Hoping to lose weight this year? 45 million Americans are right there with you. Here’s what you need to know to do it right.
Who hasn’t been tempted to jump-start a new year by embarking on one of those popular “miracle” diets that are all over the news? Not so fast! Turns out that many fad diets eliminate entire food groups and may lack essential nutrients necessary for good health (like dietary fiber and carbohydrates). The trendy paleo diet, for instance, lacks whole grains, dairy and legumes, says Kate Patton, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Heart and Vascular Institute. And because dietary needs—and the ability to utilize and absorb nutrients—change with age, it’s more important than ever to focus on a high-quality diet once you reach your 50s.
A good diet, Patton says, is a well-balanced one.
That doesn’t mean losing weight is a lost cause if you’re over 50, says Scott Kahan, M.D., director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. “On the contrary, one of the largest studies [of behavioral weight loss] showed that those over 50 and 60 were at least as successful as younger people.”
To help, we asked experts about the dietary plans that can help you shed pounds while boosting your health and reducing your risk for chronic diseases:
Related: The Whole30 vs. Keto Face-Off: Which Low-Carb Diet Is Better for Losing Weight?
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, plus fish, other seafood and healthy fats (like olive oil and avocados). It includes moderate servings of dairy, poultry and eggs, red wine in moderation (about one to two glasses per day for men; one glass a day for women) and limited consumption of red meat.
Health Perks: The combination of eating these foods may reduce inflammation, help decrease triglycerides, decrease the risk of dementia, heart disease and stroke and build stronger bones. Research consistently shows that the Mediterranean diet is effective in increasing your lifespan and promoting healthy aging.
Tip: To lose weight, watch your portions; these foods are healthy, but can’t be eaten in unlimited quantities.
Intermittent Fasting (I.F.)
This is time-restricted eating, which allows you to consume foods within a certain window of time or eat limited calories on certain days. For instance, you stop eating at 8 p.m. and don’t eat your first meal until noon the next day; or you eat only 500 calories two days per week and normal calories the rest of the week. More than 40 studies have found I.F. effective for weight loss.
Health Perks: I.F. may increase muscle mass, boost metabolism and longevity; reduce blood pressure and help prevent heart conditions, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes. Research finds that I.F. causes your body to go into its fat stores for energy, and that it can also protect memory and slow disease process in the brain.
Tip: There are many different ways to do intermittent fasting, so you may want to try out different styles to see what works best for you.