U.S. News & World Report just added diets to its year-end best-of list. The number one spot for this year is held by the DASH diet. While that may be getting much of the publicity, right behind it at number two is another catchy-sounding plan: the TLC diet.
One thing both diets have in common is they were created by divisions of the National Institutes of Health, with the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet (TLC) being created by the NIH’s National Cholesterol Education Program.
Since government health agencies aren’t in the business of creating or endorsing fad diets, you can expect a no-frills approach. And since this one was created by a program related to cholesterol, healthy levels of cholesterol are a central goal.
Endorsed by the American Heart Association, the TLC diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by minimizing fat, particularly the saturated variety found in meat, fried foods and whole-milk dairy. These foods increase your levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol and your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
The TLC diet approach starts with considering what your goals are. If you don’t need to lose weight, but must lower your cholesterol, men shoot for 2,500 calories per day and women 1,800. Those numbers are considerably lower if you need to lose weight: 1,600 calories for men and 1,200 calories for women.
You are also given maximum intakes for cholesterol and saturated fat. You need to reduce saturated fat to less than seven percent of your daily calories and lower daily dietary cholesterol to 200 milligrams.
If you don’t see a reduction in LDL cholesterol over the next six weeks, you add plant stanols or sterols and 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber each day, both known for lowering cholesterol. Stanols and sterols can be had through supplementation or in vegetable oils and certain margarine.
While the TLC diet was designed with lowering cholesterol as the first priority (not weight loss), it’s highly likely you would shed extra pounds given the diet concentrates on fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.