There have been various studies looking at different dieting methods in recent decades. One of the most important ones simply determined that all diets work equally well in the long-term when people stick to them. For example, low carb / high protein diets tend to work well in the short-term by causing quick weight loss, but after one year they fare no better than a calorie controlled high fiber diet.
The latest craze (well, not quite a craze) is the Dukan Diet, the French diet system developed by Dr. Dukan. However, it really is not massively different from the Atkins Diet. And both of these diets place more emphasis on eating low GI carbohydrates, lean proteins and maintaining a healthy balance and getting regular exercise, which is pretty much what the more recent “Caveman” / “natural” diets try to achieve.
What most people believe, and some studies have shown this, is that what is more important than the diet itself is the motivation and willpower of the person trying to lose weight. Weight loss clubs such as Weight Watchers have a good track record because they dieters receive a lot of support and encouragement from their peers. Studies into fitness have also shown that when women exercise with friends they tend to get fitter faster and lose more weight.
However, this latest report is about to throw all of this up in the air. It has just been reported in The Independent newspaper that US News tested 20 different diets and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) which is designed to manage high blood pressure and also diabetes, has a very good long-term track record. So, what is the DASH diet?
The DASH Diet
The DASH diet is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and encourages lean meats, fish and dairy. Cutting out sugar is a major factor, as is a reduction of fatty meats such as red meat and processed foods and junk food. In essence, the DASH diet is a low GI diet plan and almost identical to a “caveman diet”.
A close second to the DASH diet is the Mediterranean Diet which is also very similar in its encouragement to consume fresh fruits and vegetables and limit refined foods.
Basic DASH Rules
- Whole Grains: Eat plenty of cereals, breads and pasta. Aim for 6 to 8 servings a day.
- Fruit: Make fruit (fresh or frozen) a part of your diet every day. Aim for 4 to 5 servings a day.
- Low-Fat Milk or Yogurt: 2 to 3 servings a day
- Sugar: You can have 3 to 4 servings of sugary foods each week.
- Alcohol: One or two drinks a week, wine is better than beer.
This is very much a low fat diet really, and proof that there is a lot more to healthy eating and weight loss than “no carbs!”.
Why do some diets perform better?
The answer to this is really simple. Some diets perform better in the long-term because they are simply more enjoyable for the dieter. Following a DASH or Mediterranean diet is not only healthy, but you still get to eat a variety of tasty food.
You are never starving yourself, you are getting all the nutrients that your body needs. If you exercise then it actually aids your fitness by supplying your body with high quality fuel.
Remember that if you are overweight it is the result of a long period of unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. It takes time to reverse the situation and then you have to maintain the healthy eating permanently to ensure that you do not put on weight again.
A diet should never be a short-term solution to a weight problem. It should always be a lifestyle change. Teach yourself to eat and enjoy a variety of food which is healthy and helps you to develop, grow and also manage your appetite.