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Which Diet Is Right for You?

Here's the skinny on six top diets to help you achieve weight loss success.

Eat More, Weigh Less

Cardiologist Dean Ornish, MD, originally designed his very low-fat diet to help people with heart disease lose weight and lower their cholesterol levels. In his research, his diet did trim people down and it protected against heart disease, although it wasn’t clear whether the diet alone -- or the added exercise and other lifestyle interventions -- made the difference.

Eat More, Weigh Less is his recent approach -- slightly less militaristic than the very low-fat vegan regimen used in many of his studies, although still pretty restrictive. His goal is to change the average American diet from its current composition of 40% fat, 20% protein, and 40% carbs to 10% fat, 20% protein, and 70% carbs.

The bulk of the diet is made up of fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Meats are severely limited, and simple carbs (read: sugar) are forbidden. Because fat has almost twice the calories of carbohydrates or protein, Ornish says changing the math allows you to eat almost a third more food without increasing calories.

The Ornish diet may not satisfy you

The diet is also supposed to prevent you from feeling deprived, but our experts disagree. "He has 10% of calories as fat -- you’re going to be starving on that," says Halton. "My feeling with the Ornish diet is it’s too extreme. It’s just too low-fat and too low-protein," says Layman. "Fat gives the diet texture and flavor. If you get too low, it’s just too hard to sustain."

However, if you’ve already trimmed most of the fat from your diet and are looking for an extra weight-loss boost, Fernstrom says the Ornish diet can work as a good second step.

Bottom line?  Eat More, Weigh Less is probably too restrictive for most people to stick with, but if you can handle the hunger, your heart will probably thank you.

The Sonoma Diet

Nutrition expert Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD, designed the Sonoma Diet for people who love to eat. She calls it “the most flavorful weight-loss plan under the sun,” and with dishes such as pork chops with rosemary, Greek pizza with feta cheese, apple-blueberry tart, and – yes -- even red wine on the menu, it’s hard to argue.

Sonoma is just one version of the Mediterranean style of eating, which favors fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Halton says it’s a good, balanced approach. “I think it’s a wonderful diet," he says. "It takes the nice aspects of a lower-fat diet -- not eating saturated fat and cholesterol -- but also takes the benefits of a lower-carb diet, where you’re not eating refined grains."

As an added bonus, there’s some evidence a Mediterranean-style diet can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and might even prolong your life.

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