The Best Diet for Weight Loss

dash diet

source: the examiner

For the third year in a row, the overall best diet for weight loss is: The DASH diet.

According to U.S. News & World Report, “a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe and effective for weight loss and against diabetes and heart disease.” DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and was developed by the National Institutes of Health to help folks manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Overall
Weight Loss Short-term
Weight Loss Long-term
Easy to Follow
Nutrition
Safety
For Diabetes
For Heart Health

While I believe in moderation and eating REAL food, there are a handful of things I don’t completely agree with when looking at the DASH diet. First of all, if you scroll through the short version of the diet explanation (6-pages, not the full length of 64), you’ll see that it is from 2006. We’ve made quite a few strides in the world of nutrition and I don’t think these are reflected in the PDF of guidelines. For example…

Fats
Fats get such a bad rap but really, they’re not the bad guy and we need them. Choosing low-fat, low-calorie products isn’t doing us any good especially since many of us think “It’s low-fat. Now I can eat more of them.” Plus, the crap they use to replace the fat in food isn’t even food. Next time you’re in the store read the label of fat free dressing. I give you the green light to enjoy REAL butter, full fat dairy products, and other heart healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil. Keep moderation in mind, though. Don’t think you should go chug a glass of coconut oil at breakfast because I say it’s good to use.

Cholesterol
The DASH diet suggests limiting yourself to no more than 4 egg yolks per week. There is growing evidence that dietary cholesterol does not significantly affect our blood cholesterol. It sounds backwards, but the real criminal is trans fat. Period. Trans fat raises our bad cholesterol and lowers our good cholesterol. It shows up in a lot of processed food and is made by pumping hydrogen molecules into a liquid substance to make it solid at room temperature. Have you ever wondered why your Nabisco Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, pie crusts, chips, stick margarine, pastries, and commercial donuts have an expiration date of 2030? Trans fat. Go ahead and eat eggs everyday, yolk and all.

What I do agree with
The DASH diet does a great job of promoting a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, watching your sodium intake, and avoiding sugary drinks (I would add diet drinks to that list as well since evidence is showing that diet pop has it’s own array of negative consequences). The DASH diet doesn’t restrict food groups but emphasizes moderation and encourages physical activity. It all comes down to eating REAL food and doing it mindfully.

Other big stars in the diet world
Diets that also made the top ten list include:
2. The TLC diet (not tender loving care…it stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes)
3. Mayo Clinic Diet
3. Mediterranean Diet
3. Weight Watchers
6. Flexitarian Diet
6. Volumetrics
8. Jenny Craig
9. Biggest Loser Diet
9. Ornish Diet

As you can see, many of the diets tied. If you want to view the rest of the list, check it out here. Keep in mind these diets were not rated solely on nutrition but also the ease of following, safety, etc.

Have you tried any of these diets before? How was your experience?

Misleading health claims on food

It’s very rare that you will walk through the grocery aisle without seeing a nutrition claim on the label. This is especially seen with cereals, snacks, and beverages. Although there are criteria a food has to meet in order to use the health claim, it’s not much more specific than if you asked for my address and I simply told you “Michigan.” Yes, it’s true, but it doesn’t really help you get to my home. Here are a few popular misleading health claims on food that you’re likely to see at your next trip to the grocery store.

“Made with Whole Grains”
I’ll start with my favorite claim. Simply because Pop Tarts recently upgraded their product to take on this claim. The FDA wants a product that claims it contains whole grains to actually have whole grains in it. Fair enough, but they don’t specify a percentage. This means that if you look at the ingredient list for your “wheat” bread you’ll find whole wheat flour but it’s quickly followed by “unbleached wheat flour” which is the same as white flour as well as 5 different types of sugar: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, and sugar. You won’t even see strawberries (remember, these are strawberry Pop Tarts) until the bottom of the list when it says “contains two percent or less of…”

“Fortified with Omega-3s”
This claim usually means that there are ingredients like flaxseed or canola oil in the food. While they do contain omega-3s, they are a type of omega-3 that isn’t absorbed as readily as the omega-3s in the oil from fish (DHA and EPA). Also, packaged products often use oils like canola or soybean oil because they are super cheap but the downside is that they are highly processed and all the goodness about them is essentially canceled out.  If you want omega-3s, you’re better off eating oily fish like salmon or taking a supplement.

“With Added Fiber”
You can get all the fiber you need from fruits and vegetables. If you see this claim on a packaged product you’re likely to find a bunch of added sugar.

“Made with Real Fruit”
You’ll see this claim on just about every item that is fruit flavored. Scroll back up and surprise! There’s real fruit in PopTarts (less than 2% of the entire Pop Tart is made of real strawberries) Blueberry waffles, “real” fruit snacks, and yogurts may have real fruit in it, but it’s such a small amount and it often comes mixed with ingredients like extra sugar and oil. Don’t let this be the main source of fruit in your diet.

“Immunity-Boost”
I should mention this one since friends and family have recently been coming down with a cold. Chugging orange juice or any of the juices above probably won’t cure your cold. They shout healing words like “boost” or “antioxidants” or “natural energy” but there isn’t sufficient research to be able to claim that Vitamins A or E used in supplement form can prevent a cold. Vitamin C can strengthen your immune system and prevent a cold, but it hasn’t been shown to decrease the severity or duration of a present cold. Since almost all of our immune system is in the gut, consume a well-rounded diet with foods like garlic, yogurt, oats, tea, red/orange vegetables, lean beef, and fish.

What other health claims have you seen on labels?

Regular vs. Reduced…What’s Healthier?

As much as I wish I could take you on a grocery store tour, I’ll have to offer the next best option: My top 4 food picks that tend to confuse us when trying to make the healthier choice.

Regular peanut butter or reduced-fat
My pick: Regular

If the fat content goes down 4 grams by making the switch, I should be saving 40 calories per serving! So why is the reduced fat only 10 calories less per serving than the regular? Added sugar. Regular PB contains 7 grams sugar per serving while the reduced-fat version contains 15 grams. Why sacrifice heart healthy fats (and in my opinion, flavor) for extra calories from sugar?

Multi-grain or 100% whole wheat
My pick: 100% whole wheat/grain

Packing in 12 or 15 grains sounds pretty impressive, so it’s easy to think multi-grain is healthier. However, only the products that say “100-percent whole-grain” on the label are made with flour from the entire grain kernel. Multi-grains may have less fiber and lack important nutrients like Zinc and vitamin E because it contains enriched wheat flour instead of whole.

Reduced-fat potato chips or baked
My pick: Baked potato chips

I’ll let the facts do the talking:
Baked: 130 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber
Reduced fat: 140 calories, 7 grams of fat (1 gram saturated), and 1 gram of fiber.
Keep in mind that one ounce is only about 11 chips. That one ounce can quickly turn in to four or five if you’re mindlessly snacking out of a big bag. This is when portion control plays a key factor in calories consumed.

Frozen yogurt vs. Light ice cream
My pick: Light ice cream

The word yogurt tends to make everything sound healthier. BUT- when frozen, a lot of sugar is added. A half-cup serving of frozen yogurt can contain up to 200 calories, 5 grams of fat, and over 4 teaspoons of sugar. While light ice cream may contain the same amount of fat, it only contains 120 calories and less sugar than frozen yogurt.

What other “healthier” food options do you get stumped on?