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

DASH or Mediterranean: Which diet is better for you?

Both DASH and Mediterranean diets promote overall health. DASH includes more low-fat dairy and whole grains; the Mediterranean approach is a plant-based diet with fish. Which is better for you depends on your taste preferences and health goals. (Locked) More »

Add more nutrient-dense foods to your diet

For people who are not already eating a healthy diet, or are not eating enough healthy foods, nutrient-dense foods can help fill in the gaps. Nutrient-dense foods contain an abundance of nutrients and other healthful substances—vitamins and minerals, fiber, lean protein, and unsaturated fats—but are not excessive in calories. This is compared to foods of low nutrient density that are high in calories. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include leafy greens, whole grains, fruits, oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and vegetables. (Locked) More »

Carbohydrates — Good or Bad for You?

Over the years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation. Diets such as Atkins and South Beach promote easy, rapid weight loss that can be very attractive to someone trying to lose weight. By restricting the amounts of carbohydrate that you eat, these diets claim that you can turn your body into a fat-burning machine. When you limit carbohydrates, however, you deprive your body of a main source of fuel — and many essential nutrients that you need to stay healthy. Carbohydrates are foods that get converted into glucose, or sugar, in our bodies during digestion. Glucose is a main source of fuel for our body. It is especially important for the brain, which cannot easily use other fuel sources (such as fat or protein) for energy. (Locked) More »

Do Sugar Substitutes Help You Lose Weight?

With all the health messages on the Internet and in magazines, it's hard to know the truth about sugar substitutes, particularly artificial sweeteners. Maybe you've read that diet soda is bad for you, or that it's perfectly safe. Maybe you've heard horror stories about saccharin, or using stevia for weight loss. If you drink beverages or eat foods that have been sweetened with low- or zero-calorie sugar substitutes instead of sugar, you would expect to save calories — and lose weight. The research supports this assumption, but maybe not to the extent you would expect. Here's what you need to know. Sugar substitutes are found in a variety of products, including: (Locked) More »

Does Metabolism Matter in Weight Loss?

Do you know people who complain about having a slow metabolism and how they barely eat anything yet still gain weight? Or have you met people who complain about someone they know who can eat whatever he or she wants — including large portions of junk food — due to a fast metabolism and apparently never gain weight. In both cases the individual usually ends by saying, "It's not fair!" These scenarios raise several very good questions: The answer to these questions involves a mix of nature (genetic make-up) and nurture (the environment). Metabolism or metabolic rate is defined as the series of chemical reactions in a living organism that create and break down energy necessary for life. More simply, it's the rate at which your body expends energy or burns calories. (Locked) More »

Eating Frequency and Weight Loss

Many Americans struggle with losing weight. They feel frustrated by repeated attempts at weight loss. Fad diets claim successful weight loss, but none of them are proven to work. It's clear that eating fewer calories is important to lose weight. But there is conflicting evidence on the specifics. One area of debate is when to consume calories throughout the day. Is eating three times a day best to achieve weight loss? Or is it better to eat more — or less — frequently? These are tough questions. Some diets suggest eating every two to three hours. Others suggest limiting it to three times per day or even only twice a day. (Locked) More »

The Perfect Diet

Many people feel overwhelmed by information on diets, and just want to know what to do. After all, there are so many diets out there right now, most doctors are every bit as confused as their patients. For many years, the American Heart Association has been recommending a low-fat diet with less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day, and 30% of calories from fat. But while they pursued this heart-healthy diet, Americans got fatter and fatter. About a decade ago, nutrition experts began to wonder whether we were doing something drastically wrong. When low-carbohydrate diets like the Atkins Diet came along, cardiologists recoiled at the notion of so much fat. The Atkins Diet actually has 68% of total calories from fat, which in the past would have been considered a sure road to a heart attack. What these cardiologists didn't take into account was that these low-carbohydrate diets actually led to overall decreases in caloric intake. With the resulting weight loss, cardiac risk factors often improve. (Locked) More »