From bookstores to social media to blogs, there’s no shortage of information on diet. So how to differentiate what “works” from an overhyped fad?
It’s important to remember that even if a particular diet may be successful for one person, it may not be effective for another due to individual differences in genes and lifestyle. And while research shows that calories matter, focusing on food quality is an equally important part of preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss. Diets are also more likely to be successful when they are easier to follow, so tailoring a strategy to suit your own lifestyle is key.
Still, when faced with the seemingly endless promotion of weight-loss strategies and diet plans, it helps to see what evidence is supporting them. In this series, we take a look at some popular diets and approaches to eating—and review the research behind them.
An anti-inflammatory diet is promoted as a remedy to battle inflammation in the body. A common belief is that “inflammation” is always bad. Although it produces unpleasant side effects, inflammation is actually a healthy response by our immune system. Learn more about anti-inflammatory diets: how they work, potential pitfalls, and what the research says.
Once just a buzzword, “clean eating” is now a popular eating style. What it means will depend on who you ask. The terms clean eating and clean diets are not federally regulated in the U.S., so interpretation by consumers and the marketing of “clean” products by the food industry can vary widely. Learn more about the potential pros and cons of this approach to eating.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is sometimes prescribed by doctors to help treat high blood pressure, however numerous studies show wide-ranging health benefits of this eating pattern. Learn more about DASH: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the research says.
A gluten-free diet eliminates all foods containing or contaminated with gluten. As the sole treatment for the 1-2% of Americans who have celiac disease, this diet is not new. What is new—and driving these sales upward—is the use of a gluten-free diet for weight loss. Learn more about a gluten-free diet: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the research says about this strategy for weight loss.
Intermittent fasting is a diet regimen that cycles between brief periods of fasting, with either no food or significant calorie reduction, and periods of unrestricted eating. The most common methods are fasting on alternate days, for whole days with a specific frequency per week, or during a set time frame. Learn more about intermittent fasting: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the research says about this strategy for weight loss.
The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a low-carbohydrate, fat-rich eating plan that has been used for centuries to treat specific medical conditions. However in recent years, this diet has gained considerable attention as a potential weight-loss strategy. Learn more about the keto diet: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the research says about this strategy for weight loss.
The Mediterranean diet is a primarily plant-based eating plan that includes daily intake of whole grains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts, herbs, and spices. Other foods like animal proteins are eaten in smaller quantities, with the preferred animal protein being fish and seafood. It does not specify portion sizes or specific amounts, as it is up to the individual to decide exactly how much food to eat at each meal. Learn more about the Mediterranean diet: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the research says.
Dementia is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, driving many people to search for ways to prevent cognitive decline. The Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet, targets the health of the aging brain. Learn more about the MIND diet: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the research says.
This approach to eating focuses on the eating experience, body-related sensations, and thoughts and feelings about food, with heightened awareness and without judgment. Attention is paid to the foods being chosen, internal and external physical cues, and your responses to those cues. Learn more about the mindful eating: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the available research says.
The Paleolithic or “Paleo” diet seeks to address 21st century ills by revisiting the way humans ate during the Paleolithic era more than 2 million years ago. Paleo proponents state that because our genetics and anatomy have changed very little since the Stone Age, we should eat foods available during that time to promote good health. Learn more about the Paleo diet: how it works, potential pitfalls, and what the research says about this strategy for weight loss.
Last reviewed December 2022
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