Inside Scoop: Want to know what the best diet for weight loss is? Check out our pros and cons list of the top ranked diets out there.
What’s the BEST diet out there for weight loss? Do you know? Because we’re nutrition experts and we certainly can’t put our finger on the BEST diet for weight loss. Is there even such a thing?
To be frank, there isn’t one singular best diet out there for weight loss or better nutrition. There sure are plenty of diet options, but that’s just it, there’s a new trendy diet popping up out there every week or so. From ketogenic diet to intermittent fasting to cleanses and detoxes, it sure is hard to know or find that ONE diet that’s right for you.
Here’s the one thing that specific diets fail to consider, we’re all different and all of us have a different set of dietary needs. Heart disease research points to a plant-based diet, low in saturated fats, whereas obesity and diabetes management considers a very low carb approach, like the ketogenic diet. But, if you don’t have any specific medical conditions, and are looking for overall general health and well-being, or want to lose a bit of weight, is there really that one diet that’s going to change EVERYTHING for you?
For us, a diet that places emphasis on whole foods, minimally processed foods, is well-rounded, finds a balance between healthy and fun, and is intuitive is what we’re all for. However, we also understand that sometimes you need to experiment or do your due diligence to make the right decision.
So, we thought we’d take some of the legwork for you, and give you some insight into the pros and cons of the top 5 rated diets for weight loss management and nutrition.
It used to be Atkins, then Paleo and now it’s Keto- this is hands down the biggest diet trend to date. Of course, it’s because it’s pretty darn effective for rapid weight loss. The only issue, completely taking carbs out of the diet (including fruits, legumes and whole grains) means taking out an essential macronutrient. Your body needs carbs to thrive and survive, and carbs are your brain and body’s first source of fuel. The question always remains with a very low-carb diet: is it sustainable?
Typically, the first weight you lose on a low carb diet is glycogen stores from the muscles and liver along with the accompanying water weight. That’s why you lose a lot of weight in the first 7-10 days. Now, if you have the energy to continue, your body will start to burn fat stores (and even muscle mass) for energy in place of the carbohydrates- causing weight loss but at the risk of low carb increasing stress hormones and decreasing muscle-building hormones especially in a subset of women. Because of our need for carbs, a low carb diet can make you feel lousy, sluggish, cranky or even sick, and not to mention the cravings. When your low carb diet is over and the strict rules wear off, you may find yourself reaching for unhealthy processed and refined carbs such as white bread, sugar, pastries, and baked goods instead of the healthy slow release carbs (fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils) in your diet. This can result in ultimately more weight gained than lost.
- Carbs are essential for your body to survive. If the low carb diet focuses on the quality of carbs and decreasing or eliminating refined carbs, then it can be helpful in achieving a healthier lifestyle.
- There is a difference between slow release carbs and quick release carbs: you want slow release to balance blood sugars and promote weight loss. If the diet is focuses on this, then it can be helpful.
- Very low carb diets could be beneficial for some people and help improve cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and fasting glucose. They’re also being studied for brain and mental health disorders.
- Lack of carbs causes extreme carb cravings, resulting in an overconsumption, which can result in weight gain.
- Excess carbs in the body get stored as glycogen in the muscles, alongside water. Each gram of carb stored, stores an additional 3 grams of water with it. When you lose weight due to carb cutting, that initial weight loss is mostly water weight that is easily gained back once the diet is stopped.
- Very low carb diets, especially ones that aim to cut out beans, lentils, chickpeas, whole grains and some fruits and veggies really limit one’s fiber intake. We need fiber for healthy bowels, regularity and happy gut bacteria.
- Very low carb diets may have negative effects for some women, like irregular menstrual cycle, increased cortisol and decreased thyroid function.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
If you are considering a low-carb diet, try eliminating the 3 W’s first: white flour, white sugar and white rice, and start incorporating more veggies, whole grains and fiber into your diet. The elimination of the 3 W’s will help with your cravings, weight loss, bloating and your overall health. Other low-carb diets such as the keto should be monitored by a medical professional. If you are considering a very low-carb diet for health reasons, speak to your doctor.
Fat is used for brain health, energy, metabolism, nervous system, maintaining healthy skin/ hair/ nails/ bones, forming hormones and other biological processes that contribute to your health.
One thing that some low-fat diets forget to mention is the difference between bad fats and good fats. A low ‘bad’ fat diet… okay, we can get behind that, and that is something we preach, but you need to keep the good fats as part of your diet so your body can function optimally.
Because the calories in 1 gram of fat are higher than the calories in 1 gram of carbs or protein, there’s a myth that full fat = high calories so we need to aim for low to no fat foods to lose weight. This misconception has caused an increase in the consumption of simple sugars (because sugar is low calorie) and refined and processed foods. But, the overconsumption of sugar calories turn into fat, thus making this diet ineffective and potentially harmful to health.
- If the diet focuses on cutting out hydrogenated and highly processed oils and deli meats as well as reducing saturated fat from animal sources and increasing nuts/seeds and other healthy sources of fats, it can be helpful in reducing cholesterol and be a beneficial diet for heart disease.
- The low-fat industry has created a perception that fat = calories = weight gain. Fats are good for your hormones and metabolism. They help burn energy, thus helping lose weight, naturally. If you drastically cut them out, you may actually gain weight.
- Cutting back on fats usually means increasing sugar consumption. Excess sugar can cause weight gain, increase triglycerides, bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol as well as the risk of diabetes.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Just don’t fear fat! Have a diet that is high in healthy fats such as; fish, plant oils such as olive, coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds. If you don’t have a dairy allergy or are vegan, full-fat Greek yogurt, grass fed butter/ ghee, and goat cheese contain healthy fats as well.
LOW-FAT OR LOW-CARB FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
We couldn’t leave this out considering that one of the biggest studies on low-fat versus low-carb diets just came out.
The verdict? Taking into account individual genetic differences, fasting glucose, insulin levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and metabolic rate- the study concluded that it doesn’t matter as long as you are eating more whole foods, fruits, vegetables, minimizing added sugar, white/refined carbs, trans fats, fried foods etc.
You know it. You may have even dabbled in the gluten-free diet trend. You may have felt better, less bloated, and lighter, so of course, the gluten-free diet worked, right?
Maybe there’s more to it than just going gluten-free and losing weight. When many people go gluten-free they eliminate a big chunk of highly refined and processed foods such as white bread, muffins, pastries, cakes etc.
So, the question remains are they feeling better because of the gluten-free diet or because they are eating healthier foods overall?
- A gluten-free diet is a must for about 1% of the population that has celiac disease.
- Some people have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, so going gluten-free can instantly make them feel better.
- There is a lack of nutrition education, and some gluten-free products are just as processed and unhealthy as their gluten counterparts.
- The gluten-free diet doesn’t usually differentiate between whole vs. processed grains or the fact that some people have a wheat sensitivity/allergy and are totally ok with other gluten containing grains such as spelt, rye and kamut.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
If you notice that eating gluten causes cramps, fatigue, bloating, digestive issues such as constipation/ diarrhea, then going gluten-free could be for you! But if you don’t, try our carbohydrate suggestions; whole grains and vegetables. There are great breads out there that contain sprouted or fermented grains, which are much easier on digestion.
VEGAN/ PLANT BASED
Going vegan is a hot topic and is incredibly subjective. Some people do it for humane issues, whereas others do it for health issues, and both reasons behind a vegan diet are great reasons to test it and see if it works for you. And, this is one diet we can definitely get behind, but it doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone.
If you test out a vegan, plant-based diet and feel amazing, then try sticking to it. But if you notice you’re lethargic, have more skin issues, are pallor or all-in-all not well, that’s your body trying to tell you something.
- Historically a plant-based, vegetarian diets can be found amongst some of the healthiest people on the planet and they’re one of the top recommended diets for heart health.
- Generally, a better way of eating that incorporates whole foods, plenty of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
- Limits specific nutrients that your body needs, such as B12 and Iron. Must be done properly (and potentially with supplements) or else you can become deficient in these nutrients.
- If it’s not properly balanced, it can become very carb/sugar heavy and there are many highly refined vegan products out there too, so make sure to read the labels.
- Many of the alternative meat options are made from soy or wheat gluten with additives to taste like meat and they’re extremely processed so knowing what to choose becomes important.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
If you are considering it, test it out, but if you are doing it properly and still experience adverse symptoms, be mindful and consider adding some eggs, fish or meat back into your diet. Or, maybe a vegetarian diet will suit you better. It’s important to listen to your body. If you feel fatigue, run down etc. then your body is telling you that it might not be for you.
You can simply incorporate more plant-based meals, buy organic or grass-fed meat, limit overall meat consumption and make sure you aim for a whole food based diet no matter what you choose. Also, consider working with a qualified Holistic Nutritionist or Registered Dietitian to help ensure that you are getting all the nutrients your body need.
There’s a wide spectrum of cleanses/detoxes on the market right now. You’ve heard of the master cleanse, juice cleanses, liver detoxes, soup cleanses, and the list goes on. Sometimes adding cleansing systems into your diet can assist in your natural detoxification pathways (adding special foods, herbs and teas can be beneficial) but only juicing for 2 weeks, or having a strict liquid diet isn’t going to necessarily make you healthier or make it easier for your organs to detox.
- Doing a mild food-based cleanse can be beneficial in terms of eating the right foods for a certain period of time which can boost your energy and kick start your body and mind into a more whole food based diet.
- Incorporating certain detoxifying herbs, teas, and whole foods into your diet can be beneficial for your detox organs, and definitely are beneficial additions on top of healthy, whole foods.
- Juicing liver loving pure vegetables that are low on the glycemic index can be beneficial for adding in the extra nutrients that support your detox pathways.
- When you juice, you are stripping fruits and vegetables of fiber and making their sugars more quickly absorbed into your system. This may cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar.
- Juice cleanses or very strict detoxes are low in protein, which is the building block for your tissues and enzymes. We need adequate protein to build all the material to be able to eliminate toxins in the first place, so consuming a diet that only consists of fruit/ veggies is counter-intuitive to what your body really needs in order to detox properly.
- The weight loss achieved through juice cleanses is quick and typically only temporary unless a healthy lifestyle is maintained.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
A diet that is very low in refined sugars, high in fruits and vegetables (especially colour rich ones), low in animal products, high in adequate protein and fiber is going to be the best way to properly support your detoxification pathways. If you are looking for something to support healthy bowels and elimination as well as reduce bloating, we would recommend this brand of probiotics, and there are some lovely teas that you can add into your diet (on top of all of the above) to assist.
FASTING DIET (AKA INTERMITTENT FASTING)
Along with the ketogenic diet, IF (intermittent fasting) is becoming one of the trendiest diets. This is the one diet that has significant scientific support behind the claims that it can be used for neurological support, as well as longevity.
The basics around IF are that you give your body a break in between meals. These ‘breaks’ are ways to create eating patterns that cycle between eating and fasting. IM is less about ‘dieting’ and more about creating healthy eating patterns, which is something a lot of us need help with.
Fasting is also something that humans have been doing as long as we have existed. From hunters and gatherers, to religion, to being ill or run down and having no desire to eat. Taking a break in between meals is nothing new to our species, and has been reported to help control blood sugar levels, appetite, and help improve various risk factors and health markers.
Some of the most popular types of intermittent fasting are as follows:
- 12/ 12 Method: For beginners, you typically fast or have a 12-hour window from dinner to breakfast. In reality, most of us should be doing this to allow our body to rest and repair at night.
- 16/ 8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day and eat for 8-hours during the day typically by skipping breakfast or dinner.
- Eat- Stop- Eat: 1-2x a week take a full 24 hours off eating.
- The 5:2 Diet: During 2 days of the week eat only 500-600 kcal and eat normally for the remaining days.
Not that we play favourites, but if there were to be any one diet to pick, IF has the most scientific research to support its claims and history has a stake in the game as well. For most of us the 12/ 12 or 16/ 8 method may work best and is the easiest one to incorporate into your lifestyle.
But, with any one specific way to lose weight, or diet, there are always downsides.
- There is scientifically backed evidence to support the health effects of IF.
- Fasting helps train your body and mind to become more structured when it comes to eating, and can cause more of an appreciation for the food on your plate.
- Fasting can help to manage blood sugars and cravings and help in weight loss.
- Our body naturally fasts and the complex biological processes are there to support this way of eating to rest and rejuvenate. The fasting period allows for cell repair, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Strict and rigorous ways of eating can often keep you stuck in that ‘diet mindset’ and there is still no program to support the removal of guilt from associated foods or ways of eating.
- It’s not easy to take this long of a break between food, and if your diet outside of the ‘fast’ still is heavy in processed foods and sugar, then when you come off the fast you might find yourself starving and your poor food choices may actually do more harm than good.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Fasting for the right reasons can be a great thing. We would suggest getting your diet on track with healthy whole foods first, and then test out a fast, so when you come off the fast you know the exact kind of foods to reach for when you feel hungry.
The 12/ 12 and 16/ 8 methods seem to be the easiest method to start off with, and can be done at night when you are sleeping. If you are considering IF for overall health, well-being, weight loss or to train your body to take the needed breaks, then the 12/ 12 or 16/ 8 methods are a great place to start. When you’re choosing a method, also keep in mind your activity level. If you’re an athlete or someone that trains several hours a day, you may not be able to do full day fasts and will need to adjust the IF method to work for you.
So, there you have, the top 5 best diets for weight loss, their pros, cons and the way we approach nutrition. Ultimately, we think of the best diet as the one you can stick to, the one that motivates you and makes you thrive.
Have you tried any of these diets? Comment below we would love to hear your thoughts.