DIETS 101: KETO, PALEO, VEGAN +

Diet culture has been around for the past century and we have come up with some pretty interesting ways of eating... Here is some background and my takes on some of the most popular diets and whether they should stay a fad or become a part of your lifestyle! Remember, the most sustainable diet is the one that you can follow throughout your lifetime that will provide you with peace of mind and health benefits.


PALEO

 

The Paleo diet uses the way humans used to "forage" as a means for its food consumption. This way of eating does not allow for dairy, legumes, or grains because the stone age was prior to modern agriculture. (keep in mind that grains and legumes are one of the best sources of fiber and energy in our diets). This diet is good in the sense that it also limits processed foods and keeps a heavy emphasis on whole plants and wild meat. Farmed meat does not even come close to resembling wild meat that our ancestors may have shot with a bow and arrow, making the meat consumption an entirely different story. However, if meat still had that lean composition and everyone was only eating what they themselves could kill then that would in some sense be considered healthy. This is sadly unreasonable due to population and land use and would just be impossible. There is also a common theme of people following a paleo diet using butter and ghee in everything when in reality it is a processed food that our ancestors probably didn't have.

There are some benefits here with some short comings, but is ultimately lacking in evidence for longterm health benefits and wouldn't be viable as humans no longer forage... we buy.

Some have also tried to form a "vegan paleo" way of eating for weight loss, but this is once again unsustainable as those following a plant based diet need to rely on grains as a valuable source of energy, nutrients, and fiber. Cutting them out would leave a very small range of food options. It is unsustainable. I do not recommend either form of paleo.


KETO

 

I don't think I have ever seen such controversy behind a diet. The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into a stage of "ketosis" where your body metabolizes fat because it is put into starvation mode due to the lack of carbohydrates. Our bodies are built to do this in case we are food scarce and there is no main source of energy. It would be incredibly insane to put our bodies into "starvation mode" if we had access to food! Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, meaning they are necessary to our daily diets and in large amounts, not trace amounts from greens or cucumbers. (the common argument behind keto being:) There have been cases where following a high fat & protein diet (very low in carbs) has been seen to prevent seizures and was originally used to help with diabetes management before insulin was available. This does not mean that the normal population should be following it as they are not having seizures and there is now proper care for diabetics. You wouldn't take a pill for a disease you don't have right? So why follow the last resort of care- a radical dietary adjustment that eliminates an entire nutrient group as your daily diet if you aren't sick?

This diet basically eliminates all plants as every plant is a carbohydrate making someone easily deficient in fiber and many nutrients. There is not enough evidence that proves that following a ketogenic diet for extended periods of time is safe or even remotely recommended. Seeing as we know (from science) plants are beneficial to our diets we may be able to infer that a diet void of them may not provide extensive health benefits. We can also infer that since processed meat is a known carcinogen and that red meat is a probable carcinogen (according to the World Health Organization) that basing a diet off of them may not be the healthiest either. Not to mention some of the main selling points are that you can eat all the bacon and eggs you want promoting an unhealthy basis to their entire diet! Ultimately, keto is nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime (most likely why no one has done it), cuts out an entire macronutrient group, and was meant for survival, not a trendy weight loss tactic. This diet is also practically anti- environmentally friendly as the basis is meat and dairy and if the whole population were to eat like that we would starve before we lost the weight we wanted, due to lack of land. I would 100% not recommend. Eat some plants. Carbs are not the enemy.


WHOLE 30

 

This is another elimination style diet that contains a 30-day regimen. This diet really has no lasting benefits as it is a temporary diet. It has you cut out all grains, legumes, dairy, and many fruits. You then slowly add everything back in to see if you have any reactions. People try to use this as a weight loss diet when it really should only be used if you are attempting to locate an allergy. It has you cut out food groups that should be in your daily diet and are very health promoting! There are food good parts in that it has you eliminate carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites (chemicals often added to processed foods), and alcohol, and sugars. However, if it only for 30 days then it doesn't really matter. Ultimately, this is a little 30 day experiment and no one should do this for 30 days or longer as it is not proven to do anything that is beneficial in the long term. Any restrictive diet will allow you to lose some weight do to restriction of food groups but will not be maintained once the food groups are added back in. This is unsustainable and unreasonable. Unless this is a last resort to look for an allergy or GI problem, I do not recommend.


ATKINS

 

This is basically the Ketogenic Diet of the 70s promoting a low carbohydrate, high fat and protein diet for weight loss and health. It is a 4 phase plan that starts low in carbohydrates (cuts out fruits, vegetables, starches, and legumes) and once you lose enough weight slowly adds them back in when you are ready for weight maintenance. It has some good rules like cutting out sugars, trans fats, and "diet foods" (often processed). However, you can lose weight by simply lowering calories instead of completely lowering a food group. This method is simply unnecessary as carbohydrates are our bodies fuel and a valuable source of nutrients and do not NEED to be cut out to lose weight! It also places a heavy reliance on animal products and even came out with a line of food, that surprised is processed! Let's leave this diet in the past and eat our plants! Do not recommend.


DASH (DIETARY APPROACHES to STOP HYPERTENSION)

 

I already like this one as it's goal is prevention! It was developed by the NIH in the 80's as a dietary method to reduce high blood pressure. It's focus is on whole plant foods, low or non-fat dairy, and low sodium intake. Their direct correlation being the more sodium, the higher the blood pressure. Sodium is not just found in that shaker on your table but also in just about all processed foods. Their studies also proved that simply restricting salt wasn't enough to see results, participants also needed to eat a healthy, plant-heavy diet. Vegetables, fruits, and grains are encourages while beans, lentils, and seeds are next up, with occasional fish/ seafood, some dairy and minimal meat. Any diet aimed at prevention that can be maintained as a lifestyle and not a temporary fix is a good one. Keeping an eye on sodium levels and blood pressure will be of benefit to the majority of the population especially if it runs in the family and you eat a Standard American Diet. Keep this in mind for sure!


LOW FODMAP

 

This diet attempts to attack GI (gastrointestinal) problems by eliminating Fermented Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols (sugar alcohols). It is thought this form of elimination diet may allow people to discover the source of their irritation or distress. There are many strict rules to this diet but in general it cuts out grains, onions, garlic, dairy, many fruits, honey, added sugars, blackberries, gums, and candies. As a whole we should all be following a diet low in added sugars and candies. However, avoiding grains, onions, garlic, and fruit if you are not directly irritated by them would be absurd. The point of an elimination diet is not to maintain it forever, but to slowly add foods back in until you find the one group that you weren't digesting well. It is pretty difficult to say that eating FODMAP foods caused anyones health problems, however, as a last resort to find the source this is not a bad idea, as long as the majority of the food groups get added back in and you do it with proper nutrition in mind. If you have no problems with allergies, digestion, fogginess, or unknown cause then you really don't need this diet in your life!


WEIGHT WATCHERS

 

I'm sure you have heard of this diet fad that has stood the test of time, gathered celebrities and more success stories than other diet. It's ultimate goal is weight loss with a program, some products and coaching. It is a brilliant idea and uses a point system as a way of "caloric management" which is really the only to lose weight. Yes, maintaining a caloric deficit or having extra points at the end of each day will allow you to lose weight. But, are you going to take out your phone every time you eat and track how many points every meal is? It is not very sustainable as food tracking tends to fade away once day to day lifestyles take over. This way of calculating is also allows for unhealthy foods to be staples even though they may be more points. This system could become stressful and lead to binging. Not to mention this fat diet is funded by some of the biggest names in the food industry making it just that a big fad!

No one wants to count ever time they eat. While this diet may provide temporary weight loss, it is unsustainable and does not promote healthy practices or a healthy relationship with food as food is now a number on an app.


INTERMITTENT FASTING

 

This is when you fast (don't eat anything) for an extended period of time. This type of "diet" is more about when you eat and not what you eat. There are different variations such as; 5/2 where you eat for 5 days a week and fast for two or daily fasting where you eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. Fasting has been seen to have some associations with improving metabolic function and weight loss but needs to be monitored for the following reasons. Intermittent fasting does not clarify what or how much you are eating, so while you may be eating for a shorter period of time you could be eating twice as much or a highly processed diet thus making fasting basically pointless. If you follow this way of eating, still eat a calorically moderate diet with an emphasis on plant foods you may reap some benefits. If fasting causes you to feel light headed, binge eat, or makes you too fatigued to be active then it may not be for you. (More evidence/ research is needed to fully support the exact benefits).