Life without bacon and cheese sounds harsh, but your hips will thank you. Vegan diets beat out semi-vegetarian, pescatarian (fish), and omnivorous (meat and plant foods) diets, according to recent research. In fact, after six months, dieters lost more than twice the weight compared to the other groups. But you can't nix all animal products and call it a day—quality matters. "I see it a lot: two vegans, one is really healthy and the other is really unhealthy," says Pamela Salzman, an LA-based cooking instructor and holistic health counselor. "You can eat potato chips all day and that's a vegan diet," she says. If you're going vegan, focus on those complex carbs, produce, healthy fats, and whole soy foods; skip processed junk, even if it's vegan.
This diet has some big guys behind it: The National Institutes of Health recommends TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) for lowering your cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease—especially if you have risk factors like being a woman who is 55 or older, have a family history, or have high blood pressure. Following the diet—low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and focused on fiber—can lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol by 20 to 30 percent and allow you to take a smaller dose of cholesterol-lowering medication, the NIH reports.
Talk about heart ache: high blood pressure stresses arteries, and can make you more susceptible to heart disease. To eat to lower your blood pressure, you just need to focus on heart-healthy bites. The American Heart Association recommends loading up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, beans, lean meats, and fish. Bonus: no one's ever gotten fat eating more kale and beans.