The best diets in the world to lose weight sustainably


Every year, internationally renowned experts draw up a ranking for the American magazine US News & World Report of the best diets for losing weight and being in good health. What are these diets and how to choose the most suitable one? Here are their identity cards and their possible variations.

Despite a plentiful supply, five dietary models continue to stand out each year, with scientific data supporting their effects on health.

Okinawa diet: the basis of longevity

The Okinawa diet is named after a small island in the south of Japan, a “blue zone” renowned for the healthy longevity of its inhabitants. According to experts, this is largely linked to their lifestyle , particularly their traditional diet which, unfortunately for current generations, has become highly Westernized (sodas, processed products, etc.).

Its main characteristics

  • A plate centered on plants. Sweet potatoes, green leafy or yellow root vegetables, and legumes (especially soya) form the basis of each meal. They are sometimes supplemented with a little cereal with a low glycemic index, such as millet. Unlike the rest of Japan, rice is not very common;
  • Moderate consumption of alcohol and almost no sugary products (sugar, fruit, etc.);
  • A low energy intake (10 to 15% less than the recommended intake) linked to the choice of foods which for the most part have a low energy density (vegetables, lean meats and fish, etc.), to small portions and to listening sensations (it is recommended to stop eating before being full);
  • A lower presence of meat foods (mainly lean pork) and dairy products;
  • Moderate consumption of fish products , with the exception of seaweed , which is widely used;
  • A low fat intake (less than 10% of total calories) with good ratios between saturated and monounsaturated lipids, as well as between omega-3 and omega-6. The fats used are fish oil and pork fat, in very small quantities.


Its benefits

According to researchers, this traditional diet combines several key elements for healthy longevity. The very high intakes of various antioxidants , present in particular in sweet potatoes and yellow-orange tubers (beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, polyphenols, etc.) fight against the damage of free radicals and cell aging.

The very low representation of animal products prevents inflammation. The quantity and especially the quality of lipids  contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system and brain function. Finally, calorie restriction could play a crucial role.

Okinawan style meal

  • Miso soup topped with small amounts of tofu, fish, pork or vegetables;
  • Dish of varied local vegetables, simmered with a little fish oil or pork fat, bonito broth and small quantities of fish or pork;
  • Jasmine tea.

Mediterranean diet: the diet for the heart

The Mediterranean diet is characteristic of the traditional diet of the Mediterranean basin (Italy, Greece, Maghreb, etc.) which, despite variations specific to each country, has a marked identity. Scientists' interest in it dates back to the 1950s and the "seven countries" study which, after analyzing data from nearly 13,000 men aged 40 to 59 from different countries, concluded that the inhabitants of Mediterranean regions were healthier than those in the north.

Its main characteristics

  • At each meal, plenty of local and seasonal vegetables . Raw or cooked, they represent the basis of the plate and bring color and variety. Fruits (citrus fruits in particular) are also present;
  • A low presence of dairy products. With the exception of sheep's and goat's milk products, mostly in a fermented form (kefir, yogurts, fresh cheeses);
  • Unrefined grains in moderate amounts. Mostly from ancient varieties (bulgur, spelt, durum wheat semolina, wholemeal pasta, buckwheat, quinoa, etc.), they appear on the menu at almost every meal;
  • A fairly high lipid intake (close to 40%). Olive oil is the reference fat, used in raw and cooked preparations, and sometimes at breakfast;
  • Regular consumption of oilseeds and dried fruits . Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts , dates , apricots and raisins... are used in many recipes, both savory and sweet;
  • Tasty cuisine . Mediterranean dishes combine different flavors, colors and scents, with great use of aromatics (onion, garlic, etc.), spices (cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, etc.) and herbs;
  • Honey occasionally. To sweeten foods and in pastries, reserved for occasions.


Its benefits

This diet combines several beneficial parameters such as the importance given to antioxidants, unsaturated fats, fiber, and low consumption of saturated fats, meats, salt and sugar. A wealth of scientific literature has highlighted its protective effects on the arteries and the heart, preventing diabetes, excess weight  and probably cancer. It would thus improve longevity.

Mediterranean-style meal

  • Salad of tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, olives, coriander and parsley, olive oil and lemon juice;
  • Bulgur ratatouille with olive oil and grilled sardines;
  • Sheep's yogurt, honey.

DASH diet: the Mediterranean version for the arteries

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)  was established in the United States in the 1990s, based on scientific data, to lower blood pressure in at-risk patients. It precisely dictates the quantities and frequencies of consumption of different foods and insists on the reduction of salt and lipids.

In practice

It is based on  : daily consumption of 4 to 5 portions of vegetables, 2 to 3 medium fruits, 2 to 3 plain semi-skimmed dairy products, 1 to 2 portions of lean meat, fish or eggs, 2 to 3 portions of whole grains or legumes, 45 g of oilseeds and 2 to 3 tbsp. teaspoon of vegetable oil.

Are limited  : salt intake (less than 6 g per day), by adding less salt and limiting salty foods (bread, cheese, etc.) and ultra-processed foods; sugar intake and sweet products (less than 5 tablespoons per week) and alcoholic beverages (1 glass per week max).

Mind diet: the Mediterranean version for the brain

This model, developed by American researchers in 2015, includes food compounds with sufficient scientific evidence regarding  their positive impact on the brain  : B group vitamins (B6, B9 and B12), polyunsaturated fats, antioxidant compounds ( vitamins E and C, polyphenols, carotenoids, etc.). And recommends limiting foods that can have negative effects on brain function . Such a diet could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 53%.

In practice

He advises  : increased consumption of 10 healthy components: green leafy vegetables (6 or more servings/week), other vegetables, olive oil, whole grains (at least 3 servings/day), legumes (at least 4 times/ week), fish (at least once/week, favoring fat), berries (at least twice/week), nuts (5 or more servings/week), poultry (at least twice/week), green tea.

And recommends limiting 5 harmful components  : fried foods (max 1 time a week), sweets (max 4 times a week), red meat (max 3 portions a week), cheese (max 1 time a week), butter and margarines (less than 1 c. to s. per day).

Portfolio Diet: the anti-cholesterol diet

Originally from Canada and designed in the early 2000s by Dr. David Jenkins and his team at the University of Toronto, this diet is intended to reduce bad cholesterol levels for better cardiovascular health. Rather than banning food categories, it is based on an almost vegetarian diet  to which a specific portfolio of products known to lower cholesterol must be added on a daily basis.

Its main characteristics

  • 4 foods to consume every day  : 45 g maximum of oilseeds + 50 g maximum of vegetable proteins from soy or legumes (lentils, chickpeas, dried beans, etc.) + 22 g maximum of mucilaginous soluble fiber from oats, psyllium, eggplant, apple, orange, berries or barley + 2 g of sterols of plant origin ( phytosterols ) from products enriched with plant sterols (margarines, yogurts, etc.) more consumption of foods containing it naturally;
  • Whole grains and legumes depending on appetite. Oats, barley, rye, dried beans, lentils, etc. can be eaten with every meal;
  • Very few eggs. By favoring especially white;
  • Fruits and vegetables at every meal. At least one serving of each;
  • A little animal protein , very low in lipids. To become acceptable to the majority, this initially vegetarian diet included poultry and lean meats as well as fish (even fatty ones, because they are not the same fats) a few times a week.

Its benefits

The reduction in bad cholesterol (LDL) can reach 30% or more, which can sometimes make it possible to do without medication. The effects on good cholesterol vary. Triglycerides may also drop. A 2018 meta-analysis thus indicates a reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Portfolio type meal

  • Lamb's lettuce salad, rapeseed or olive oil, nuts;
  • Lentils or white beans or chickpeas. Barley flakes or wholemeal pasta or brown rice, 1 tbsp. teaspoon of margarine with plant sterols;
  • Calcium-enriched soy yogurt;
  • Apple.

Why these 5 diets can change everything: expert opinion

Mediterranean, DASH, MIND, Portfolio or Okinawa: how, why, for whom? Internationally renowned experts answer our questions.

What do these diets have in common?

They all value simple, local foods that have undergone little or no processing. There is also sobriety and moderation and even, for some (Okinawa), frugality. And they are predominantly plant-based, without completely excluding animal products. Dr Jean-Michel Lecerf, nutritionist

Their second point in common is that they can all claim beneficial effects on health, particularly metabolic, and on weight regulation, to varying degrees.

Why are these diets good for health and longevity?

They contain little or no foods implicated in health problems

Namely: ultra-processed products, “  junk food  ” and sugary foods, largely correlated with excess weight and metabolic disorders, diabetes in particular, notably through their deleterious impact on the arteries, the intestinal microbiota and blood sugar. Animal products are also present in very small quantities and the meats consumed are mainly lean: the intake of saturated fat, which is harmful in excess for the cardiovascular system, is therefore very low.

They promote good fats

“All favor healthy fatty acids , such as those found in olive oil, plant sources and fatty fish,” emphasizes Christal Burnett, researcher. Mono- (olive oil, avocado, oilseeds) and polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish, nuts) have recognized protective effects with regard to, among other things, cardiovascular health, but also cerebral health.

They display a strong antioxidant potential

They all give pride of place to foods rich in various antioxidants  : fruits and vegetables (polyphenols, carotenes, etc.), oilseeds and vegetable oils (vitamin E, zinc, etc.), spices, etc. However, these substances could delay the effects of aging, among other things by opposing the misdeeds of free radicals.

They consume a lot of fiber

Rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains, they provide a lot of them and in different forms (soluble, insoluble), with demonstrated protective effects against cardiovascular disorders (particularly hypercholesterolemia), certain cancers, overweight and obesity. diabetes. “The Portfolio Diet additionally encourages the inclusion of modest amounts of nuts, soy products and soluble fiber, all of which have cholesterol-lowering properties,” says nutrition researcher Professor Neal Barnard.

They have a high anti-inflammatory potential

“These predominantly plant-based dishes, rich in fiber and protective antioxidants, also have an action against chronic inflammation in the body  ,” adds Dr. Lecerf. First, they encourage the consumption of foods with recognized anti-inflammatory effects  , such as spices, fatty fish (especially Okinawa) and certain oilseeds rich in omega-3, and sometimes green tea. In addition, thanks to their fibers, they promote the production of short-chain fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties in the intestinal microbiota.

They encourage moderation

These diets are based on a minimally processed diet, where frugality is often essential. Sources of carbohydrates, slowly assimilated and rich in fiber, satiate and thus help to better regulate the appetite. However, a study by the team of Okinawa researchers published in 2017 suggests that the mild calorie restriction (10 to 15% less than the recommended calorie intake) of the island's inhabitants would probably play a role in extending their duration life and good health.

Which ones work best for losing weight?

The Okinawa diet is undoubtedly the one that most encourages calorie restriction. Above all out of obligation.

Okinawa is an island, there is little food available. Hence the absence of red meat, dairy products and even the scarcity of cereals, such as rice, in the diet! Christal Burnett, researcher at the Okinawa Research Center for Longevity Sciences.

But also by philosophy of life: “this diet owes a large part of its effectiveness to the social bonds and the mentality that are established during the meal,” insists Christal Burnett. The emphasis is on mindful eating practices, encouraging individuals to be attentive to cues of hunger and fullness  .”

For the other regimes, although all have shown a significant effect on regulation, the effectiveness varies greatly, depending on their specificities.

The Portfolio diet is particularly powerful. Because it recommends the total or almost total avoidance of animal products, it contains almost no animal fats and cholesterol. In comparison, a Mediterranean diet has a very limited impact on weight. Professor Neal Barnard, nutrition researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine

According to the American expert, the MIND and DASH diets are also made less effective by the greater presence of animal products. Thus, intervention work carried out by the specialist and his team showed that “vegan diets are much more effective for weight loss and cholesterol reduction, the Mediterranean is slightly better for reducing blood pressure”.

How do I choose the diet that’s right for me?

It depends above all on the objective!

I do not recommend a Mediterranean, DASH, or MIND diet for anyone wanting to lose weight or improve their cholesterol or diabetes. They're just not effective enough. Professor Neal Barnard

Vegan models , like the Portfolio, give much more results  ,” adds the researcher. Be careful though! “The portfolio or the DASH, which are diets developed by scientists, are sometimes too dogmatic and little attached to the hedonic aspect of food,” warns Dr. Lecerf. With strict instructions, compliance is difficult and abandonments are numerous.”

The nutritionist recommends instead taking inspiration from these models to find the right dietary balance according to your lifestyle and tastes. That is to say generally to increase the proportion of plants and good fats, to limit animal products, especially fatty ones, and, as in Okinawa, to eat with full awareness and sharing.

Can everyone follow them?

These dietary models favor a healthy diet and therefore have no contraindications. However, for some, it is better to seek advice from your doctor in the event of pregnancy , a particular pathology or malnutrition.