With so many popular "diets" around, it's hard to know how to eat to support you and your body. In this post I'll discuss the pros and cons of the biggest fad diets I hear about on a daily basis, to help you decide what is the best choice for you. It's important to note, please discuss any major dietary changes with your healthcare provider, or reach out to us at Be Optimal to get on an individualized protocol for you!
The paleo diet takes the concept of eating how our ancestors once did. Those practicing a paleo diet eat foods that can be found in nature, and are free from harmful chemicals or preservatives. A typical paleo diet consists of eating foods in the following groups: protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits. Those eating a true paleo diet also eliminate grains and starchy vegetables. A fabulous paleo friendly resource, which I recommend often to patients is the Whole30 program. They do a great job of overloading you with tools to eat healthy: shopping lists, recipes, tips, and more!
- Involves eating a very clean diet
- Major anti-inflammatory benefits
- Improved satiety, or fullness, from eating more nutrient dense foods
- Weight loss
- Can improve blood pressure, glucose tolerance, and blood lipids
- Very difficult for vegetarians with the elimination of grains and legumes
- Completely removing all grains and/or starchy vegetables may be too restrictive for some
- Portions are important to consider. A diet too high in nuts, seeds, or protein can eventually lead to weight gain.
The ketogenic originally began as a treatment for epileptic patients to mimic the benefits of caloric restriction without actual starvation. Fasting was found to reduce epileptic episodes by forcing the body to utilize fat stores instead of glucose. In a conventional, high carb diet, the body gets its supply of energy from carbohydrates (glucose). By restricting carbohydrate intake, blood glucose levels fall, signaling a fat burning enzyme (HSL) to release, which releases stored triglycerides from fat cells. The fatty acids then travel to the liver and are turned into ketones, which are used to create energy in the body. General ratios for a ketogenic diet are: 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate. Remember, the fats are coming from healthy sources such as: fish, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, ghee, and grass fed butter.
- Lower insulin resistance
- Lower insulin levels
- Increase fat burning
- Reduce appetitie
- Lowers cancer risk
- Decrease neurologic disease
- Weight loss
- Can help balance hormones
- Requires an adaptation period of 1-2 weeks. Many people experience flu like symptoms, commonly referred to as the "keto flu"
- It can be a fairly restrictive way of eating, and hard for some to maintain as a lifestyle
- Can be difficult to eat out at restaraunts
- Can negatively affect performance of high intensity athletes, due to carb restriction
Intermittent fasting has been popular for years and lots of research has proven a direct correlation between fasting and living a longer life. There are several ways to apply intermittent fasting to ones diet, but I'll talk about the 3 most common, here.
- 16:8 Method: Fast for 16 hours per day, only eat in an 8 hour window. (For example eat from 11am-7pm). Water, coffee, and other non-caloric drinks are allowed.
- 5:2 Method: Fast for 2 days per week. The fast days are not full fast days, but limited to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. Most people choose to split the caloric count to 2 smaller meals. Water, coffee, and other non-caloric drinks are allowed during fasting.
- Eat-Stop-Eat Method: This method involves a 24 hour fast, 1 or 2 times per week. Water, coffee, and other non-caloric drinks are allowed during fasting days.
- Promotes longevity
- Many experience weight loss due to small eating window
- Can simplify people's lives as there are less meals to worry about
- Can help shift metabolism to burn the bodies' fat stores
- Can take quite a period to time to adjust to fasting
- Can complicate social lives during fasting times
- Participants need to be very mindful of caloric consumption, it can be easy to over eat after a fasting period, resulting in weight gain
The mediterranean diet has been boasted by physicians and healthcare providers for years as a heart healthy way to eat and loose weight. The diet includes high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, olive oil, olives, nuts, and seeds, with a moderate intake of lean meats (especially fish) and red wine. Processed foods are excluded from the diet. Two important factors to the mediterranean diet that are often neglected are increased physical activity and enjoying meals with a supportive social system.
- Promotes heart health
- Reduces heart disease
- Lowers cholesterol
- Lowers inflammation
- Fights cancer
- Supports weight loss
- Includes some inflammatory foods ie: whole grains and beans
- Removes nutrient rich red meat
- Does not focus on caloric intake, which some people need
- Regular consumption of wine is not recommended for all
I hope this article helped you see the pros and cons of many different popular diets, and decide which route is best for you! Whats your favorite? Let me know in the comments!
Dr. Abby Kramer