TLC Diet: Heart Health As A Diet Trend

Diet trends come and go. Currently, the TLC diet is very popular as a new health trend. We explain what TLC stands for and what benefits the diet has for you.

What is the TLC diet?

The TLC diet is also called “Therapeutic Lifestyle Change” and is a diet that was developed in the USA by the National Institute of Health. Originally, the TLC method is used to lower cholesterol levels in the long term.

“The principle of the diet is to consciously reduce the fat intake in the diet. To this end, a favorable ratio of unsaturated to saturated fatty acids should also be maintained,” explains Prof. Dr. Katja Lotz, ecotrophologist, head of the Food Management course, and scientific advisor at DHBW Heilbronn.

TLC: a way of life, not a food trend

Unlike many food trends, diets, and detox programs, the TLC diet is a permanent diet. Just like the better-known DASH diet, the goal is to improve physical health.

Losing weight is also only a long-term side effect of the change in diet. Combined with a daily exercise phase of at least 30 minutes, the diet promotes weight loss.

Of course, this is not a quick solution to lose a few kilos, however, we advise against fast diets in principle rather.

Diet, nutrition method, or lifestyle?

When we think of dieting, we usually think of weight loss, dietary restrictions, and doing without. But the original meaning of diet comes from the Greek “diaita”, which means “order”.

Nowadays, nutritionists understand diet as synonymous with nutrition. They agree that classic slimming programs do not bring lasting health-promoting effects.

There is also talk of “losing weight the wrong way” through so-called flash diets. The renunciation of certain foods ensures that the kilos fall quickly – but as soon as the diet is over, the yo-yo effect often sets in.

According to experts, a diet is only suitable if it provides for a permanent change in eating habits.

How the TLC diet works

The TLC diet is such a complete change of diet. Originally, the diet was recommended to heart patients, for whom lowering cholesterol levels can be vital.

First of all, in its brochure on the TLC diet method, the Institute of Health distinguishes good and bad cholesterol. In order for cholesterol to be transported in your blood, it combines with water-soluble proteins. This is how lipoproteins are formed, which are classified according to their protein or fat content into:

  • Very-Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL).
  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL)

VLD is the precursor to LDL, which is considered “bad” cholesterol due to its high lipid content. HDL, on the other hand, is seen as “good” cholesterol due to its low lipid content.

What is the function of cholesterol in the body?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is vital for everyone. For example, it is extremely important for building the cell membrane as well as essential for metabolic processes in our brain.

At the same time, cholesterol is an important starting material for the production of bile acids, fat digestion as well as the formation of vitamin D and certain hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.

The core of the TLC diet is to positively influence blood cholesterol levels through diet – and thus prevent typical cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack.

How can I integrate good cholesterol into my diet?

The TLC method requires that you eat as little saturated fatty acids as possible. This is because they cause an increase in unhealthy LDL cholesterol in the blood. Instead, unsaturated fatty acids are the main ingredients on the menu. The proportion of saturated fatty acids should not exceed 7 percent. Studies show that if this principle is adhered to, the LDL level in the blood can be reduced by around 10 percent within 6 weeks.

Carbohydrates play the main role

The nutrient composition of the TLC diet is similar to the dietary recommendations of the German Nutrition Society, says ecotrophologist Prof. Dr. Katja Lotz. That says 30% fat, 15% protein, and 55% carbohydrates of the daily energy intake.

In the course of the Low Carb trend demonized, carbohydrates in the TLC Diät have percentage-wise the most important role. As with fats, there is a division into “good” and “bad”.

Good carbohydrates include those that provide the body with long-term energy, vitamins, and minerals. These include, for example, whole grain products and vegetables of all kinds.

On the other hand, you should avoid so-called “empty” carbohydrates, which cause your blood sugar level to spike and give you cravings. These include:

  • Sweets
  • Chips & Co.
  • Soft drinks
  • White flour products

TLC Snacks and Treats

One of the best parts of the TLC diet is the long list of snacks that are allowed. After all, we all need a treat now and then. These snacks are recommended by the American Institute of Health:

  • Fresh or frozen fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn (without butter and salt)
  • Crackers
  • Rice cakes
  • Bagels
  • Muesli (unsweetened)
  • Ice cream sorbet
  • Reduced-fat yogurt with fruit
  • Jello

The most important questions about TLC

Is the TLC method suitable for me?

The TLC diet is designed for people at high risk for heart disease, i.e. high cholesterol levels. Of course, a diet cannot change your genetic predispositions or your age. But you can influence overweight and diabetes with a suitable diet. In addition, the TLC diet is suitable for anyone who wants to do something good for their body in the long term.

How suitable is TLC for everyday life?

The TLC diet is absolutely suitable for everyday life, says ecotrophologist Prof. Dr. Katja Lotz. With special cookbooks on TLC or on the website of the DGE, you can find numerous tips on how to integrate TLC as a complete diet into your everyday life.

No matter how stressful your everyday life is, your diet is important and should not be neglected. Many diets still prohibit certain foods, making it difficult to go out to eat with colleagues or clients.

With the TLC diet, it only takes a small change, similar to giving up meat.

Can I reduce my weight with TLC?

The TLC diet is primarily a lifestyle change. However, if you are overweight, it also provides for a reduced calorie intake. You should determine this depending on your lifestyle, active or less active.

However, experts say that the weight loss effect is very slow, so it can take weeks and months.

What are the advantages of the TLC method?

It takes some time to learn the differences between healthy and unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. But whether you are at risk for heart disease or not, this diet will help you understand which foods are good for your body.

The biggest advantage the TLC diet brings, however, is that it’s a clinically developed concept that focuses on maintaining health instead of losing weight.

“TLC has the potential for healthy adults to actually change their lifestyle in the long term, toward a more conscious diet and more exercise,” says Prof. Dr. Katja Lotz of the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University.

Are there any risks with the TLC diet?

Not for “normally healthy” people. However, expert Prof. Dr. Katja Lotz advises that people with fat metabolism disorders should always consult a doctor. In the case of obesity or severe overweight, concomitant diseases can occur during the diet.

5 tips for the restaurant visit

  1. Choose appetizers where you can order the dressing or sauce separately. Avoid deep-fried appetizers.
  2. Choose a dish with a small portion of meat and a large portion of vegetables. Ask if the vegetables are sauteed in butter – you should avoid this.
  3. Choose a dish that is cooked, boiled, or baked, not fried or even deep-fried. Make sure not to use large amounts of cheese and butter.
  4. If you do order a pizza from your favorite Italian restaurant, make sure there are plenty of vegetables in the topping and avoid the extra portion of cheese.
  5. For dessert, a fruit salad or fruit sorbet is a safe choice. For yogurt dishes, ask for low-fat yogurt.

What distinguishes the TLC diet from the DASH diet?

Both diets were developed by the American Institute of Health and aim to provide users with a permanently healthier diet. The DASH diet, unlike the TLC method, is about lowering blood pressure.

Thus, foods that have a higher content of magnesium, potassium, proteins, and fiber are mainly on the menu. They help the body keep blood pressure under control.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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