The 8 Most Popular Diets in the 21st Century

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Popular diets are not necessarily effective or healthy. When it’s celebrity-tweeted, or there’s enough promotional hype, millions of people who are forever counting calories take on any newfangled weight loss plan. Here are diets, both good and bad, that had their share of buzz in the 21st century.

8 Popular diets that people followed:

1.  South Beach diet

The South Beach diet, created by celebrity doctor and Miami Beach-based cardiologist Arthur Agatston in 2003, is one of the most popular diets to date, and is still being followed by many people. It’s a low-carb, high-protein and healthy fats eating plan that resets the body’s craving for sugar and refined starches, ultimately leading to a lifestyle that keeps the weight off. You learn what good and bad carbs are, the different varieties of dietary fats, and how they affect your body weight and health.

Related reading: How the Right Community Can Boost Your Weight Loss

2.  Paleo diet

The Paleo diet takes its name from the Paleolithic Age, a period dating back to 2.5 million years ago. This weight loss diet allows only food that the Stone Age people ate, which were grass-fed meat, poultry, fish and other seafood, fresh-only fruits and veggies, nuts, eggs, seeds, and healthy oil from nuts and fruits. Processed food, dairy products, legumes, grains, sugar, packaged snacks, starchy vegetables, and salt are not allowed.

The Paleo diet isn’t new but became famous in 2010 when Loren Cordain, a nutrition expert, published his book on it. WebMD reviews it as basically healthy and effective but difficult to maintain with its broad food limitations. It is high in fats and may result in deficiency of some nutrients.

3.  Alkaline diet

Although the alkaline diet was already around, it gained renewed popularity when Victoria Beckham tweeted about it in 2013. This slimming regimen is based on the notion that an acidic environment in the body makes it conducive to certain diseases; hence, alkaline promotes weight loss and prevents the onset of diseases. The diet consists only of fresh fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. Most everything else is forbidden. The weight loss diet claim may be true, but alkaline diet as a cure-all for illnesses is quackery.

4.  Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits of certain Mediterranean regions, consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, whole grain, and herbs and spices. Twice a week, one may have fish, poultry and eggs, while sugar and red meat are for special occasions only. Olive oil and red wine in moderation are okay, too. Doctors and nutritionists highly recommend the Mediterranean diet as one of the best weight loss diets for its heart-healthy components, but it is expensive and not designed for weight loss.

5.  Atkins diet

The Atkins diet, created by Dr. Robert Atkins, restricts carbs to 20 grams per day in the induction phase and gradually increases it to 120 grams in the next phases until you find the right balance to keep the weight off. Followers of this popular diet can have their fill of foods rich in protein and fats. The revamped version of the Atkins diet lists lean protein, high-fiber vegetables and healthy fats.

Atkins reached the peak of popularity in 2002-2003, with people consuming protein-rich drinks and bars, and staying off rice and pasta. Mainstream doctors and health specialists criticize it for increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, due to its unlimited protein intake. While it is effective for weight loss in the short-term, it can be difficult to sustain.

6.  Keto diet

The ketogenic diet, originally developed in 1920 to treat epilepsy in children, recently became the fad diet for celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Halle Berry, et al., and soon thereafter, mere mortals followed suit. It’s a re-branding of the Atkins diet, health experts say, but 1) has stricter carb limits, and 2) does not come in phases but is maintained as is. The standard Keto diet consists of 75% fats, 20% protein and 5% carbs.

Related reading: Why Losing Weight Is Harder than Ever

The principle behind the Keto diet is to restrict carbs which is the body’s primary source of energy. Without carbs to burn, the body uses its fats, resulting in maximum weight loss. The side effects to the keto diet are possible kidney stones, dehydration, constipation, and fatty blood.

7.  Intermittent fasting

Although intermittent fasting is not new, it shot to popularity when the documentary, Eat Fast Live Longer, was featured on BBC in 2012. IF has its variants: it can be whole days of fasting followed by days of eating, or it can be time-restricted fasting. A common practice is the 5:2 pattern, fasting for 5 days followed by eating for 2 days; or the 16:8, which is 16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours of eating.

During the fast period, dieters may have coffee, tea and water, and there is no restriction on the type of food during the eating days or hours. IF is one of the popular diets among the Silicon Valley techies. They claim effective weight loss, increased productivity, and elimination of mood swings.

8.  Dukan diet

Designed by Dr. Pierre Dukan, the diet became known when his book, The Dukan Diet, was released in 2011 in the US. It contains four phases – Attack, Cruise, Consolidation, and Stabilization. It promises immediate weight loss of up to 10 lbs in one week. The Dukan diet is a high-protein, low-carb eating plan, with carbs added gradually in the succeeding phases. Oat bran is an essential food, and one can eat only the foods that are in Dukan’s approved list.

As one of the popular diets, the Dukan diet nevertheless is a commercial fad and carries risks to kidney and heart problems.

9. The CICO Diet

CICO, an acronym that stands for ‘calories in, calories out’ which really only has one guideline for those who opt to try this plan – to lose weight you will need to burn more calories than you consume each day. This means that you will need to be very disciplined in terms of monitoring everything that you are consuming and doing enough exercise to work it off. CICO simply helps you to be mindful of your calorie calculations, and the rest is up to you. As long as you stick to the main principle, you can pretty much eat the foods you like as long as you work them off. There is some debate surrounding this method, because many insist that not all calories are created equal. Still, it has helped some to achieve their weight loss goals.

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