Updated: Jul 20
I am often asked, “what is the best diet for me.” An easy answer is the diet that works for you. While this is true, it does not help much as most “diets” will work in the short term because a person is focused generally on eating less and exercising more. This particular approach, eat less – exercise more, has been unsuccessful for 100 years. This is partly why the diet industry is a multibillion-dollar business.
The truth: Eating nutrient rich real food, not too much, moderate protein, and regular use of intermittent fasting will help most people obtain or maintain a healthy weight. Note: Exercise is NOT a major weight loss aide (maybe 5% to 10%) but good for many other reasons.
Other factors like balancing your hormones, addressing genetic weaknesses, good sleep, managing cortisol (stress), and knowing what foods to eat and not to eat, are important elements of obtaining an ideal body fat percentage. Note that I said body fat percentage, not weight.
Lab Tests: Two things you want to know are (1) fasting insulin levels and (2) % body fat.
I mention these because these two items are most often overlooked.
So, what is the “best diet?” Long terms studies make it clear that that for long term health and for obtaining a healthy weight, it is the Mediterranean Diet.
The Mediterranean Diet is far from a typical diet. It’s a pattern of eating adopted from European countries. The focus of the diet is to exchange bad fats for heart-healthy ones. Instead of reaching for the butter (can use 100% grass-fed butter like Kerigold) , grab the extra virgin olive oil. Limit the red meat (maybe once or twice a per week – can use a little more if grass-fed, grass finished or wild game) and emphasize wild caught fish with lots of vegetables and some fruit. If insulin high, limit fruit to one serving per day (organic berries best).
And while many Europeans may love their wine, remember moderation is key.
Why the Mediterranean Diet?
In the 1960s it was discovered that few heart related deaths occurred in countries such as Spain, Greece, and Italy. Upon further investigation it was determined that the Mediterranean diet was the leading factor for their low risk of heart related deaths. Numerous studies since then have shown that the Mediterranean diet can be helpful in weight loss, prevention of heart attacks, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.
What does the Mediterranean Diet Focus on?
The Mediterranean diet consist of mainly eating fresh fruits and vegetables, unsaturated fats, oily fish, and low consumption of meat and added sugar.
Foods to Eat
Vegetables: Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions, Eggplant, Zucchini, Cucumber, Leafy green Vegetables, Brussels, broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower
Fruits: Organic Berries, Apples, Apricots, Peaches, Oranges, Lemons, Figs, Dates
Legumes: Almonds, Walnuts, Sunflower Seeds (good source of selenium), Macadamia nuts, Pecans, Brazil Nuts (also a good source of selenium but limit to 2 to 3 per day).
Unsaturated Fat: Extra Virgin Olive oil, olives, avocados, Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Avocado Oil.
Meats: Moderate amounts of wild game, duck, turkey, grass-fed, grass-finished beef.
Fish and Seafood: Wild caught salmon, sardines, trout, limited tuna, mackerel, oysters, clam, crab, mussels (always be aware of sources)
Tubers: Turnips, yams, sweet potatoes
Grains: whole grain pita bread but maybe NOT in America. Most wheat in America is highly processed with high heat, is GMO and often contains toxins and molds. Look for Sprouted and Organic breads, sesame seeds, some others. Can make own bread from coconut and other natural unrefined flours including Sourdough.
Dairy Products: 100% Grass-Fed Cheeses and real yogurt (no added sugar), Kefir, raw, unpasteurized milk if you can get it.
Foods to Avoid
Sugars including synthetics, added sugar e.g., ice cream, table sugar, soda, candy, “fat free candies” (ironic but sad), salad dressings, catsup, almost all processed foods. Drinks including those labeled sugar free (often the worse) or diet soda.
Refined Processed Grains: white and so-called whole-wheat bread, pasta made with refined wheat (if you travel to Europe you can generally eat the pizzas and bread – processed differently).
Trans Fats: margarine, processed foods.
Refined Oils: Canola oil, soybean oil (see Vegetable Oil article)
Processed meat: Sausages, hot dogs, lunch meats…
Highly Processed Foods: Anything labeled “low-fat” or “diet” or has several ingredients you do not recognize.
Some of the Health Benefits
The Mediterranean diet has been linked to being one of the most heart-healthy diets out there. It helps the body maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown to help increase longevity when practiced long term.
In addition, studies have shown the diet may offer possible protection from various cancers.
It has also been suggested the diet may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and improve markers in people who have already developed type 2 diabetes.
Sample of Typical Mediterranean Diet:
Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables cooked in extra virgin olive oil
Lunch: Small Greek Salad, olives, feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion
Dinner: Broiled Salmon, served with brown rice and vegetables
The Bottom Line:
Focus on a diet rich in veggies and healthy fats. Strive to get fatty, oily, fish in your diet a couple of times a week. Avoid sugars or any processed foods, refined carbohydrates. Moderate protein, moderate exercise, intermittent fasting, hormone balancing and addressing genetic weaknesses.
The Mediterranean Diet is not the only one as everyone is unique. However, it has been scientifically validated for both health and sustainability. The short term is good, but the key is long term.
Questions about your personal weight loss struggles? Just want to maintain your current body weight (% body fat), contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.