb allowance is only 20 grams. During the next three phases, you slowly add more carbs to your diet so that you reach the ideal intake of carbs for a healthy weight. Regular exercise is encouraged.

Does it work?

Several studies have shown that Atkin’s diet is highly effective in weight loss. According to a systemic review, low-carb/high-protein diets are more effective than low-fat diets in reducing weight (1). This diet is especially helpful in losing abdominal fat, which can be dangerous for health (2, 3).

Pros

  • It helps you lose weight quickly.
  • It reduces triglycerides, cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin, and blood pressure (4).

Cons

  • High fat intake can lead to heart disease.
  • It may cause side effects like bad breath, dry mouth, tiredness, insomnia, and constipation.

Also read: 21 Best Foods for Weight Loss that You should Include in Your Diet Plan

2. Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating where you alternate between periods of fasting and eating. It does not restrict the foods that you can eat, but controls when you can eat them. Intermittent fasting leads to natural calorie restriction, which helps in weight loss.

The strategy

There are several different methods to do intermittent fasting. Some of the popular methods include –

The 16/8 way – This involves fasting for 16 hours a day and restricting your eating period to eight hours.

The 5 -2 method – This involves eating only 500 to 600 calories for two days of the week.

Eat stop eat method – This involves 24-hour complete fasts once or twice a week.

Does it work?

Intermittent fasting is generally very successful in weight loss. You can lose up to 8% weight in 24 weeks (4). It also helps to increase your metabolic rate (5).

Pros

  • It reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation (6).
  • Increases levels of human growth hormone and improves cellular repair (7).
  • Protects against Alzheimer’s disease and cancer (8, 9).

Cons

  • Not suitable for people with eating disorders.
  • Skipping meals can make you irritable and dizzy.
  • Bad breath, dehydration, and difficulty in sleeping are some of the other side effects.

3. Dukan diet

The Dukan diet is a low-carb, high-protein diet. It consists of four phases, and there is no restriction on ho much you can eat during these phases as long as you stick to the plan. Dr. Pierre Dukan, a French general practitioner, created this diet in the 1970s.

The strategy

The Dukan diet is usually divided into four phases –the attack phase, cruise phase, consolidation phase, and the maintenance phase. How long you stay in these phases depends on the amount of weight that you have to lose. During these phases, you are allowed to eat unlimited quantities of high-protein food along with oat bran.

Does it work?

Though there is not much research on whether the Dukan diet is effective, one study from Poland assessed the effects of the Dukan diet on 51 women. The study found that after 8 to 10 weeks of dieting, most women lost approximately 15 kilograms of weight (10).

Pros

  • It helps in weight loss.
  • It is easy to follow, as you don’t have to count calories.

Cons

  • The side effects may include bad breath, tiredness, insomnia, and nausea.
  • The lack of whole grains in this diet can lead to constipation.

4. The paleo diet

The paleo diet (the caveman diet) is based on the supposed eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors during the paleolithic era. It is based on the theory that most diseases are linked to the western diet that includes processed foods, grains, and dairy.

The strategy

There is no specific meal plan for the paleo diet as the paleolithic humans lived on a variety of foods. It consists of foods that can be fished or hunted like meat and seafood or gathered like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, herbs, and spices. You should avoid processed foods, grains, legumes, vegetable oils, margarine, trans fats, dairy products, soft drinks, and artificial sweeteners.

Does it work?

Several studies show that the paleo diet is effective in lowering weight and reducing waist circumference (11, 12).

Pros

  • It reduces the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes (13, 14).
  • This diet discourages you from eating unhealthy, processed food.

Cons

  • This diet eliminates healthy foods like whole grains, dairy, and legumes from the menu.
  • It can be expensive as it includes only grass-fed meat.

5. The HCG diet

HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin) is a hormone present at high levels during early pregnancy.  In 1954, a British doctor named Albert Simeons proposed HCG as a weight-loss tool. He believed that the HCG diet could boost metabolism and fat loss without inducing hunger.

The strategy

This diet is split into three phases. You start taking the HCG supplements during the first phase. During the second phase, which lasts between 3 to 6 weeks, you follow a low-calorie diet of just 500 calories a day. In the third phase, you stop taking the supplements and increase your food intake.

Does it work?

This diet does lead to weight loss, but that is only because of the low-calorie intake. The HCG does not make a difference (15).

Pros

  • Leads to weight loss due to low-calorie intake.

Cons

  • Low-calorie intake can lead to muscle loss, which can reduce metabolism.
  • Other side effects include headache, fatigue, and depression.

6. The zone diet

According to the zone diet, you can burn fat even in your sleep by balancing the carbs, fat, and proteins that you eat. It was developed around 30 years ago by Dr. Barry Sears, an American biochemist. The diet claims to reduce inflammation, which can lead to faster weight loss, slow down aging, and reduce the risk of diseases.

The strategy

During this diet, you must eat each meal in a specific ratio of 40% carbs, 30 % fat, and 30 % protein. The carbs should have a low glycemic index, and the proteins must lean, and the fat should be monounsaturated.

Does it work?

The results of the various studies on the zone diet are mixed. While some studies suggest zone diet or low GI diets are effective in weight loss, other studies find the weight loss though this diet much lesser as compared to other foods (16, 17).

Pros

  • This diet does not severely restrict food choices, so it easy to follow.
  • It emphasizes fresh foods rather than processed foods.
  • It improves blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Cons

  • The zone diet recommends avoiding certain fruits and vegetables like bananas and potatoes, which are considered to be healthy carbs.

7. The vegan diet

A vegan diet does not contain any animal-based products, including meat, eggs, and dairy. People choose to be vegan for health, environmental, and ethical reasons.

The strategy

A healthy, balanced vegan diet can contain all the nutrients that your body needs. You can eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta can also be included. You can also have daily alternatives like soy drinks and yogurt. Beans and pulses are excellent sources of vegan proteins.

Does it work?

The low-fat, high-fiber content of vegan foods makes you fuller for longer and helps in weight loss. Studies show that vegans have a lower BMI than meat-eaters (18).

Pros

  • A vegan diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and premature death (19, 20).
  • It also reduces the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Cons

  • Vegan diets lack some vital nutrients like calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and folate.

8. Low carb diets

A low carbohydrate diet restricts your intake of carbs and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. There are many types of low-carb diets, and each has different restrictions on the number of carbs that you can eat.

The strategy

The aim of this diet is to make the body consume more fats for fuel instead of carbs. When the carbs intake is low, the fatty acids move into the blood and are transported to the liver, where they turn into ketones. The body then uses these ketones as the primary source of energy.

A low-carb diet generally excludes most grains, legumes, fruits, bread, sweets, pasta and starchy vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds.  It includes protein sources like meat, poultry, fish and eggs, and some non-starchy vegetables.

Does it work?

Studies have shown that low-carb diets are more effective in weight loss as compared to low-fat diets (21). They also help in reducing belly fat (22).

Pros

  • Low-carb diets help reduce blood triglycerides, cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin, and blood pressure levels.

Cons

  • The drastic reduction in carbs can lead to headaches, bad breath, weakness, muscle cramps, fatigue, skin rash, and constipation.

9. The very low-fat diets

A very low-fat diet is one in which less than 10% of the total calories are derived from fat. The fat calories are distributed equally among saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Approximately 10% of the total calories should be obtained from proteins and around 80% from carbohydrates.

The strategy

Very-low-fat diets are mostly plant-based, and they limit your intake of animal products like eggs, meats, and full-fat dairy products. Plant-based foods that are high in fat like avocados, nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil are also restricted.

Does it work?

Low-fat diets help in weight loss because you consume a lesser amount of calories.  Studies show that low-fat diets can lead to weight loss in obese individuals (23, 24).

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Pros

  • Very-low-fat diets lower the risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and markers of inflammation.
  • They may also slow the progression of multiple sclerosis (25).

Cons

  • Fat restriction can cause long-term problems as fats are needed for many vital roles in the body.
  • This diet can also restrict many healthy fats.

10. Keto diet

The keto diet is a very low-carb, high fat, and protein diet. Not only does it help in weight loss, but it also helps prevent diabetes and has been used for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and epilepsy in children. Unlike other low-carb diets, the keto diet is exceptionally high in fat content.

The strategy

When you eat minimal carbs, you deprive the body of glucose, which is the primary source of energy for the cells in the body. When your body runs out of glucose (this takes 3 to 4 days), an alternate source called ketones is produced from the stored fat. This use of ketones helps in weight loss.

Does it work?

A ketogenic diet can help you lose more weight in the first three months than many other diets. The high-fat content also helps to reduce food cravings.

Pros

  • Slows the growth of cancer cells and prevents some kinds of cancer
  • Lowers the levels of bad cholesterol and insulin
  • Prevents acne breakouts
  • Prevents epilepsy and other nervous system disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and sleep disorders

Cons

  • Can lead to indigestion and constipation
  • May cause mild low blood sugar
  • It can lead to acidosis or kidney stones
  • Other side effects include headaches, dizziness, bad breath, and fatigue.

Final thoughts

There is an unlimited variety of diets and weight loss strategies available to us these days. However, you must note that even if a diet is successful for one person, it may not be as effective for the other person. While restricting calories is important, you must also focus on the quality of the food you eat. You should also remember that the diet that is easy to follow is more likely to be successful. Observe the pros and cons of each diet to choose the one that is apt for your lifestyle.

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