Weight loss diets are eating plans designed to create a negative energy balance, focusing on reduced calorie intake, specific macronutrient composition, and food quality, aiming to reduce body weight. According to Rachel Freire from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, weight loss diets range from high-protein, low-carbohydrate to intermittent fasting, each with varying short-term effectiveness.
In a 2021 study by Ju Young Kim from Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, the best diets for weight loss were found to involve creating an energy deficit through methods like calorie restriction or adjusting macronutrient composition. These diets, such as the Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, or Vegetarian Diet, emphasize the importance of the amount and type of food you consume, as well as meal timing, for effective weight management and sustainable eating habits.
On the flip side, the worst diets for weight loss include crash diets and extreme diets. While these might promise the fastest weight loss, they are neither healthy nor sustainable in the long term. Dangerous weight loss diets, despite promising quick fixes, often involve excessive calorie restriction, exclusion of essential food groups, and provide minimal vital nutrients. The following list outlines the top 25 diets for weight loss, as supported by scientific studies and peer-reviewed research.
- DASH Diet
- Mediterranean Diet
- Vegetarian Diet
- Ketogenic Diet
- Low-Carbohydrate Diet
- Mayo Clinic Diet
- Optavia Diet
- Noom Diet
- Carnivore Diet
- Pescatarian Diet
- South Beach Diet
- GOLO Diet
- 1,200 Calorie Diet
- The Zone Diet
- Fasting Mimicking Diet
- Detox Diet
- Carb Cycling Diet
- Slimfast Diet
- Endomorph Diet
- Warrior Diet
- CICO Diet
- Nordic Diet
1. DASH Diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is designed to help lower blood pressure and improve overall heart health. According to a 2016 systematic review by Sepideh Soltani from Iran University of Medical Sciences, the DASH diet is effective in promoting weight loss. Participants on the DASH diet lost more weight compared to controls, particularly effective in overweight and obese individuals.
The DASH diet doesn’t focus on calorie restriction, unlike typical weight loss diets. Instead, it emphasizes nutritious foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins, while cutting down on salt, red meat, and added sugars.
2. Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet, also known as the Greek diet, is a dietary pattern traditionally followed in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. According to a 2016 study by Joseph G. Mancini et al., published in ‘The American Journal of Medicine’, the Mediterranean Diet promotes weight loss by emphasizing nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods that enhance satiety and reduce overeating.
The Mediterranean diet stands out as one of the top choices for weight loss because it doesn’t demand extreme calorie cutting, and it steers clear of promoting unhealthy eating patterns. Instead, it encourages a hearty intake of fruits, veggies, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and even some wine, while keeping red meat and processed foods in check.
Besides aiding weight loss, the Mediterranean Diet is renowned for its cardiovascular benefits. It’s associated with lower rates of heart disease, improved lipid profiles, and better blood pressure control, owing to its focus on heart-healthy fats and whole foods.
3. Vegetarian Diet
A Vegetarian Diet primarily involves abstaining from meat, fish, and poultry. There are several types, including Lacto-vegetarian (includes dairy), Ovo-vegetarian (includes eggs), Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (includes both dairy and eggs), and Vegan (excludes all animal products). Other names for variations of this diet include Flexitarian (mostly vegetarian but occasionally includes meat) and Pescatarian (includes fish).
Vegetarian diets are one of the healthiest diets for weight loss because they generally involve lower calorie intake and higher fiber content. A 2016 meta-analysis by Ru-Yi Huang, MD, MPH, and colleagues from I-SHOU University, demonstrates that vegetarian diets, especially vegan diets, are effective for weight loss. Participants lost more weight on these diets compared to non-vegetarian diets, with an average weight loss of 2.02 kg.
The main drawback of a vegetarian diet can be nutritional deficiencies, such as Vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, particularly in strict vegan diets. Supplementation and careful dietary planning are often required to address these gaps.
4. Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbohydrate diet that aims to induce ketosis, a metabolic state where the body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. In a 2022 study by Chong Zhou and their team, which was published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, they found that the ketogenic diet resulted in meaningful weight loss, a smaller waistline, better control over blood sugar, and improved lipid profiles among overweight individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Besides weight loss, a major benefit of the ketogenic diet is improved glycemic control, particularly beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. It helps in reducing glycated hemoglobin and stabilizing blood sugar levels. The main drawback of the ketogenic diet is its potential to lead to nutrient deficiencies due to the restricted intake of certain food groups, as well as the possibility of side effects like the keto flu, liver and kidney problems, and constipation.
5. Low-Carbohydrate Diet
A Low-Carbohydrate Diet (LCD) focuses on reducing carbohydrate intake, typically to promote weight loss and improve metabolic health. There are several types, such as the Ketogenic Diet (extremely low in carbs, high in fats), Atkins Diet (low in carbs with phases of reintroduction), and Low-Carb Paleo Diet (focuses on whole foods, eliminating grains and processed foods).
According to A.D. Mooradian’s 2020 review in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, low-carbohydrate diets can enhance short-term weight loss and improve glycemic control, particularly in individuals with diabetes or insulin resistance.
Low-carb diets may promise rapid weight loss, but it’s essential to be cautious. The main drawback of a low-carbohydrate diet, especially when carb intake is severely restricted, is the risk of side effects like nausea, fatigue, water, and electrolyte imbalances, as well as potential limits on exercise capacity. Mooradian’s review also highlights that both extremely low and very high carbohydrate diets are associated with increased mortality.
6. Mayo Clinic Diet
The Mayo Clinic Diet is a balanced eating plan focusing on healthy habits, portion control, and increased physical activity. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting sugars and fats.
The Mayo Clinic Diet aids weight loss through balanced nutrition and portion control, making it suitable for most adults seeking a sustainable way to lose weight. It might not be ideal for individuals with specific dietary needs or restrictions without professional guidance.
One potential drawback of the Mayo Clinic Diet is the initial 2-week adjustment period called the “Lose It” phase. In my opinion, it can be quite restrictive, especially for individuals accustomed to highly processed or calorie-dense diets, as it demands significant changes in eating habits and lifestyle.
7. Optavia Diet
The Optavia Diet is a low-calorie, meal-replacement diet that focuses on frequent, small meals and emphasizes portion control and healthy eating habits. It was previously known as the “Take Shape for Life” program before being rebranded as Optavia.
A study published in Obesity Science & Practice in 2019 by Linda M. Arterburn from Medifast, Inc., and Biofortis, Mérieux NutriSciences, evaluated the Optavia diet’s effectiveness. It highlighted the diet’s success in achieving significant weight loss and improvements in body composition compared to a self-directed, reduced-calorie diet.
The 2019 study found that participants on the Optavia Diet with telephone coaching achieved a 5.7% reduction in body weight over 16 weeks, significantly more than the control group. This weight change was correlated with the usage of meal replacements and the completion of coaching support calls, highlighting the effectiveness of structured support in weight loss programs.
8. Noom Diet
The Noom Diet is a digital weight management program that uses a mobile app to provide personalized coaching, dietary recommendations, and behavioral strategies for weight loss. It combines technology with psychology to promote sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes.
The Noom Diet, much like the Mayo Clinic Diet, focuses on helping you shed those extra pounds by changing your behaviors, keeping an eye on your calorie intake, and teaching you a thing or two about nutrition. It’s great if you’re tech-savvy and want a well-structured but adaptable plan. But if you’re not a fan of technology or prefer doing your own thing, it might not be your cup of tea.
9. Carnivore Diet
The Carnivore Diet is an all-meat diet that focuses exclusively on animal products and excludes plant-based foods. It emphasizes the consumption of meat, fish, eggs, and certain dairy products while eliminating fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
While comprehensive studies specifically on the Carnivore Diet are limited, research on diets with high animal-based food content, like the study in ‘Clinical Nutrition’ (2022) led by Ruixin Zhu and team, suggests associations with weight management and metabolic health. However, the long-term effects of such a diet are still a subject of ongoing research.
The Carnivore Diet has gained popularity in recent years, particularly in the health and fitness communities, as an extreme form of low-carbohydrate, high-protein dieting, often touted for its simplicity and potential health benefits.
10. Pescatarian diet
The Pescatarian Diet is a primarily plant-based diet that includes fish and seafood but excludes other meats like beef, pork, and poultry. It has grown in popularity due to its balance between vegetarianism and the inclusion of seafood, offering both health benefits and dietary variety.
The Pescatarian Diet aids in weight loss through its high intake of plant-based foods, which are typically lower in calories and higher in fiber, coupled with the lean protein from fish and seafood.
A study published in the ‘British Journal of Nutrition’ in 2020 by Hannah Wozniak and others from Geneva University Hospitals and the University of Lausanne highlighted the growing prevalence of diets like the Pescatarian Diet. The study found that adherents of such diets had lower BMI, cholesterol levels, and a reduced risk of hypertension compared to omnivores.
It’s suitable for those seeking a heart-healthy diet with more flexibility than strict vegetarianism, but it may not be ideal for those with seafood allergies or who strictly avoid animal products.
11. South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet is a popular low-carbohydrate diet developed by cardiologist Arthur Agatston. It gained popularity for its claim to be a more flexible and sustainable alternative to strict low-carb diets like Atkins. The South Beach Diet is a top choice for weight loss because it focuses on eating high-fiber, low-glycemic carbohydrates, healthy unsaturated fats, and lean protein.
The South Beach Diet aids weight loss through its phased approach, initially restricting certain carbohydrates and then gradually reintroducing them. Cristina Lara-Castro and W Timothy Garvey, in their 2004 study published in the ‘Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,’ note that diets like the South Beach Diet, while shown to be safe in the short term, lack long-term safety data.
12. GOLO Diet
The GOLO Diet is a weight management program that focuses on regulating insulin levels to aid weight loss and improve overall health. A pilot study conducted by RJ Buynak and published in ‘Diabetes Updates’ in 2019 observed significant weight loss and improvements in metabolic health.
The GOLO Diet works by balancing insulin levels, which can help control hunger and cravings, leading to weight loss. It combines a meal plan emphasizing whole foods with a supplement called GOLO Release. It is suitable for individuals with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes but may not be ideal for those looking for a diet without supplements or with specific dietary restrictions.
13. 1,200 Calorie Diet
The 1200-calorie diet is a dietary plan that limits daily caloric intake to 1,200 calories, aiming to create a caloric deficit for weight loss. It’s often recommended for women, particularly for short-term weight loss goals.
In a 1997 study from the University of Glasgow, 110 women followed a 1200-calorie diet for six months. Those on the high-carb version lost 5.6 kg, and those on the low-carb version lost 6.8 kg. Both diets worked for weight loss, with some variations in their impact on heart health.
The primary drawback of the 1200-calorie diet is the risk of nutritional deficiencies and potential unsustainability due to its restrictive nature. This diet may also lead to decreased energy levels and metabolic slowdown if followed for extended periods.
14. The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is a nutritional philosophy developed by Dr. Barry Sears, focusing on a balanced ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. It emphasizes controlling insulin levels through this macronutrient balance, aimed at reducing inflammation and promoting weight loss.
The Zone Diet aims to keep a certain mix of macronutrients to steady blood sugar and lower insulin spikes, which is thought to help with weight loss.
However, Samuel N. Cheuvront, a researcher at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, highlights scientific inconsistencies in the diet’s theory, especially regarding its effects on endocrinology and eicosanoid metabolism, raising questions about how well it works.
15. Fasting Mimicking Diet
The Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) is a diet program designed to replicate the effects of fasting while still providing the body with essential nutrients. It involves consuming low-calorie, low-protein, and high-fat meals for a set period, typically five consecutive days each month, to trigger metabolic and cellular responses similar to those achieved by traditional fasting.
According to a 2021 study by Mehdi Sadeghian and colleagues from Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Fasting Mimicking Diet was more effective in reducing insulin resistance and regulating appetite-regulating hormones, as well as preserving muscle mass and BMR, compared to continuous energy restriction.
The main drawback of the fasting mimicking diet is its rigorous nature, requiring strict adherence to a specific dietary protocol for consecutive days, which might be challenging for some individuals.
16. Detox Diet
Detox diets are a group of popular dieting strategies that claim to cleanse the body of toxins and promote weight loss. Variations of the detox diets for weight loss include juice cleanses, herbal detoxes, and commercial detox programs, all aimed at enhancing the body’s natural detoxification processes.
These popular weight loss diets are often chosen for their quick results but may not be suitable for long-term weight management or individuals with specific health conditions.
In 2015, a review by A.V. Klein and H. Kiat, which was published in the ‘Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics,’ pointed out that although certain foods might seem like they have detox superpowers, it’s crucial to know that most of the research on this topic involved animals. Surprisingly, there haven’t been any randomized controlled trials on those trendy commercial detox diets specifically for us humans.
Besides temporary weight loss, detox diets are often believed to improve energy levels and overall well-being. However, these benefits are not well-supported by scientific evidence and may be more related to eliminating processed foods and increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
17. Carb Cycling Diet
Carb cycling is a diet strategy used in bodybuilding and weight loss. It involves alternating between high-carb and low-carb days to optimize carbohydrate intake for better weight loss and athletic performance. This approach aims to boost fat burning and muscle-building by playing around with your carb consumption.
Carb cycling works by varying carbohydrate intake to maintain metabolism and prevent plateaus in weight loss. In a 2010 study conducted by Julie Y. Kresta and her team at Texas A&M University, they found that a carb cycling diet led to significant reductions in weight and fat mass among 36 overweight women. Importantly, the study also revealed that there were no significant reductions in resting energy expenditure.
Carb cycling is a good weight loss diet for folks looking to shed pounds while keeping their muscles intact, especially for bodybuilders and athletes. But, it might not be the best choice if you have specific health issues or if you prefer sticking to a steady diet.
18. Slimfast Diet
The SlimFast Diet is a well-known commercial weight-loss program that promotes meal replacements like shakes and bars for two meals daily, along with a low-fat dinner. This easy to follow weight loss diet requires minimal preparation and aims to achieve a calorie deficit while ensuring you get vital nutrients, making it a convenient and effective way to shed pounds.
The SlimFast Diet works by simplifying calorie counting and portion control through meal replacements, which helps create a caloric deficit necessary for weight loss.
It is well-suited for individuals looking for a structured, convenient weight loss program but may not be ideal for those seeking a more natural, whole-food-based approach or those with specific dietary preferences or restrictions.
19. Endomorph Diet
The Endomorph Diet is designed for folks with an endomorphic somatotype (body type). That means you might have a bit more body fat, a rounder shape, and a knack for packing on pounds without even trying.
The Endomorph Diet is considered a low-calorie diet for weight loss because it focuses on keeping your calorie count in check. It’s all about loading up on high-fiber foods, lean proteins, and complex carbs while cutting back on fats and those sneaky simple sugars.
The main drawback of the Endomorph Diet is that it can be too restrictive for some, potentially leading to nutritional imbalances if not properly managed, and may not consider individual variations within the endomorphic population.
20. Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet is a form of time-restricted feeding (TRF) where the eating window is confined to 4 hours per day. Originating as a popular form of intermittent fasting, it involves fasting for 20 hours and consuming food during a 4-hour window, typically in the evening.
The Warrior Diet is among those diets that work for weight loss because it restricts the eating window, naturally reducing calorie intake. It’s great if you can handle long fasting periods and prefer bigger, less frequent meals. But keep in mind, it might not be the best choice for folks with specific health issues or anyone finding it tough to go without eating for extended periods.
The main disadvantage of this diet is its restrictive nature, which can be challenging to maintain in the long term and may lead to nutrient deficiencies or disordered eating patterns if not properly managed.
21. CICO Diet
The CICO (Calories In, Calories Out) diet is based on the principle that weight loss is achieved by ensuring the number of calories consumed is less than the number of calories burned. It focuses on a simple energy balance equation, emphasizing caloric restriction for weight loss.
The CICO Diet works by creating an energy deficit, which makes it one of the most effective diets for rapid weight loss. A key advantage of the CICO Diet is its simplicity and flexibility, allowing individuals to choose from a wide variety of foods as long as they maintain a caloric deficit.
It’s great for folks who like a simple way to manage their weight since it involves keeping tabs on and cutting down your calorie intake. But, it might not be the best choice for people who need a more structured or nutrient-focused diet.
22. Nordic Diet
The Nordic Diet is a dietary approach that emphasizes the consumption of whole grains, fatty fish, root vegetables, and berries, similar to the traditional eating patterns found in the Nordic countries. It focuses on locally sourced, sustainable, and minimally processed foods.
The Nordic Diet is considered an effective weight loss diet because it encourages the consumption of nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods.
According to a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis in ‘Eat Weight Disorders’ by Nahid Ramezani-Jolfaie, Mohammad Mohammadi, and Amin Salehi-Abargouei, adherents to the Nordic Diet lost an average of 1.83 kg more than controls, indicating its effectiveness for weight loss.
It’s a good choice for people looking for a diet packed with fiber and healthy fats. However, it might not be the best option if you’re someone who enjoys a wide variety of global cuisines or if you have specific dietary restrictions.
What are the different types of weight loss diets?
The different types of diets for weight loss include macronutrient-focused diets like low-carb, high-protein, or low-fat; meal timing and frequency diets such as intermittent fasting or meal replacement programs; and calorie-restriction diets, which aim to reduce overall calorie intake.
These types span a wide range of approaches, from modifying the types of foods eaten to changing eating patterns and controlling calorie intake. Each type caters to different dietary preferences and goals, with varying degrees of effectiveness based on individual health, lifestyle, and adherence to the diet’s guidelines.
- Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Focus on reducing carbohydrates, such as the Atkins and ketogenic diets. These diets often emphasize higher protein and fat intake.
- High-Protein Diets: Prioritize protein consumption to enhance satiety and increase muscle mass. Examples include the Paleo diet and the Dukan diet.
- Fasting-Based Diets: Involve periods of fasting or severe calorie restriction, such as intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet, and ADF.
- Plant-Based Diets: Focus on plant-derived foods, including vegetarian, vegan, and flexitarian diets, which limit or exclude animal products.
- Balanced Low-Calorie Diets: Based on calorie restriction with balanced macronutrients, like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, or standard calorie-controlled diets recommended by nutritionists.
- Meal Replacement Diets: Utilize pre-packaged meals or shakes to control portions and reduce calorie intake. Examples include the Ideal Protein Diet, Skinny Box Diet, and Medifast Diet.
- Low-Fat Diets: Restrict fat intake, often used to address cardiovascular health along with weight loss, such as the Ornish diet.
- Commercial Weight Loss Programs: Structured programs offered by companies, including Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, often involve counseling and community support.
- Elimination Diets: Exclude certain food groups for weight loss or health reasons, like gluten-free or dairy-free diets.
- Detox or Cleanse Diets: Aim to ‘detoxify’ the body with specific foods or supplements, often including short-term juice cleanses or specific food regimens.
What are some popular diets included in the list of diets for weight loss?
The popular diets included in the list of diets for weight loss are shown below.
- Red meat diet
- Ketogenic Diet
- Low-Fat Diet
- Low-Carbohydrate Diet
- Low Salt Diet
- Vegetarian Diet
- Plant-Based Diet
- Whole30 Diet
- Very-Low-Calorie Diet
- Mind Diet
- Insulin Resistance Diet
- Alkaline Diet
- No-Sugar Diet
- Army Diet
- HCG diet
- 1000 calorie Diet
- Klinio Diet
How do nutritionists determine the best diet for weight loss?
Nutritionists determine the best diet for weight loss by considering evidence from scientific studies and clinical trials, evaluating individual health status and medical history, analyzing personal dietary preferences and lifestyle factors, and incorporating data from credible nutritional guidelines and recommendations.
On the other hand, nutritionists generally do not base their advice on trends highlighted in news or marketing materials, media posters, or popular diets endorsed by celebrities, as these sources often lack scientific backing and may not align with an individual’s specific nutritional needs.
What are the best celebrity diets for weight loss?
The best celebrity diets for weight loss are those that are balanced, sustainable, and backed by nutritional science, such as the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on whole foods, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
What elements make a diet balanced for effective weight loss?
A balanced diet for effective weight loss typically hinges on creating a sustainable calorie deficit, ensuring balanced nutrition, personalizing the diet to individual preferences and health needs, maintaining regular physical activity, and promoting long-term adherence and lifestyle changes.
Conversely, diets tend to be ineffective for weight loss when they promote extreme restrictions or rapid weight loss, lack balance and essential nutrients, are not tailored to individual needs and preferences, ignore the importance of physical activity, or are difficult to adhere to in the long term.
What are the worst diets for weight loss?
The worst diets for weight loss are those that are overly restrictive, lack nutritional balance, or promote rapid weight loss through unhealthy means. Examples include crash diets, fad diets that eliminate entire food groups like the Grapefruit Diet, Standard American Diet, or Cabbage Soup Diet, and diets that rely heavily on processed foods or extreme calorie restriction.