Which Diet Program is Best for You?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

The zone diet, Atkins, low carb, the south beach diet... by now you are familiar with most of the more common diets on the market today. But which diet is the best for you? More importantly, are any of these diets dangerous? Use our comparison below to find out what diet might be best for you whether you want to lose weight or feel great!

Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet is one of the diets news reporters take the most interest in. Many hear "Atkins" and assume they can eat loads of bacon, eggs, steak and cheese. While this isn't entirely untrue, there are some basic principles that govern the Atkins diet. The Atkins diet suggests that a high protein and high fat diet will help reduce insulin resistance and a condition called hyperinsulinism. The diet requires that you reduce your carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams a day initially. (That is about the number of carbs in an apple). Next the diet suggests you can eat as much protein and fat as you like, including fish, poultry, cheese and eggs. When you do consume carbs the diet recommend you eat only cruciferous, leafy vegetables. Dairy products are also minimal as most contain carbs.

Does it work? Maybe. The founder of the diet suggests the diet may lower cholesterol over time in obese patients. People that are significantly overweight may realize significant improvement and rapid early weight loss on this diet. The problem? It's hard to stick to for some, and you'll probably need some potent vitamin and mineral supplements to make up for the nutrients you aren't receiving from whole grains and other carbs.

South Beach Diet
This diet has recently become popular. Like other low carb diets, the south beach diet promotes high protein consumption. The diet is based on the idea that excess weight piles on because of carbohydrates, especially processed carbs. The sugar busters diet recommend you decrease the highly processed carbohydrates you eat, including white sugar, rice and flour. Studies suggest that after a short period of reducing carbs to erase your carb cravings, you can incorporate healthier choices into the diet and metabolize them well. This diet works well with many people and isn't as densely packed with fat as the Atkins diet. Still, many people find it difficult to make it through the initial two week phase of no carbohydrates (including alcoholic drinks).

The Zone Diet
This diet suggest that you restrict but not eliminate certain carbohydrates from the diet. Among the 'bad' carbohydrates include those with a high glycemic index, or those broken down too quickly by the body. Examples include white flour, rice, potatoes and starchy carbs. This diet also limits your intake of grain and bread products and even some fruits. Red meat, cheeses and butter are also on the no list for this diet. Basically the diet suggests you eat a diet rich in lean proteins and low glycemic carbs as well as natural fats. The diet is based on a 40-30-30 plan. The only downside? The diet restricts caloric intake, so some people find they may still be hungry after eating. I have tried this diet and find it works well if I double the portion recommendations.

Read about Simple Steps To Evaluate Your Child's Nutrition.

Sugar Busters
The sugar buster's diet, like the ones we have reviewed so far, recommends that you moderate fat intake and consume a high protein diet. The basic premise behind the diet is that sugar is bad for the body and can contribute to insulin problems and type 2 diabetes in some people. Like the zone diet, the sugar busters diet promotes consumption of lean protein and low glycemic vegetables. The diet also limits the consumption of high glycemic carbs (read processed carbohydrates like white bread and flower). As a bonus to the other diets in this category, the sugar buster diet does allow some red wine.

Are there any diets out there for those of us that like carbohydrates? The answer is a resounding yes! The Ornish and Pritikin diets both promote a low fat and high carbohydrate diet. The former suggests that dietary fat consumption results in weight gain, thus this diet is more plant based. It is a good diet if you want to try out vegetarianism. The Pritikin diet suggests you consume up to 75% of your calories from carbohydrates.

Which diet is best? Ultimately it depends on your goals and lifestyle. The best diet is one you can stick to that makes you feel satisfied and healthy. If you lose weight with it, consider that a bonus. As with anything, you want to make sure you are eating a variety of foods that will supply you with the vitamins and essential nutrients your body needs to work optimally. If you can't imagine life without whole grains, the Atkins diet is probably not for you. But you may do well on one of the other plans!