Losing excess fat and reaching a healthy body weight may benefit men’s health in numerous ways. For example, a healthy body weight may reduce your risk of many health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and liver disease (1, 2).
In fact, men with obesity have a greater risk of chronic disease than women with obesity because men tend to have more visceral fat, a type of belly fat linked to elevated disease risk (3).
Losing weight may also help improve sexual dysfunction, mobility, depressive symptoms, and men’s overall quality of life (4).
However, losing weight the right way is critical. Although restrictive fad diets may cause short-term weight loss, they’re never the right choice for long-term weight maintenance.
Rather, you should focus on finding a healthy, sustainable plan that nourishes your body, meets your specific needs, and can be followed long term — perhaps for life.
Research shows that the most effective weight loss strategies for men involve dietary modifications alongside increased physical activity and other behavioral changes — not diet alone (5).
Here are 10 healthy diets that may help men lose weight.
High protein diets have also been found to preserve muscle mass during weight loss, which helps maintain resting energy expenditure — or the number of calories you burn at rest (10).
The amount of protein you need depends on many factors, including your body size, activity level, and age.
Most high protein diets provide at least 0.6 grams of protein per pound (1.3 grams per kg) of body weight, which is notably higher than the current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight (12).
Diets high in protein may promote weight loss and help you maintain a healthy body weight over time.
The Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and fish, has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, weight loss, and weight maintenance (13).
A 12-year study in 32,119 people — 9,662 of whom were men — associated strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet with a reduced risk of excess weight and obesity, as well as smaller waist circumference and a lower risk of belly fat (14).
Research indicates that the Mediterranean diet promotes weight loss and protects against heart disease and other health conditions in men.
Most people can benefit from following a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet, including men who want to lose excess body fat.
WFPB diets are not the same as vegan diets, which exclude all animal products.
Instead, WFPB diets include small amounts of animal products like fish, eggs, cheese, chicken, and yogurt, although they’re primarily based on whole plant foods like vegetables, fruits, and beans.
Because of the emphasis on whole plant foods and the exclusion of highly processed foods, WFPB diets are rich in fiber and other beneficial nutrients. Plus, WFPB diets have been shown to promote weight loss.
For example, in a review of 12 randomized controlled studies, people who followed plant-based diets — including several that included some animal protein — lost significantly more weight over an average of 18 weeks than those assigned to non-plant-based diets (20).
WFPB diets emphasize whole plant foods, though they may include small amounts of animal products. Such diets may improve men’s health and encourage weight loss.
Low carb diets are one of the most popular eating patterns — and for good reason.
Such diets vary in carb content, from the very low carb keto diet to more flexible, moderate carb diets. Low carb eating patterns have been shown to boost weight loss and improve other aspects of men’s health.
In a small, 8-week study in 34 older adults with obesity, those assigned to a low carb diet that provided less than or equal to 10% of calories from carbs lost 3 times more visceral fat than those assigned to a standard low fat diet (25).
The low carb diet group also lost nearly 8% more total body fat and retained more muscle mass (25).
Because men are likelier to have more visceral fat than women, any diet that targets this harmful type of body fat may greatly improve men’s health and reduce disease risk (3).
Research suggests that diets that are more moderate in carbs are easier to maintain long term than very low carb diets (27).
Because one of the most important factors in choosing a diet is the ability to follow it long term, a more moderate carb approach is likely the better choice for sustainable weight loss (27).
Research has noted that low carb diets may boost weight loss. Choosing a version that’s more moderate in carbs is likely better for long-term weight maintenance.
Fiber not only helps you feel full but also benefits your health in many other ways, which is why fiber-rich diets are a good choice for weight loss.
Studies consistently associate high fiber diets, including Mediterranean and plant-based diets, with a healthy body weight.
In a recent, 6-month study in 345 people — 46% of whom were men — those who followed a high fiber diet were most likely to lose weight. On average, every 10-gram increase in daily fiber was tied to a 5-pound (2.2-kg) decrease in body weight (28).
Eating more fiber may help men reach and maintain a healthy body weight, as well as reduce disease risk.
Foods that are energy-dense and nutrient-poor include french fries, sugary baked goods, sweetened beverages, and candy (35).
Foods that are low in calories but dense in nutrients include vegetables and fruits. Eating more low calorie, nutrient-dense foods is strongly associated with weight loss and healthy weight maintenance (36, 37, 38).
Yet, high calorie, nutrient-dense foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, egg yolks, and unsweetened full fat yogurt are important for a healthy diet, too. Balancing these foods with low calorie, nutrient-dense foods like veggies and fruits is a smart way to maintain a healthy body weight.
Try eating low calorie, nutrient-dense foods during every meal and snack. For example, add a handful of spinach and chopped red pepper to your morning egg scramble, then sliced vegetables or fruit to your afternoon snack.
Eating more low calorie, nutrient-dense foods can help men reach and maintain a healthy body weight.
This restricts grains, legumes, refined sugars, and some dairy products. Its main premise is to reduce your intake of highly processed products and focus instead on whole, nutrient-dense foods that are rich in healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (39).
Some evidence suggests that this diet is effective for fat loss, which is no surprise since it excludes or limits many foods tied to weight gain, including processed grain products, sugary baked goods, and soda.
A review of 11 randomized studies ranging from 2 weeks to 2 years found that, on average, people who adopted the paleo diet lost 8 pounds (3.5 kg) more than those following other eating patterns (39).
The paleo diet may help men lose excess body fat and improve certain markers of metabolic health, such as blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels.
The MIND diet emphasizes foods that aid brain health, including berries, olive oil, nuts, beans, green leafy vegetables, and fish. It also recommends limiting potentially harmful foods like sweets and fried foods.
It’s rich in fiber, healthy fats, and low calorie, nutrient-dense foods like berries and leafy green veggies. It also encourages the use of olive oil, which is associated with healthy body weight maintenance (44).
The MIND diet combines elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets to encourage healthy, nutrient-dense foods that promote brain health. It also makes an excellent choice for weight management.
Intermittent energy restriction (IER) is an umbrella term that encompasses both intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating.
Some evidence suggests that IER improves blood sugar regulation, blood pressure, inflammatory markers, triglyceride levels, and weight loss (45).
There are many types of IER, including 16-hour energy restriction, 2-day fasting, and alternate-day fasting.
A review of 27 studies ranging from 2–24 weeks found that people who followed IER patterns lost 0.8–13% of their baseline body weight. The review also found that IER improved blood sugar control (47).
However, the researchers acknowledged that most of the studies were small. Thus, further research is needed (47).
IER may help enhance weight loss and benefit other aspects of men’s health.
Vegetarian diets are high in plant-based foods, including veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Some versions, such as ovo-vegetarian and lacto-vegetarian diets, include animal products like milk or eggs.
Research strongly associates vegetarian diets with a healthy body weight and weight loss.
A review of 3 studies that included 20,975 men tied plant-based diets rich in whole plant foods and low in animal foods to less weight gain over a 4-year period (30).
In a study in 10,064 adults, those who followed vegetarian diets consumed 419 fewer calories per day, on average, and ate more legumes and nuts than non-vegetarians. Both of these factors are associated with healthy weight management (50, 51, 52).
Healthy vegetarian diets should be low in refined foods, including highly processed plant-based foods like sugary desserts, sweetened beverages, and fried foods.
Vegetarian diets high in nutrient-dense plant foods may lead to reduced calorie intake and help men lose excess body fat.
Men who want to lose excess body fat have many healthy, sustainable diets to choose from.
Though you may be tempted to follow a restrictive, low calorie diet that promises quick weight loss, it’s important to choose one that fuels your body, isn’t overly restrictive, and can be maintained long term.
To find the best diet for your needs, it may be helpful to work with an experienced healthcare provider like a registered dietitian.