Dr. Richa Mittal
I get asked this question often. The answer is not quite so simple. There is evidence out there now that the traditional low fat, low calorie diet is not the only way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. People nowadays are commonly pursuing a myriad of diets: Paleo, Plant based (Vegan or Vegetarian), Low Carbohydrate, Ketogenic, Atkins, Mediterranean, South Beach, intermittent fasting and many more. So, which one is the best for you?
The answer lies in what works for you personally. In order to be successful, a diet needs to be a lifestyle change not just for you, but for your whole family. You need to take into account your likes and dislikes, ethical concerns, ability to buy the right foods, prepare and cook meals.
Studies show that people who have metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) benefit more from a low carbohydrate diet. They may lose weight on several kinds of diets, but tend to have more weight loss and better improvement in their good cholesterol (HDL) and have a better decrease in triglycerides. Other benefits with weight loss are a decrease in blood pressure, bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering of blood sugar.
Regardless of which kind of lifestyle you plan to follow, you need to decrease the amount of processed food you are consuming and increase the amount of "real foods".
A good place to start is to look at how the recommendations from the USDA have changed. The food pyramid we grew up with has been improved and changed to MyPlate, which emphasizes 1/2 your plate be fruits and vegetables and the rest with protein, grains and dairy.
Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School have made further recommendations called the Healthy Eating Plate, based on the best science available. These recommendations include choosing whole grains instead of refined (ex. white bread, white rice) and choosing protein sources that are plant based (ex. nuts, beans, legumes) or fish and poultry and to minimize red meat. Red meat and processed meat have been found to increase risk for weight gain, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and heart disease. They also encourage eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and minimize starchy ones like potatoes.
For a more detailed look at the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, go to https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/
In the next few posts, I will go into more detail on the more common diets mentioned above including low carb, "keto" and will discuss the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. I will also include practical tips on how you can follow these lifestyles in order to optimize your health and that of your families.
Until then, be well!
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.