Diet & Weight Loss

A healthy weight is an important element of good health. How much you eat—and what you eat—play central roles in maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight. Exercise is the other key actor.

For years, low-fat diets were thought to be the best way to lose weight. A growing body of evidence shows that low-fat diets often don't work, in part because these diets often replace fat with easily digested carbohydrates.

Hundreds of diets have been created, many promising fast and permanent weight loss. Remember the cabbage soup diet? The grapefruit diet? How about the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle diet, the caveman diet, the Subway diet, the apple cider vinegar diet, and a host of forgettable celebrity diets?

The truth is, almost any diet will work if it helps you take in fewer calories. Diets do this in two main ways:

  • getting you to eat certain "good" foods and/or avoid "bad" ones
  • changing how you behave and the ways you think or feel about food

The best diet for losing weight is one that is good for all parts of your body, from your brain to your toes, and not just for your waistline. It is also one you can live with for a long time. In other words, a diet that offers plenty of good tasting and healthy choices, banishes few foods, and doesn't require an extensive and expensive list of groceries or supplements.

One diet that fills the bill is a Mediterranean-type diet. Such a diet—and there are many variations—usually includes:

  • several servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • whole-grain breads and cereals
  • healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • lean protein from poultry, fish, and beans
  • limited amounts of red meat
  • moderate wine consumption with meals (no more than two glasses a day for men; no more than one a day for women

A Mediterranean-style diet is a flexible eating pattern. People who follow such diets tend to have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other chronic conditions.

Diet & Weight Loss Articles

Get cracking: Why you should eat more nuts

Frequent nut eaters are less likely to die of any cause—especially heart disease—than people who rarely eat nuts. Nuts are good sources of protein, healthy unsaturated fats, and fiber. Eating them may help people avoid weight gain, may lower their artery-damaging LDL cholesterol, and may lower their blood pressure, all of which might decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. These potential benefits also apply to peanuts, which are technically not nuts but legumes. But peanuts are similar to tree nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds, and pistachios in terms of their nutrients. (Locked) More »

Scientifically proven diets that work

Many diets promise weight loss, but the choices narrow with regard to diets that prevent heart disease and stroke. Two backed by extensive research are the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet. Both share an emphasis on plant foods and healthy fats. The DASH diet is more specifically targeted to lower blood pressure and provides detailed guidance on what to eat. The Mediterranean diet is a general style of healthy eating rather than a detailed diet plan. (Locked) More »

Should you work chocolate into your diet?

Certain compounds in chocolate, called cocoa flavanols, have been shown to boost health, but the amount of flavanols in chocolate is not always listed. As a general rule, dark chocolate has more cocoa and therefore more flavanols than milk chocolate, but the amount can vary enormously depending on how the chocolate has been processed. The best way to get cocoa flavanols is from unsweetened cocoa powder that has not been processed using the Dutch method. This method includes alkali to reduce acidity, but reduces the flavanol content. (Locked) More »

New concerns about diet sodas

There are growing doubts about whether diet sodas help people lose weight and avoid diabetes. Research has shown that sugar-free sodas may be linked to the development of metabolic syndrome—a condition that often precedes or accompanies diabetes. Many artificial sweeteners may actually increase the brain’s desire for sugar. Even the soda container may pose problems. Many cans are lined with a substance called bisphenol A (BPA). Research has shown that people with higher levels of BPA in their body are more likely to have high blood pressure and heart trouble. (Locked) More »

Weight-loss drugs and your heart

Medications to aid weight loss may be helpful for people with obesity, a condition that puts a heavy burden on the heart. Some early weight-loss medications proved risky for the heart, but the approval of four new drugs in the past two years has expanded the options for treating obesity. However, the benefits are modest at best, helping people lose an average of about 5% of their body weight over six to 12 months. People may need to try several different medications before finding one that works for them. (Locked) More »

Healthy diet: Is glycemic index the key?

A lower-glycemic-index diet focuses on foods that will minimize large or sudden increases in blood sugar. Although some evidence suggests it may help fight obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, a recent study found that using the glycemic index did not help lower the risk of heart disease in overweight people already eating a relatively healthy diet. To get the benefits of a low-glycemic-index diet without having to look up the glycemic index of foods, cut back on highly processed grains like white flour and white rice, starchy foods like white potatoes, and added sugars. More »

In search of a milk alternative

People who are unable to or don’t want to drink cow’s milk have alternatives. Lactose-free milk has an enzyme added to it that helps break down lactose into more easily digested sugars. Soy milk is the fluid that’s strained from a mixture of ground soybeans and water. Nut milks are the fluids from a mixture of water and ground almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts. Grain and seed milks are the fluids from a mixture of water and ground rice, oats, quinoa, or hemp. Nut, grain, and seed milks don’t have as much protein as soy milk unless they are fortified. More »