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The Heart Foundation's major concern with many VLCARB diets is not their restriction of carbohydrate or increase in protein, but their high and unrestricted saturated fat content, which may contribute to cardiovascular risk. New research was even able to confirm that people are One study of about , adults found that people whose diets were 70 percent plants had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease over 12 years compared with those whose diets centered on meat and dairy. Best weight loss book. The Journal of Nutrition. It's actually been proven to reduce your heart disease-related biomarkers, proven to predict the risk of cardiovascular events and death. It also allows some fruits.

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The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

A review by Harvard researchers linked a daily serving, equal to one hot dog or two slices of bacon, to an increased risk of early death from heart disease and cancer. Too much added sugar —sugar that is put into foods, not the naturally occurring sugar found mainly in fruits and dairy—raises blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according a review in the journal Open Heart.

Limiting sugary beverages, the leading source of added sugars in the American diet, is key. Having just one soda per day could raise diabetes risk by about 20 percent. Many fatty foods—avocados, fatty fish like salmon, nuts , seeds, and olive and other vegetable oils—are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Dietary Guidelines no longer limit how much of those fats you eat as long as you keep your total calories in check. But you should still try to avoid foods packed with saturated fat such as meat, cheese, and butter and trans fat in foods with partially hydrogenated oils.

Those foods cause your body to produce more cholesterol , the substance that gets deposited in your artery walls. The best bet, Willett says, is to swap saturated-fat-laden foods for those rich in unsaturated fats. A Harvard study found that substituting 5 percent of saturated fat in your diet with the unsaturated variety lowered heart disease risk by up to 25 percent, depending on the foods chosen.

On the other hand, risk remains high if you cut back on saturated fat but eat more sugary foods or refined grains such as white bread, white rice , and some cereals. Many people think they should completely avoid eggs because they are high in cholesterol, adding to the amount that your body produces on its own.

But new research shows that the cholesterol in food has a smaller impact on your overall cholesterol levels than once thought. For foods that are high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat—such as eggs, lobster, and shrimp —a serving each day is fine. This article also appeared in the May issue of Consumer Reports magazine. Hallie Levine is an award-winning magazine and freelance writer who contributes to Consumer Reports on health and fitness topics. She's a mom to three kids and a fat but feisty black Labrador Retriever named Ivry.

The bars and shakes are very affordable and widely available, and the diet has been proven to help people lose weight if they follow it closely. However, the restrictive nature of the Slim Fast diet can be tough to stick to for the long term, and many experts say 1, calories per day are not enough for most. You have to sign up, and they come at a cost -- some higher than others depending upon the program -- but commercial diet programs offer a lot of tools for the dieter.

These may include in-person and online support, smartphone and tablet apps, journaling and record-keeping programs specific to the diet, pre-calculated calorie counts, guides for eating out and plenty of proven recipes for any cooking skill level. They also provide the most support, both in person and online. Books to help you lose weight or change your eating habits are a dime a dozen -- and that's a very good thing. A good diet book can be an affordable approach to starting and maintaining a healthy eating plan.

Many even have free online support forums or extensive websites that can be accessed for free or a small fee. The best diet books not only give you an overview of how their program works, but also offer menu plans, recipes and exercise guidance.

Best of all, you can usually try before you buy by checking out the book at your local library. These are very convenient if you don't have the time, energy or ability to plan for and prepare meals.

A prepackaged food program gives you a no-hassle, no-brainer approach to dieting, but the best come at a cost. Even the least expensive prepackaged plans cost more than just buying your own food, and it can be difficult to find out the true cost until you actually commit. Still, if you can afford it, you get a nutritionally balanced, calorie-controlled eating plan with lots of support and no additional tools needed -- except a microwave oven, which are covered in a separate report.

Practically everyone decides at some point in time that they want or need to lose weight. For some, it may be a few pounds they've put on over the holidays, for others it's a serious issue and their weight may be leading to obesity-related health problems. The good news is that if you're struggling with your size, reducing your calorie intake and increasing your activity level have been clinically shown to help you lose weight.

The bad news is that there are no shortcuts and no short-term fixes. Fad diets, herbal supplements, "fat-burning" pills, and highly restrictive diets don't work for long, if at all, and some may cause more harm than good.

The most important consideration of any diet is finding one that you can stick with for the long haul. While many diets promise that you'll quickly shed pounds in the beginning, the truth is that reining in your eating will almost always result in quick, initial weight loss regardless of what program you decide to try.

The trick is to find a program that -- after that first couple of weeks -- you can adhere to as your weight loss slows to more realistic levels.

Experts say that people who make diets a lifestyle rather than just a "diet," while setting a goal of losing a pound or so a week, are more apt to keep the weight off over the long term. The best diets incorporate or encourage exercise and allow you to ingest more calories as your reward.

Some programs have even more specific exercise guidelines, suggesting the best foods to eat both before and after you exercise for maximum energy and recovery. If you don't know what's the best exercise for you, head on over to our reports on treadmills , elliptical trainers , exercise bikes and stair climbers for some ideas to help in your efforts to improve your fitness.

A fitness tracker can also give you the motivation to get up and get moving. Support, either in-person or online, is another key to successful dieting.

The best diets offer support from both trained counselors and fellow dieters. In addition, studies show that those who keep track of their food and activity are ultimately more successful at losing weight.

This personal accountability can help you shed pounds whether you follow a commercial diet program or choose a self-directed diet. Many of our best-rated weight loss programs have tracking software available online, as well as mobile apps, or even paper-tracking programs for those who prefer hard-copy journaling. Other programs or diets may not have dedicated websites, but there are a wealth of free calorie and activity tracking websites that offer community support, recipes and even free exercise videos.

There is always a lot of controversy when it comes to evaluating diets. Many people are firmly in one camp or another over the "right" way to eat. Studies are often contradictory in their findings, and many critics charge that government recommendations are influenced by the food industry.

We present the controversies and cross-opinions, when relevant, but we do not take sides; in our opinion the best diet is the one you feel best on and can stick with.

Instead, we've evaluated expert reviews, most notably those published annually at U. News and World Report. That publication consults medical professionals who, in turn, consult clinical studies as well as utilizing their own experience and expertise to make their recommendations. We then work our way down to dieter opinions posted on survey sites -- to identify the most nutritionally sound and sustainable weight loss programs.

That includes diets, meal-delivery plans, diet books and free, online resources that will help you lose weight and keep it off over the long-term. No weight loss program rivals Weight Watchers' Est. There are no off-limit foods, and the program can be customized for any dietary need, making it a good choice for vegetarians, vegans and anyone who has a specific food allergy or intolerance. It emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables by making them "free" foods -- in other words, foods that don't have to be portioned or tracked.

Weight Watchers has been around for more than 50 years, and has always been a point-based system -- currently known as SmartPoints. Those points are calculated from a formula that takes into account the food's fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrate count. You're given a specific number of points each day that you track and log, as well as weekly bonus points for snacks or additional food items.

Fitness is also a bigger component, and you're encouraged to set fitness goals when you set up your profile, then track them and, if you wish, exchange FitPoints for food. For , "WW Freestyle" is the new buzz phrase, denoting an expanded list of "free" foods -- more than -- that don't have to be tracked or logged.

The program also allows you to rollover up to 4 points per day to add to your weekly total to build a points bank -- perhaps for a special weekend dinner. We see very few downsides to Weight Watchers. Even though it's fee-based, the fees are pretty reasonable. There are also pricier plans available that provide you with individual coaching sessions. Regardless of the plan you choose, experts say you get a lot for your money, especially in online tools and support.

However, if you're on a tight budget, these fees may still be a bit too steep. The only other complaint we noted is that some people say they feel hungry all the time or often in spite of the plethora of food choices, but we see that with virtually all diets as calorie restriction tends to have that result. Experts say that Weight Watchers is one of the easiest programs to follow. There are hundreds of Weight Watchers recipes available, both in cookbook form and online, with pre-calculated points values for each recipe.

Weight Watchers has its own line of frozen entrees, and Weight Watchers points values are often pre-calculated on other brands of frozen entrees. There are many other Weight Watchers-branded prepared foods available as well.

A Mediterranean-style diet, based on produce, legumes, grains, and healthy oils , with small amounts of fish and meat, is connected with better brain health in older adults, according to a study in the journal Neurology. Those who favored fruits and vegetables along with some fish had less brain shrinkage—linked with a reduced risk of cognitive decline—than those who ate more meat.

Eating no more than 3. But can changing your diet after age 50 still make a difference? Absolutely, according to experts. Any step you take will help, but the more plants and fewer animal foods, the better.

Try these easy tips to help you design a plant-based diet: If only you knew what to eat. Lunch Quinoa tabbouleh with chickpeas: Cooked quinoa, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumber, chopped parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, black olives, garbanzo beans. Corn tortillas, black beans, roasted cauliflower, jarred corn salsa, pico de gallo, cumin, salad greens. Rachel Meltzer Warren, M. Please call Member Services at Welcome to Consumer Reports. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed.

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet. Becoming a flexitarian means you can eat meat and still get the health rewards of a vegetarian lifestyle.

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