This is one of the few meal plans that health experts worldwide consistently rank as one of the best diets.
It is designed to help promote better heart health and lower cholesterol levels by combining healthy eating patterns with lifestyle modifications and weight management strategies.
Additionally, it can also effectively treat other conditions by lowering blood sugar, controlling blood pressure levels, and keeping your waistline in check.
This article reviews the TLC diet and its possible benefits and drawbacks.
What is the TLC diet?
The TLC diet, or Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet, is a healthy eating plan designed to improve heart health.
The National Institutes of Health developed it to help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The goal of the diet is to minimize blood levels of total “bad” LDL cholesterol to keep arteries clear and optimize heart health.
It works by combining components of the diet, exercise, and weight management to help protect against heart disease.
Unlike other diet programs, the TLC diet is meant to be followed for the long term and should be viewed more as a lifestyle change rather than a fad diet.
In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, the TLC diet has been associated with many other health benefits, from improved immune function to reduced oxidative stress and more.
The TLC diet is a heart-healthy eating plan designed to improve heart health by lowering cholesterol levels.
How does it work?
The TLC diet involves a combination of diet and lifestyle modifications that have been shown to help improve heart health.
In particular, it involves changing the types of fat you eat and increasing your intake of health-promoting compounds, such as soluble fiber and plant sterols, which can help lower cholesterol levels.
It also combines dietary changes with increased physical activity to help control weight and strengthen the heart muscle.
The main guidelines for following the TLC diet include:
- Eat only enough calories to maintain a healthy weight.
- 25 to 35% of your daily calories should come from fat.
- Less than 7% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat.
- Dietary cholesterol intake should be limited to less than 200 mg per day.
- Aim for 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber a day.
- Consume at least 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols each day.
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day.
- Following the TLC diet generally involves increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to increase your fiber intake.
Adding 30 minutes of physical activity per day to your routine is also recommended, which may include activities such as:
- To walk.
- To run.
- To swim.
In the meantime, you should limit high-fat and high-cholesterol foods like fatty cuts of Meat, dairy products, egg yolks, and processed foods to stay within the recommended daily allowance, which helps maximize results.
The TLC diet combines weight control, physical activity, and dietary changes to optimize heart health.
Heart health and other benefits
The TLC diet is designed to help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
In a 32-day study of 36 people with high cholesterol, the TLC diet could lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 11%.
Another study found that following the TLC diet for six weeks led to significant reductions in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, especially in men.
One of the ways it works is by promoting increased consumption of soluble fiber, which has been linked to lower cholesterol levels and a lower risk of heart disease.
The TLC diet also recommends consuming plant sterols and stanols.
These are naturally occurring compounds found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that have lower blood levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Incorporating exercise into your routine and moderating your saturated fat consumption can also help keep LDL cholesterol levels in check.
In addition to helping lower cholesterol levels, the TLC diet has been associated with several other health benefits, including:
- Improved immune function: A small study of 18 people showed that following a TLC diet enhanced immune function in older adults with high cholesterol.
- Promote Weight Loss: Getting regular exercise, keeping calorie intake under control, and increasing soluble fiber intake may be effective strategies to help promote sustainable weight loss.
- Blood Sugar Stabilization – The TLC diet includes an increased intake of soluble fiber, which can decrease blood sugar absorption to help control blood sugar levels.
- Reduced oxidative stress: A study in 31 adults with diabetes showed that following a TLC diet high in legumes reduced oxidative stress, which is believed to be linked to the development of chronic diseases.
- Blood pressure reduction: Studies show that increasing your soluble fiber intake can lower your systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels.
The TLC diet can help lower cholesterol levels and has been linked to increased weight loss, decreased blood pressure, reduced oxidative stress, and improved immune function.
Although the TLC diet can be a valuable tool to help improve heart health, it can be associated with some potential downsides.
It can be challenging to follow and may require you to monitor your intake carefully to adhere to strict guidelines for dietary cholesterol, saturated fat, and soluble fiber.
Additionally, several guidelines included in the diet may be based on outdated research, casting doubt on their need.
For example, the TLC diet recommends limiting dietary cholesterol intake to less than 200 mg per day.
Although dietary cholesterol was thought to play a role in heart health, most research now shows that it has little or no effect on blood cholesterol levels for most people.
Additionally, the TLC diet also recommends minimizing saturated fat in the diet.
While saturated fats can increase “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, research shows that they can also raise “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood, beneficial for heart health.
Several major reviews have shown that reducing saturated fat intake is not linked to a lower risk of heart disease or death from heart disease.
The TLC diet can be challenging to follow, and various diet components may not be necessary for most people.
Food to eat
The TLC diet should include a good amount of:
- Whole grains
These foods are rich in many nutrients and high in fiber to help you meet your daily needs.
The diet should also include moderate amounts of lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and low-fat cuts of Meat.
Here are some foods to include in the diet:
- Fruits: apples, bananas, melons, oranges, pears, peaches, etc.
- Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, etc.
- Whole grains: barley, brown rice, couscous, oats, quinoa, etc.
- Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas.
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, chestnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, etc.
- Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and others.
- Red Meat: lean cuts of veal, pork, lamb, and others.
- Poultry: skinless turkey, chicken, others.
- Fish and shellfish: salmon, cod, flounder, pollock, others.
The TLC diet should include many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Foods to Avoid
People on a TLC diet are advised to limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as fatty cuts of Meat, processed meat products, egg yolks, and dairy products.
Processed and fried foods should also be avoided to keep fat and calorie intake within the recommended range.
- Red Meat: fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, others.
- Processed Meat: bacon, sausage, hot dogs, others.
- Poultry with skin: turkey, chicken, others.
- Whole dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and others.
- Processed foods: baked goods, cookies, crackers, potato chips, etc.
- Fried foods: French fries, donuts, egg rolls, others.
- Egg yolks.
Foods high in fat and cholesterol should be avoided from the TLC diet, including high-fat animal products and processed foods.
The bottom line
- The TLC diet combines diet and exercise for long-term lifestyle changes that help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
- It can also enhance immunity, oxidative stress, and blood sugar levels.
- The diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds while limiting foods high in fat and cholesterol.
- When used as a lifestyle modification rather than a fad or quick-fix diet, the TLC diet has the potential to have a powerful impact on long-term health.