Diet plans have been around almost as long as civilization itself. The ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of the influence diet and exercise had on weight. Even the word “diet” is ancient, derived from the Greek word ‘diatia,’ which referred to a lifestyle centered on self-control and eating in moderation. The first best selling diet book, On Honorable Pleasure and Health, published in 1474, was an instant success because it was the first of its kind to promote personal health and happiness.

Centuries later, people are still interested in learning about nutrition. Throughout the years, researchers and health professionals have amassed a mountain of information about nutrition. A number of diets have emerged over time, particularly since the introduction of Weight Watchers in the early 1960s.

New diets seem to pop up every day now; some promise weight loss while others tout health benefits. There are diets to lower blood pressure, for example, and eating plans to keep blood sugar levels under control. Some diets address digestive disorder, and a few reflect cultural values.

Knowing the ins and outs of these diets is quite powerful for anyone who wants to use nutrition to improve their own lives or the lives of others. Health and wellness professionals interested in gaining a solid understanding of the science behind nutrition can benefit from the Nutrition Science online short course. The course prepares attendees to interpret nutritional evidence, make nutritional assessments and dietary analyses, examine research, and recognize the value of optimal nutrition in terms of preventative care.

Top 7 Dietary Plans

1. Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet focuses on foods commonly consumed in Greece, Italy, and Spain. While there is no single definition of the diet, it is generally low in sugar and high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Research shows eating a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, and can even lower cholesterol.

2. DASH diet
As its name suggests, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet treats and prevents high blood pressure. Originating in the 1990s, this nutritionally complete diet is low in sodium and high in potassium, calcium, magnesium and other nutrients that lower blood pressure. Adherents to the diet can expect to lower their blood pressure by a few points in just a couple of weeks. Research shows the DASH diet can also lower blood glucose levels, triglycerides, cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

3. Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay
The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND diet) aims to reduce cognitive decline and dementia associated with aging. The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Like the Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet does not offer a structured eating plan, but it does encourage the consumption of leafy green vegetables, nuts and berries, olive oil, and whole grains. Research shows that following this diet can prevent cognitive decline after a stroke.

4. Flexitarian diet
The Flexitarian diet is for people who want to enjoy the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, but who do not want to give up meat completely. This eating plan focuses on protein from plants rather than from animals, but allows meat and animal products occasionally.

The Flexitarian diet is increasingly popular, especially among younger consumers. In fact, more than 60 percent of Millennials expressed interest in the Flexitarian diet in 2018.

5. Weight Watchers
Now known as “WW,” Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that assigns points to food and beverages based on their nutritional value. Despite being one of the oldest diet plans around, Weight Watchers still attracts about 600,000 new users each year.

6. Mayo Clinic diet
Followers of the Mayo Clinic diet consume ample quantities of low-calorie, energy dense fruits and vegetables, exercise 30 minutes a day, and avoid certain behaviors, such as eating while watching television. The diet promises weight loss of 6 to 10 pounds in the first two weeks, followed by steady weight loss of one to two pounds each week.

7. Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes
Created by the National Institute of Health, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet helps people lower cholesterol through a heart-healthy eating plan. The TLC diet regimen includes fruits and vegetables, breads, cereals, pasta, and lean meats; the diet provides flexibility in terms of the exact foods and amounts people can eat.

For more information about nutrition and designing a healthy eating plan, consider taking the Nutrition Science online short course. Understanding the foundational science underlying each eating plan can help reduce disease and improve overall health.