How Do Popular Diets Stack Up?

How Do Popular Diets Stack Up

There are literally hundreds of different diets out there and they all claim to improve your health. It could be weight loss, decreased risk factors for chronic disease or an anti-aging diet to make you live longer and better, wrinkle-free.

Comparison of Popular Diets

1. Atkins Diet

Coined from the same name as the noted cardiologist, Robert Atkins, this diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that can certainly be helpful to some people. This is considered a “ketogenic” diet because it forces the body to burn stored body fat as a fuel source instead of blood sugar.

Ketones are formed from the oxidation of fatty acids. This can only be accomplished if you lower your carbohydrate intake to no more than 20 grams per day. The only carbohydrates you can have are from vegetables. The rest of your diet comes from protein and fat with no more that 20% of your calories derived from saturated fat.

Additional fiber-rich foods from vegetables can be added over time. People who are carbohydrate-intolerant can do well on this program short-term. Low-carbohydrate diets can be difficult to sustain and the over-reliance on animal fats can cause obvious problems.

I give this diet a C+.

2. Zone Diet

This is a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fat. This specific diet is designed to control blood sugar and high insulin levels. It encourages the consumption of low-glycemic carbohydrates (fruit, whole grains, legumes and vegetables), omega 9 fats from nuts, olive oil, avocado, and omega 3 from fish.

The diet does not allow for refined carbohydrates, sugar and fruit juices. The meals are four to five hours apart but you can have a snack in between if you are hungry. Personally, I like this diet because there are no calorie counts. Not only this, but it is balanced from a nutritional standpoint.

I give this diet a B.

3. Vegan Diet

Vegans consume only foods from the plant kingdom. Although most are lacto-ovo (meaning that they can still eat diary, eggs and honey), sometimes this type of vegetarian chooses to eat fish.

The diet can be beneficial for risk reduction and weight loss, too. Yes, this diet is lower in calories but also high in fiber and nutrients. It is also considered to be lower in trans fat and animal fat.

You do have to be careful though because the protein sources need to be combined to get the most complete protein, especially if you aren’t going to be eating soy very much. Also, key nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc can be lower in vegans if they don’t take supplements.

Generally the diet can be a little high in carbs and sugar, too. Although flaxseed is an important source of omega 3 fats, fish are by far the best source. I am also concerned regarding the intake of omega 6 fat verses omega 3 fat in the vegan diet. If you pay attention to detail, this can be a good diet for most people. However, this diet takes discipline, which is why people often can’t sustain it.

I give this diet a B-.

4. South Beach Diet

This is a diet that focuses primarily on food quality that incorporates the right types of carbohydrates, like whole grains and veggies, but it also allows lean proteins like fish, poultry, lean meats, seafood, low-fat cheese, nuts and seeds.

The diet consists of three meals and several snacks. Phase one can be utilized when weight loss is needed, limiting carbohydrates. Later in the second phase, carbohydrates like whole grain products and fruits can be added. Phase three is a maintenance phase to keep your weight in check. This diet is good for those who want to lose weight or reduce the risk for chronic diseases. It is sustainable and flexible.

I give this diet a B+.

5. Mediterranean Diet

There is a lot of recent research that shows how great this diet is. I would have to place this at the top of my list simply because it can really benefit absolutely anyone. If you want to live longer and free of disease, this is the diet that can potentially do that for you. It incorporates the right types of carbohydrates with high-quality proteins like fish, fowl, Greek yogurt, seafood and good fats from nuts, seeds, avocado and extra virgin olive oil.

When you also combine these staples with red wine and condiments like hummus, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, you have a cuisine that tastes great and has a second-to-none nutritional profile.

This diet tops every other one in almost every health category including its effects on longevity. The best part is that this diet is sustainable and makes for a great way of life. And there is no counting calories, which is one thing I really like about it. You have the ability to enjoy good food that is really healthy and well-balanced.

I give this diet an A+.

It is ultimately up to you which diet you choose that works best for you. But sometimes a little bit of help and a well-informed look at the facts can make your decision just a little bit easier.


“What are the eight most popular diets today?” Medical News Today, November 2013; retrieved from