5 Of the Most Popular Diets

5 Of the Most Popular Diets

Hello and Welcome,


This is a long post covering the following Diets for you to study and compare with your Doctor’s advice as to which might be suitable for you.

1.      Mayo Clinic Diet

2.      Atkins Diet

3.      Mediterranean Diet

4.      South Beach Diet

5.      Zone Diet.


  1.    The Real Mayo Clinic Diet


For over thirty years, the Mayo Clinic has been combating the rumour that they recommend a version of a quick weight loss diet that touts the consumption of grapefruit, vegetables, fruits and unlimited portions of meat and fat. The clinic has repeatedly issued statements that the so-called 'Mayo Clinic Diet' did not originate at the Mayo Clinic and is not endorsed by them. In fact, they have gone so far as to state that it may be unhealthy for some people. 

A visit to the Mayo Clinic web site will take you to the REAL Mayo Clinic diet, and their recommendations and guidance for weight loss that is healthy and permanent. 




Weight loss results from expending more calories than you consume. The only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you use in your daily activities. The only way to achieve permanent weight loss is by adopting a balanced, healthy diet with portions that fit your lifestyle, and engage in regular physical activity. 

The healthiest, most beneficial diet for you is one that takes your individuality into account. There is no 'one perfect eating plan' - not even one that will work for you 'for the rest of your life'. Your body needs different things at different stages. Illnesses and allergies, high stress periods - all result in changing nutritional needs for your body.


Basic Recommendations:


The Seven Basic Rules


1. Eat more fruit and vegetables.

2. Reduce intake of saturated fats and cholesterol

3. Cut back on sweets and salt

4. Drink alcohol in moderation, if you must drink at all

5. Learn to eat moderate portions of food

6. Control the number of calories you consume

7. Include physical activity in your daily activities


Specifics by Food Group



Carbs are the body's main energy source. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes and dried beans and grains are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, where heart disease, diabetes and obesity are extremely low.


45 to 65% of your daily calories should be from carbohydrates. Focus on the complex carbohydrates, milk and fruit, and keep your intake of sugar, white flour and candy low.



Your body uses cholesterol to build and help cells function properly. Typically, our bodies make all the cholesterol needed, and additional cholesterol is deposited on the sides of arteries and organs. Cholesterol is found in meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and seafood.


Limit intake of cholesterol to no more than 300 milligrams daily



One of the most concentrated sources of energy—fat—has more calories than protein or carbohydrates. Your body needs it to absorb some vitamins and build healthy cells and neural pathways. The kind of fat is important, though. Trans and saturated fats (from red meats, among other things), can raise your cholesterol level and heighten your risk of heart attacks.


Aim for 20 to 35% of daily calories from fat. Focus on vegetable oils, nuts and fish oils rather than most animal sources.



Fibre is the bulky part of vegetables. There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble. Your body needs both. Fibre is derived from bran, oats, wheat, green vegetables, apples and other fruits.


For women: 21 - 25 grams fiber daily

For men: 30 - 38 grams fiber daily


As you can see, the real Mayo Clinic diet emphasizes a balanced diet derived largely from complex carbohydrates, fresh vegetables, little meat, and careful choice of fat. They advocate slow, steady weight loss rather than quick, take-it-off-now methods, and strongly suggest that the best eating plans are those that can become the basis for a lifelong change in eating habits. Along with those general recommendations, the clinic's Nutrition Center makes specific recommendations for each food group. Specifically:



Protein is an essential nutrient for nearly every system in the body. It's contained in your skin, bones, muscles, blood, organs, hormones and enzymes. The major sources of dietary protein are meat, seafood, poultry, legumes, seeds and nuts.


Between 10 and 35% of your daily caloric intake should be from protein-rich sources.


An Interesting Exercise

One of the contentions of the Mayo Clinic is that one-size fits all diets won't work for everyone. One of the most helpful parts of their Nutrition Center is their Daily Calorie Calculator. A link on the home page will take you to a Healthy Diet Calculator that will help you calculate a personalized eating plan to help you lose weight.


Here’s an example of what your personalized plan could look like:

Subject: Female, 225 lbs, 5 ft 6"


Daily calorie goal for weight loss: 1200 calories

Sweets and extras: up to 75 calories daily

Fats: 3 servings

Protein/Dairy: 3 servings

Carbohydrates: 4 servings

Fruits: 3 or more servings

Vegetables: 4 or more servings


Further links offer a sample menu at that calorie level, and specific recommendations that will help you lose weight. Those tips include: 

Increase the ratio of fruits and vegetables in meals

Experiment with new foods and combinations.

Start with a soup or salad.

Learn healthy cooking techniques.

Consider energy density of food.


Energy density?


The Mayo Clinic defines energy density as the number of calories in food vs. the amount of food. A sugary dessert may have extremely high energy density – in other words, a small serving provides a lot of calories. Consequently, it takes far more of that food to make your body feel full. Foods like broccoli have a much less energy density - 15 calories in a regular portion. You eat far less of it and feel full more quickly. 

The basic recommendations made by the Mayo Clinic aren't ground-breaking. They advocate sensible eating, low calories and increasing your physical activity. The suggestion to aim for 1-2 pounds lost per week is echoed by nearly every other medically noteworthy institute in the country. It's a real diet - the real Mayo Clinic Diet.


2.    What Is The Atkins Diet?


The Atkins weight loss diet is based on one simple principle: Your body burns both carbohydrates and fat for calories. If you reduce the amounts of carbohydrates available, it will burn more fat and you will lose weight. 

According to Atkins, calories are unimportant. The key to losing weight is to restrict the carbohydrates that you eat and force the body to turn to its stored fat as an energy source. As proof of this, proponents of the Atkins Diet point to the following facts derived from research: 

* When the body doesn't have enough carbohydrate, it will use ketenes derived from fat as energy.

* You can eat more food and lose more weight on a low carbohydrate diet than you can on a low fat diet.

* You crave less food when you eat fewer carbohydrates.

* By eating fewer carbohydrates, people tend to eat fewer calories without counting them.

* The greater the difference between fat and carbohydrate, the greater the weight loss. 

In short, if you restrict your intake of carbohydrates, you will most likely also restrict your intake of calories. By lowering your carbohydrate intake, you will encourage your body to turn to fat for energy. 

The Atkins diet has provoked storms of controversy since it was first published. The recommendation to eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate flew in the face of all the dietary recommendations by established medical institutions. The diet was denounced as unsafe, particularly if used as a life-long weight maintenance plan. Over the past five to ten years, there have been numerous studies that come down on both sides of the equation, and Atkins last version of the diet included the admission that calories do matter, and the advice to 'eat only enough to satisfy hunger'.


A typical menu for a meal on the Atkins Diet might include:


Portobello and Ricotta Crostini

Chicken Milanese over Spring Salad

Lemon Vinaigrette dressing

Warm Lentils and Celery

Raspberry Cheesecake in a Cup


The eating plan recommended by the Atkins diet contains very low portions of carbohydrates, deriving the majority of carbohydrates from vegetables high in fibre and low in carbs, and unrestricted portions of proteins, including high fat proteins like beef, pork and cheese. 

Follow up research on people who have used the Atkins Diet to lose weight show a fast initial weight loss that eventually levels off. The Atkins Diet has four phases to account for it:


             1.  The Induction Phase, which restricts carbohydrates severely.


              2. The OWL (Ongoing Weight Loss) Phase, in which you add in limited carbs 

                  and tailor the eating plan to your tastes


               3. Pre-maintenance, with ten pounds or less to the target goal,  deliberately slows weight loss to begin adjusting the body to after-weight-loss diet.


                4. Lifetime Maintenance, a long-term eating plan that emphasizes low                                                 carbohydrates and healthy, long-term eating


Who should use the Atkins Diet?


While the Atkins Diet seems on the surface to be directly counter to what is recommended by most medical institutions, many of the principles are actually the same. Unless you are under the care of a physician for a chronic medical condition like diabetes, high blood pressure or coronary problems, you can use the Atkins Diet.

Do pay attention to the portions recommended in the menus and plans at www.atkins.com, despite the reassurances that you can 'eat all you want and still lose weight.' 


3.    What Is The Mediterranean Diet?


In 1993, the Harvard Medical School released the results of research that studied the diets of those countries bordering on the Mediterranean. Their findings suggested that fat and carbohydrates were NOT the main culprit in obesity and heart disease, but rather that the RIGHT fats and carbohydrates should be the base for a healthy diet. The study pointed to low rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease throughout the region as proof of their contention. 

Exactly what is the Mediterranean diet and can it help you lose weight? There actually is no 'Mediterranean' diet - it's a compilation of the way that people in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea eat. Despite the differences in actual specifics, all of those studied based their diets on the same proportions of food groups and calories, and all included olive oil as their main source of fat. In fact, their diets contained far more than the recommendations made by the USDA - 40% rather than the 30% recommended for most healthy Americans. Still, the evidence was irrefutable. Therefore, it must have been the KIND of carbohydrates and fats that make the difference.


The Mediterranean diet consists of the following guidelines:


60% Of Total Carbohydrates From Grains, Fruits And Vegetables


Those include whole rice, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain breads and cereals, polenta, pasta (made with whole grain, not refined white flour)


Sparing Use of Red Meat, Fish And Poultry


The typical adult Mediterranean consumes about 15 ounces of red meat and poultry per week. Another 5 to15 ounces of fish per week account for the bulk of their meat protein intake. Compare that to the typical American diet which might include a 1 pound steak for dinner one night, a 1/2 pound chicken breast the next, and on and on.


Olive Oil


Olive oil is not a miracle oil. It is, however, mono-unsaturated - a good fat. Mono-unsaturated fats help lower cholesterol rather than raising it, and are healthy ways to add fats to your diet (and yes, even though we think of fat as a dirty word, your body does need some, or it can't use many of the vitamins you feed it!)


The other important component of the Mediterranean lifestyle was activity. The typical Mediterranean day includes walking rather than driving, physical activity in the fields or the home and recreation. Physical activity is vital in helping the body to lose weight, and to maintain your new weight once you reach it.  

The secret to losing weight with the Mediterranean diet is to base your meals on healthy carbohydrates - leafy green vegetables, brightly coloured vegetables, whole grains and meals. Use meat sparingly - no more than 3-6 ounces per day. Derive dietary fat from vegetable sources - or from fish oil. Exercise regularly to rev up your metabolism. The Mediterranean diet isn't a weight loss regimen. It's a new way of eating that will help you reach your goal weight and stay there when you get there. 



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  1. 4.   What Is The South Beach Diet? 


The South Beach Diet was developed by cardiologist Arthur Agatston to help his patients lose weight and maintain a healthy diet for a lifetime. It is designed in phases, like the Atkins Diet, with different eating recommendations in each phase. All phases have the same underlying philosophy, though. Weight loss and maintenance depends on establishing a balanced diet that avoids 'bad' fats and carbohydrates. 


The proponents of the South Beach diet claim that you can lose weight and maintain the weight loss without counting calories, weighing portions or depriving yourself of good-tasting, satisfying foods. This is accomplished by cutting out empty, high-carbohydrate foods like sugars, potatoes, rice and white bread. Each phase is specially designed to accomplish a particular goal.


Phase I: Adjusting your Metabolism 

In Phase I, you eat three meals and two snacks daily, eating until you are no longer hungry. The phase lasts two weeks, during which time your body will shed 8-13 pounds. 

These items are not allowed during Phase I: bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods, fruit, candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, sugar or alcohol 


Phase II: Weight Loss 

The aim during Phase II is to lose weight, with loss averaging 1-2 pounds per week. During this phase, you will gradually add the restricted foods from Phase I back into your diet, but you will eat less of them. The daily diet on Phase II should consist of: 

All the protein you want 

Minimum of 4 1/2 cups of vegetables 

Up to 3 servings of fruit 

Up to 3 portions of starch 

1 1/2 cups of milk/dairy (including yogurt) 

3 tbs. fat 

In real terms, a typical menu for a meal on the South Beach Diet might include something like this: 

½ grapefruit 

2 scrambled eggs mixed with Monterey Jack cheese and salsa 

1 slice of whole grain toast 

Decaffeinated coffee or tea, fat-free milk and sugar substitute if desired 


The eating plan recommended by the South Beach Diet emphasizes low carbohydrate foods, restriction of sweets, processed starches, white sugar and 'unhealthy fats', and all the protein you want. It specifies minimum amounts of low carb vegetables to be eaten daily that are remarkably close to the recommendations made by the USDA and the American Diabetes Association. 


A key concept in the South Beach diet is the Glycemic Index. Foods are ranked on a scale of 1-100 according to their Glycemic index - the amount by which they raise blood sugar levels after meals. The focus of your diet should be on foods low on the GI level, such as yogurt, cucumbers and broccoli and whole grain cereal, while avoiding those high on the GI scale such as white bread, potatoes and pretzels. 


In addition to the above, the South Beach Diet offers the following guidelines:

                * Drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water and other decaffeinated beverages                       per day (excluding fruit juices) 

               * Limit your intake of caffeine-containing beverages to 1 cup each day 

               * Take one multivitamin and mineral supplement daily 

               * Take between 500 and 1,000 mg of calcium daily 


Phase III:

The lifetime maintenance plan is nearly identical to the weight loss phase, with more portions of foods allowed. 

Dr. Agatston cautions that patients being treated for diabetes, impaired kidney function, pregnancy or other chronic illness should consult their physician before embarking on any weight loss regimen.


  1. 5.    What is The Zone Diet?

 The Zone Diet is one of the five most discussed diets currently being endorsed. Developed by Barry Sears, a former researcher at MIT, it is based on maintaining insulin levels by striking a balance between carbohydrates and proteins at each meal. 

Sears suggests that the major cause of obesity is an imbalance of insulin in the body. He maintains that the diet currently recommended by most medical institutions is high in carbohydrates and low in fats - a combination which he contends contributes to the production of too much insulin, and results in obesity. 

The Zone Diet is based on the concept of achieving a physiological state in which insulin and eicosanoids, two hormones, are maintained in zones that are carefully balanced. By controlling the balance of insulin and eicosanoids, you increase the loss of fat, and decrease the likelihood of heart disease and diabetes, decrease inflammation and increase blood flow, and increase your physical and mental stamina. 


The Zone Diet

The diet program of The Zone is designed to balance your intake of protein and carbohydrate at 1 part protein to 4 parts carbohydrate. It advises a moderate intake of carbohydrates, proteins and fat in order to control insulin. It prescribes a maximum amount of low-fat protein at one meal at 3-4 ounces, which is nearly exactly the recommendation of the USDA and the FDA. The majority of carbohydrates on the Zone diet come from vegetables and fruits, with limited amounts of bread, rice, potatoes and grains. Most fat intake should be from monounsaturated fats like olive oil, safflower oil and other 'heart healthy' oils. 

While this sounds a good deal like the Atkins diet (restricting carbohydrates), the differences are very clear. Atkins recommends a diet high in protein without regard to fat, with the intent of provoking ketosis, a potentially unhealthy condition. High carbohydrate diets recommend increasing carbohydrate levels and inducing the production of insulin which, maintains Sears, increases weight gain. Instead, the Zone Diet recommends achieving an optimal balance of nutrients with moderate amounts of proteins, carbohydrates and fat all playing a part. 

The other component of the Zone diet worthy of note is the supplementation of diet with fish oil. Fish oil, particularly pharmaceutical grade fish oil, provides omega 3 fatty acids which are an important component in healthy cells. Study after study in the past five years has confirmed the importance of fish and omega 3 fatty acids in the diet. 


A sample meal on The Zone's eating plan might include:

1 3 oz portion of broiled salmon 

Spinach salad with apples and walnuts dressed with walnut oil and lemon juice 

1/2 cup of brown rice 

1 glass fruit or vegetable juice 


The eating plan recommended by The Zone diet combines small portions of low fat proteins, fats and fibre-rich vegetables and fruits. It also suggests eating some protein with each meal or snack, and at least 3 meals and 2 snacks daily. 


Who should use the Zone Diet?

As always, if you're under the care of a physician for any chronic medical condition, you should consult them before embarking on any diet plan that substantially changes your eating habits. There are significant differences between the Zone Diet and that recommended for diabetics and heart patients, for instance. Overall, the recommended portions of foods and the balance between them is consistent with a healthy diet, and is maintainable for a lifetime. 


We hope this post has helped in some way in sorting what benefits that might be available within these top 5 diets for you.


 The next post, Diet Comparisons, will cover the following; 

More information about the Top 3 Diet Comparisons 


Remember to check with your health practitioner as to

the practicality of any program you choose.

It cannot be detrimental to your health.


Disclaimer: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.


Since natural and or dietary supplements are not FDA approved they must be accompanied by a two-part disclaimer on the product that the statement has not been evaluated by the FDA and that the product is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease”.



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