The 5 most popular diets. How healthy are they?
The word diet literally means the food you eat. But, these days it has some very negative connotations to it and leaves people feeling restricted and hungry.
In this article I share with you 5 of the most popular diets and give you my perspective on what they are exactly and how healthy they really are.
1. The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet has risen in popularity over the last 5-10 years. So, what is it and is it worth giving it a go?
The paleo diet is all about eating the foods our ancestors ate such as meat, nuts, seeds and vegetables; and ensuring the body is well nourished with natural foods.
Grains, legumes, bad fats, trans fats, processed foods, fast food, dairy, refined sugar, peanut butter, coffee and alcohol are all eliminated from this diet as those promoting a paleo diet conclude they serve no purpose to the human body nutritionally.
Is this diet healthy?
Overall, yes, I believe this diet is definitely one to consider for long term weight loss and the health benefits it can give you.
Cutting out all processed foods and refined sugars always has major health benefits and I will recommend this to anyone and everyone, no matter what “diet” they are looking to consume.
However, there is lots of evidence to support including legumes, dairy and wholegrains into the diet. They should be consumed in varying amounts so as not to overload the body with excess fats, carbs or protein; but they are nutritionally solid and can be added to your daily diet.
2. The Vegan Diet
There is a lot of news lately involving vegans. And, unfortunately it isn’t great. But, being vegan doesn’t mean you have to protest and get violent. Thankfully, it is only a very small handful who take it a bit too far; yet it leaves those non-vegan humans to look upon vegans as all being trouble makers. There are many jokes about vegans floating around which are very negative.
Veganism is a way of life. Those who choose to become true vegans eliminate all meat from their diet as their compassion for animals outweighs their need to consume them. Vegans won’t buy anything which has come from an animal and take a stand to end the cruel practices of slaughtering animals.
A vegans diet includes lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrains and calcium rich foods from other sources of non-dairy products.
Foods not eaten on this diet are dairy and meat from any animal, eggs and honey.
Is this diet healthy?
It certainly can be if done correctly. Having an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, especially if they are organic, provides an array of vitamins and minerals to nourish your body. Vitamins and minerals are the unsung heroes of the diet because they maintain each body system to help prevent sickness and disease. Eating this way is great for the heart, the waist line, the brain and lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The downside to eliminating meat, dairy and eggs is the nutrients they provide such as whole protein (all 9 essential amino acids), good fat, iron, B12, iodine, Omega 3 fatty acids and zinc. Although legumes are classed as a protein, in order to get each of the essential amino acids you will need to include a wide variety of legumes in each meal to ensure you are getting enough protein.
Supplementation is necessary if consuming this diet to keep the body feeling healthy and energised.
Another downside which I have seen with a lot of vegans is their over consumption of pasta. This can lead to unnecessary weight gain as well as eating the wrong kind of grains for optimal health. Stick to wholegrain rice and pasta and only have 3-4 meals per week containing rice or pasta.
3. The Keto Diet
This diet is certainty all the rage right now. There are dozens of facebook groups with thousands of members and plenty of foodies promoting this diet to be the best weight loss diet EVER!
Keto is another elimination diet where particular foods are taken away as they don’t encourage fast weight loss, and in a society where we want to lose 20 kilos in a day and all look like supermodels, this diet leads us to believe weight loss happens super quick. Yes, weight loss may happen quickly but at what cost?
The main nutrient source for this diet is fat. While the fat is a healthy fat such as coconut oil, olive oil, meat, eggs, nuts and avocados; there is a major nutrient missing. Carbohydrates.
Is this diet healthy?
Whether we like it or not our bodies NEED carbohydrates. Our brain uses about 60% of the carbs we consume to fuel itself. So, if your brain isn’t receiving the fuel it needs what do you think will happen? You will feel tired, sluggish, dizzy and probably have horrible mood swings. Doesn’t sound fun does it?
Is trying to lose weight quickly really worth feeling so horrible?
There are a few carbohydrate foods which are allowed but honestly, who wants to be on a diet which is so constrictive and only “allows” this or that?
There has been some evidence to support this diet to reset your cells and get them to a healthy condition again but it has not been shown to be a healthy, long term diet.
Removing vegetables, fruit and grains from your diet increases your risk of nutrient deficiencies. Plus, your gut is not receiving the fibre it needs from vegetable sources to remain healthy resulting in constipation.
The liver and kidneys may become overloaded with too much fat being metabolised making any current conditions worse. So, if you have liver or kidney issues or you have a history of blood sugar and heart problems please consult with your health professional beforehand to ensure you are ok to do so.
4. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF). Fad or fantastic?
There are a few variations to the intermittent fasting diet but ultimately it is about reducing the amount of hours in the day in which you are eating.
Probably the most popular is the 16:8 variation. This when you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8 hour window.
The other variations are: 12:12, 14:10, 5:2 and 2-3 day fasts.
We have an over abundance of food available to us 24/7 which we utilise at an alarming rate. With all of the different delivery options people are eating at times when their bodies should be resting and repairing.
Our bodies have a circadian rhythm with particular processes occurring at certain times of the day and night. Our bodies are in tune with nature (well, they are supposed to be) and when the sun rises and when the sun sets. Instinctively, our amazing bodies know what to do and when.
Consuming processed foods, fast food, alcohol and other not-so-natural foods throws out this rhythm, especially when eating late at night or too early in the morning.
Is this diet healthy?
Yes. If you are eating nourishing foods and not using it as an excuse to binge on fast food for 8 hours straight.
In studies conducted by various experts they conclude IF can reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance as well as lowering blood pressure. One really awesome part of this diet is that it re-teaches you how to listen to your body’s hunger and full signals. This is something we have lost along the way and no longer know when we are truly hungry and truly satisfied. Resulting in unnecessary weight gain.
It has also been proven that when we give our body a chance to rest from digesting food all day long our cells get the opportunity to repair themselves. Ill health is reversed and believe it or not you do not feel as though you are STARVING during those hours you are not eating.
As a former food addict and emotional eater who felt hungry EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND. OF. THE. DAY, thinking I could not go more than a few hours without eating; this has been a game changer for me.
Personally, I use IF everyday. I eat my dinner about 6pm every night then I don’t eat again until at least 7am. I do wake up a bit hungry but I focus on other things and don’t really think about it until my tummy really begins to rumble. If I am in the middle of housework, getting my daughter ready or some other work then I find my mind has shifted so much that I don’t feel the need to run to the fridge to get something to eat. I can wait until I am ready to eat.
My biggest positive reaction to IF is I am longer ruled by my supposed hunger. If I find I am really hungry after 6pm I will have something light to eat. Again, it is about listening to your body. If you feel light-headed, dizzy or ill then you must eat or seek medical help if you feel you need to.
IF isn’t for everyone. If you are pregnant, highly stressed, have an eating disorder or you have trouble sleeping please see a qualified health professional before beginning IF.
5. The Mediterranean Diet
What is it about this particular diet which has been proven over and over again to be the healthiest of them all (mirror, mirror on the wall 😀 )?
It is because this diet has exactly the right amount of carbs, fat and protein, all containing numerous vitamins and minerals, to sustain a healthy body. The Mediterranean diet includes lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, grains such as pasta and bread, fish, healthy fats, eggs some chicken, very little red meat and only a small amount of dairy. And, of course, a bit of red wine. Only a few glasses per week.
Is this diet healthy?
Yes. And, another reason it is such a popular way of eating is the huge health benefits. It isn’t just about weight loss or weight control. Those who live in the Mediterranean area of our beautiful world have lower incidences of heart disease and diabetes whilst energising the body to get through the day feeling amazing. Daily movement is also a major part of this diet. There is no sitting around at computers all day. They are outside enjoying the sunshine and nature.
This would have to be one of the easiest diets to follow. It is predominantly plant based whilst not being strictly vegan. The only challenge to this diet is modern western society. We don’t always have the ability to grown our own food (vegetables and meat) but there are more and more food producers who are producing quality foods which we can source locally. And, of course, our lifestyle is so very different to those living in the Mediterranean.
To make this diet work for you you will need to make a few changes. If you are used to eating take away, processed foods and don’t like to cook then you will need to stay focused and remember why you decided to implement this particular diet into your life. This isn’t for the short term. It should be for the rest of your life to really enhance the health benefits.
This is definitely a diet in which anyone can partake. But, please see your personal health professional first if you have any health conditions which need to restrict or eliminate any particular foods.
My final thoughts
Over the past few years my eating has become healthier and healthier. And, with the implementation of IF I have tuned into my body and really listen to how it is feeling; especially after I eat.
I have developed a few allergies over the last few years because of my terrible eating past with my gut health playing a major role in developing these allergies. I now understand the importance of the quality of what I put in my mouth vs what my mind wants to eat. I eat for health rather than emotion.
So, I have used a variety of diets to avoid any allergy attacks. I love paleo because it eliminates dairy and grains (two allergies of mine), I love vegan because of all the yummy plant based meals it produces and I love the Mediterranean diet because of the beautiful foods it includes. I thought about doing the keto diet but I couldn’t bring myself to do it as it limits vegetables and fruit.
Yes, I have lost quite a bit of weight over the years with this diet or that diet but I have also put some of it back on a few times because I have allowed my negative sate of mind to take control.
One thing I have also found is that when I am eating an abundance of fresh vegetables, fruit, good quality protein and a little bit of fat I feel AMAZING. I am not leaving any valuable nutrient out so my body is well nourished.
My body also feels energised and it shifts my negative mind into a positive one. I WANT to eat healthy to continue to feel this way. I allow myself to eat anything I want but that ‘anything’ has also changed. I WANT to eat vegetables and I WANT to eat fruit. I am slightly addicted to how they make me feel. And if I haven’t had enough in my diet then I noticed a slump in my energy so I’ll add some more into my meals.
Whichever diet you decide to take on please remember to seek medical advice first and choose one which is going to last you for the rest of your life. A diet shouldn’t be for a few months whilst you’re trying to loose a few kilos. It needs to be a way of life. Sustainable so you incorporate it into your whole life. Your whole being.
And, I promise you, once you begin to feel better and are enjoying a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, good quality protein and some good fats; the old way of eating will seem gross.
Your taste buds will no longer enjoy heavily processed foods, loads of sugar, fat and salt and those take away meals you once loved.
Our bodies are designed to function on natural foods. If they aren’t fed these beautiful foods illness occurs. We feel sluggish and crap. The saying “you are what you eat” is so true. You eat well, you feel well. You eat crap, you feel crap.
If you would like some guidance and support to get rid of the crap and welcome more energising foods into your diet then please book an appointment where we can work together to get you feeling AMAZING!
online consults are available.