Weekly Wellness: Going on a diet

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COLUMBIA - "I'm on a diet" is a statement I hear daily, sometimes hourly. It's such a common phrase that I've even heard 5-year-olds say it (probably parroting what they've heard mom or dad say). And there are hundreds of diets in existence. So many it's difficult to know what to do.

While the number of different "diets" rises, believe it or not, the number of adults self-reporting that they are ON a diet is falling. In fact, in 2013, only about 20 percent of adults reported being on a diet, down from 31 percent in 1991, according to the NPD Group.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) published an article reviewing the top five diets from an article by U.S. News and World Report. In this article, a panel of 22 leading health experts, ranked 32 of these diets. If you're interested in which five diets were considered the "top of the crop", here they are:

1. The DASH Diet
The Premise: Developed in conjunction with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to lower blood pressure, this heart-healthy diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and related products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. All of these foods are lower in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and added sugars. People who follow this diet receive specific guidelines, based on calorie needs, for how many daily servings they should eat from various food groups. The diet also encourages a baseline of 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. Those who want to avoid weight gain or keep lost weight from returning are encouraged to shoot for 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day.

Who Should Consider This Diet: With the exception of these athletes, anybody who's looking for lasting changes, especially if they've been diagnosed with heart issues or have a family history of heart problems.

2. TLC Diet
The Premise: The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Diet focuses on significantly decreasing fat, especially saturated fat, to lower cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels, after all, can increase one's risk for heart disease. The mainstay of this diet, which was created by the National Institutes of Health and is endorsed by the American Heart Association, involves decreasing saturated fat to less than 7 percent of total caloric intake. Dietary cholesterol is also limited to less than 200 milligrams a day, and followers are advised to increase plant-based foods (for fiber). A guide details how many servings of certain food groups people should eat each day, all based on calorie requirements. The diet also encourages at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week.

Who Should Consider This Diet: Anybody who wants to achieve an overall healthy lifestyle, especially if heart issues factor strongly on their list of concerns.

3. Mayo Clinic Diet (TIED)
The Premise: The Mayo Clinic calls its diet a weight-loss program for life. There are two main parts to this diet. The first is a two-week phase focused on jumpstarting weight loss. By adding five healthy habits (like eating breakfast and switching to whole grains), stopping five unhealthy habits (like eating no sugar except for fruits and no snacks except fruits and veggies) and adding five healthy bonus habits (like keeping an activity record), people can expect to lose 6 to 10 pounds during those two weeks. The second phase, which highlights steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week, features information about food choices, portion sizes, menu planning and sticking with healthy habits. Overall, the diet centers on fruits and veggies in large volumes. Other foods that make up the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid include whole-grain carbohydrates, lean protein sources (like legumes, fish and low-fat dairy) and unsaturated fats. People are encouraged to log at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise daily.

Who Should Consider This Diet: Anybody, especially those with a history of heart disease.

3. Mediterranean Diet (TIED)
The Premise: Although there are many variations of this diet, the basic tenets remain the same. People who follow this eating style generally base their meals around plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes and seeds, and herbs and spices, according to Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization. Those following this diet might also enjoy fish, seafood and poultry about twice a week, up to seven eggs a week, and low-fat and non-fat versions of cheese and yogurt daily. Meats and sweets, however, factor low on this diet. Water is encouraged, and red wine is consumed in moderation. Logging daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and appreciating healthy and delicious foods, especially those sourced locally, also factor into this plan.
Who Should Consider This Diet: Anybody who wants to embrace a healthier lifestyle, especially those who are tired of dieting per se.

3. Weight Watchers (TIED)
The Premise: Weight Watchers assigns every food a certain number of points based on the nutrient profile of each food. You can eat whatever you want as long as you stick with your daily point target, which is determined by variables like your weight, height, age and gender. Foods with empty calories naturally cost more, while nutritionally dense foods cost less. You can also earn extra food points by exercising. There are fees with this diet, but they vary, depending on whether you choose to attend weekly meetings or use online tools.

Who Should Consider This Diet: People who need support, especially those who don't have that in their own life, and solid structure.