Best Diet Plans for Your Overall Health

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Many diets offer benefits that go beyond weight loss. The best programs for losing weight also improve your overall health. The biggest challenge is finding the one that will work for you.

Diets aren’t just for weight loss. While changing your diet can be one of the best ways to lose weight, it can also be a gateway to improving your habits, focusing on your health, and leading a more active lifestyle.

Yet the sheer number of available diet plans may make it difficult to get started. Different diets will be more suitable, sustainable, and effective for different people.

Some diets aim to curb your appetite to reduce your food intake, while others suggest restricting your intake of calories and either carbs or fat. Some focus more on certain eating patterns and lifestyle changes, rather than on limiting certain foods.

What’s more, many offer health benefits that go beyond weight loss.
Here are the 9 best diet plans to help you improve your overall health.

1. The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet has long been considered the gold standard for nutrition, disease prevention, wellness, and longevity. This is based on its nutrition benefits and sustainability.

How it works
The Mediterranean diet is based on foods that people in countries like Italy and Greece have traditionally eaten.

It is rich in:
vegetables
fruits
whole grains
fish
nuts
lentils
olive oil
Foods such as poultry, eggs, and dairy products are to be eaten in moderation, and red meats are limited.

Additionally, the Mediterranean diet limits:
refined grains
trans fats
processed meats
added sugar
other highly processed foods

Health benefits
This diet’s emphasis on minimally processed foods and plants has been associated with a reduced risk of multiple chronic diseases and increased life expectancy. Studies also show that the Mediterranean diet has a preventive effect against certain cancers .

Though the diet was designed to lower heart disease risk, numerous studies indicate that its plant-based, high unsaturated fat dietary pattern can also aid in weight loss .

A systematic review analyzing five different studies found that, compared with a low fat diet, the Mediterranean diet resulted in greater weight loss after 1 year. Compared with a low carb diet, it produced similar weight loss results.

One study in more than 500 adults over 12 months found that higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with double the likelihood of weight loss maintenance .

Additionally, the Mediterranean diet encourages eating plenty of antioxidant-rich foods, which may help combat inflammation and oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals .

Other benefits
Recent studies have also found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with decreased risk of mental disorders, including cognitive decline and depression.

Eating less meat is also associated with a more sustainable diet for the planet.

Downsides
Since the Mediterranean diet does not put a big emphasis on dairy products, it’s important to make sure you still get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet.

2. The DASH diet
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, is an eating plan designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure, which is clinically known as hypertension.

It emphasizes eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. It is low in salt, red meat, added sugars, and fat.

While the DASH diet is not a weight loss diet, many people report losing weight on it.

How it works
The DASH diet recommends specific servings of different food groups. The number of servings you are encouraged to eat depends on your daily calorie intake.

For example, each day an average person on the DASH diet would eat about:
five servings of vegetables
five servings of fruit
seven servings of healthy carbs like whole grains
two servings of low fat dairy products
two servings or fewer of lean meats
In addition, it’s recommended to consume nuts and seeds two to three times per week.

Health benefits
The DASH diet has been shown to reduce blood pressure levels and several heart disease risk factors. Also, it may help lower your risk of breast and colorectal cancers .

Studies show that the DASH diet can also help you lose weight. For example, an analysis of 13 studies found that people on the DASH diet lost more weight over 8–24 weeks than people on a control diet .

Another study in adults with obesity over 12 weeks found that the DASH diet helped decrease total body weight, body fat percentage, and absolute fat mass in study participants while preserving muscle strength .

Other benefits
In addition to weight loss, the DASH diet may help combat depression symptoms .
A comparative study over 8 years found that even moderate adherence to the DASH diet was related to lower depression risk .

Downsides
While the DASH diet may aid with weight loss and lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension, there is mixed evidence on salt intake and blood pressure.

Eating too little salt has been linked to increased insulin resistance, and a low sodium diet isn’t the right choice for everyone.
A low sodium diet like the DASH diet is more appropriate for individuals with hypertension or other health conditions that benefit from or require sodium restriction.
More research is needed in this area to understand how a low sodium diet can affect insulin resistance in individuals without hypertension.

3. Plant-based and flexitarian diets
Vegetarianism and veganism are the most popular versions of plant-based diets, which restrict animal products for health, ethical, and environmental reasons.

However, more flexible plant-based diets also exist, such as the flexitarian diet. This is a plant-based diet that allows eating animal products in moderation.

How it works
Typical vegetarian diets restrict meat of all kinds but allow dairy products. Typical vegan diets restrict all animal products, including dairy, butter, and sometimes other byproducts like honey.

The flexitarian eating plan does not have clear-cut rules or recommendations about calories and macronutrients, so it’s considered more of a lifestyle than a diet. Its principles include:

consuming protein from plants instead of animals
eating mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains
eating the least processed, most natural forms of foods
limiting sugar and sweets
Additionally, it allows the flexibility to consume meat and animal products from time to time.

Health benefits
Numerous studies have shown that plant-based diets can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, including improved markers of metabolic health, decreased blood pressure, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. They can also help you lose weight.

Flexitarian diets have also been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and improve metabolic health and blood pressure, plus may have their own weight loss benefits.

Other benefits
For those who are looking to lead a sustainable lifestyle, decreasing your meat consumption can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and soil degradation.

Downsides
Plant-based eating patterns like vegetarianism and veganism can sometimes be difficult to maintain and may feel restricting, especially if you’re switching from a more meat-based eating style.

And while the flexibility of the flexitarian diet makes it easy to follow, being too flexible with it may counteract its benefits.

 

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