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A survey done by U.S News and World Report into healthy diets, saw the TLC diet come in with a total of 4.0 points out of five, only 0.1 point behind the top ranking DASH diet. However, unlike many popular fad diets it has not had a large amount of publicity and press coverage, meaning that many people have never heard of the diet and are unaware of the benefits it may have for their health.
What is the TLC diet?
The TLC diet or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet was created by the National Cholesterol Education Program, endorsed by the American Heart Association and is designed to regulate blood cholesterol levels through diet and physical activity.
The aforementioned survey found the diet to be one of the healthiest around due to the fact that it is balanced, is based around foods considered to have health benefits, is reasonably flexible and is easy to follow without professional help.
The diet is designed to optimize the levels of good HDL cholesterol in the blood and reduce levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol, resulting in a lower risk of heart disease. Although the diet is not directly designed for weight loss, this is often a bi-product of the diet and it is recommended that a weight loss of 10 pounds be undertaken for overweight individuals, as this can also have beneficial effects on blood cholesterol.
The diet is simple to follow, focusing on a balanced intake of fats, carbohydrates, proteins and fiber. The diet recommends that saturated fat intake should be below 7% of total calorie intake for a day and total fat should be around 25-35%, meaning a relatively high intake of healthier unsaturated fats.
Cholesterol intake from food is also limited to below 200mg per day and sodium should be below 2400mg. Total calorie intake varies from person to person, depending on what is necessary for them to maintain a healthy weight. The plan also includes at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
Due to its high content of fruit and vegetables and whole grain carbohydrates, the diet is also high in fiber, which is thought to not only assist with weight loss and a healthy digestive system, but also to improve blood cholesterol levels.
What are the benefits?
- The TLC diet is a balanced healthy diet that falls in lines with current knowledge and recommendations when it comes to lowering blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It is designed to reduce risk of heart disease which is a huge killer in the American population.
- It is relatively easy to follow and is based on whole foods rather than diet products. This also means that it is cheaper to follow than many diets that require specialized products.
- It puts emphasis on education and will increase your knowledge of concepts such as label reading and learning about the types of fat you consume in your diet.
- It may result in weight loss if followed with an appropriate calorie deficit and is an excellent way to maintain a healthy weight once this has been achieved.
- It may mean that lower doses of cholesterol medications are required for some individuals.
- It is not too restrictive and is a diet based on a healthy lifestyle rather than a short term diet solution.
- The education package gives a complete overview on which foods are appropriate on the diet, including foods from a variety of different cultures and eating styles. It also gives tips for eating out and social occasions. This comprehensive package means that the diet can be easily followed with a minimum of input from health professionals.
Are there any disadvantages?
The TLC diet is not for everyone, although due to its balanced nature it will suit a large proportion of the population. Some of the drawbacks include:
- It is not specifically designed for weight loss. This means that if weight loss is your primary diet goal there may be other diets that will suit this purpose better.
- It requires you to learn about the foods you are eating and how to read labels. This may not suit everybody, particularly those short on time or with limited motivation who may wish for a more prescriptive diet.
- It may not completely eliminate the need for cholesterol lowering drugs.
Who is the TLC diet suitable for?
Due to its balanced nature and the ease with which it can be followed, the TLC diet is a healthy option for a large proportion of the population, but is particularly suited to those with a high risk of heart disease or who are currently on medications for high cholesterol or blood pressure.
It may not be suited to those who have a primary aim of losing weight or those who prefer a strict diet to follow. It is always advisable to consult with a health professional before beginning any diet to make sure it is right for you and that it will not interact in any way with medications you may be taking.
References used in this article