High-protein to raw and everything in between—it can be difficult to decipher which diets can really do wonders for your waistline. Not every diet is for everyone, so we broke down the pros and cons to some of the most popular below.
Low Carb, High Protein – Proteins and Whole Grains
Based on the premise that simple carbohydrates (sugar, white breads and pasta) offer useless calories, the low-carb highprotein diet caught on quickly. With this diet, the body is fueled by protein (30 to 50 percent of your daily caloric intake is from chicken, fish, turkey and meat) combined with limited amounts of wheat grains, so weight loss tends to occur rather quickly.
The Upside: “High-protein diets make you feel fuller longer, so you lose weight easier. Proteins are harder for the body to break down and they stay in the body longer, preventing cravings,” says New York nutritionist Oz Garcia.
The Downside: Just because you may be able to lose weight quickly, doesnʼt necessarily mean that your skin or body is going to benefit. “Cutting out carbs for long periods of time is horrible for your body—it can lead to osteoporosis, kidney stones and high cholesterol,” says Garcia.
The Raw Diet – Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
More of a lifestyle than a traditional diet, the raw food diet encompasses eating only raw, unprocessed and uncooked foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains and breads. Eating raw doesn’t eliminate meat and fish but rather incorporates them when cooked at a certain temperature (most meats are dehydrated). “This preserves the nutrients, flavor and integrity of that food,” says Garcia.
The Upside: “Many people feel that they are detoxing and cleansing the body by eating raw,” says Garcia.
The Downside: “Short-term, the raw diet may make you feel good but long-term, it could be debilitating to the body,” adds Garcia.
The Zone Diet – Proper Food Rations
Designed by former research scientist Dr. Barry Sears, the ever-popular Zone Diet incorporates components of healthy eating to control hormones like insulin (excess insulin contributes to weight gain), glucagon (tells the body to release stored carbohydrates) and eicosanoids (contribute to inflammation), to keep hunger controlled and energy levels high.
The Upside: Even though the diet is low in calories, it still provides proper nutrition. At every meal, a low-fat protein, low-glycemic carbohydrate (like a fruit or vegetable) and healthy monounsaturated fat is to be eaten—one-third of your plate should be filled with lean protein (no bigger than the palm of your hand); the remaining two-thirds should be comprised of fruits and/or vegetables. Top off each meal with a healthy fat like olive oil, avocado or almonds.
The Downside: Eating the proper portions for every meal and snack can be difficult. And the low-carb intake can decrease energy levels.
The Mediterranean Diet – Healthy Fats and Proteins
Borrowing from eating habits practiced by those in countries like Italy, Greece and France, the Mediterranean diet consists of eating fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like olive oil and olives. In the typical Mediterranean diet, olive oil accounts for one-third of your daily energy intake. “Cereals, vegetables and fruits are also commonly eaten. And to a lesser degree, cheese, milk, eggs, fish and a little red wine,” says Garcia.
The Upside: The foods found in this diet are easy to find, which makes this diet easy to follow—especially when dining out.
The Downside: Although the Mediterranean diet permits cheese and wine, you must keep servings to a minimum, otherwise you run the risk of gaining weight.
The Vegan Diet – Meat- and Dairy-Free Diet
Stricter than vegetarianism, vegans do not consume meat, fish, poultry or any animal by-products like eggs, dairy and even honey. The diet consists mostly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and beans, which provide antioxidant benefits.
The Upside: The skin “breathes” because there are no heavy foods to digest. “You’re not eating meat, dairy, cheese and eggs, which require a lot of work from the body to properly digest,” says New York City aesthetician Claudio Pinto.
The Downside: The diet can be low in calcium, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B12 and D, which is why many nutritionists recommend that supplements be taken. Garcia doesn’t recommend this diet since it restricts all forms of animal protein. “We are omnivores by nature and our bodies need animal proteins to run optimally.”