Food is such an important part of our lives. What we put in our body certainly reflects on the outside. Over the years, people’s diets have changed drastically with many trying to go back to a healthy lifestyle. There a couple of diets that have become extremely popular in the past two years. But before jumping onto the trend, it is so necessary to understand what each diet really is in order to figure out if it will benefit you.
This low carb diet actually gets its name from ketones, which are basically molecules in our liver resulting from the breakdown of fatty acids. It aims to reduce your intake of carbohydrates and increase fats in your body so that your body shifts into the state of ketosis, where it burns fat for energy. This is because our body is only in a state of ketosis when we do not have enough carbs, for example when you are fasting. So by reducing carb intake your insulin and blood levels drop forcing your body to burn fat for energy.
The reason why a keto diet is said to be highly effective with weight loss is that it does not leave you feeling hungry and does not require one to count calorie intake. Apart from weight loss, it has numerous benefits like sustained energy, lesser cravings and it can even lower the risk of certain diseases. Studies have also shown that this diet benefits people with type 2 diabetes as well.
A typical keto diet includes food high in fats- like cheese, meat, fish, vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, avocados, nuts, healthy oils and beverages like black coffee. Things to absolutely avoid are those high in carbs and starch like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and sugary foods like sodas or candy. A keto diet is great for obesity, diabetes or people who want to improve their metabolism. However, this diet is not for everyone.
As you can guess from the name, it’s a diet that includes foods that were mostly consumed during the Paleolithic age or what we call the stone age. This means the diet avoids food that was available after farming and agricultural practices emerged. So people following a paleo diet consume foods like lean meat, vegetables, fish, fruits, nuts and seeds which could be easily hunted or gathered. Foods that are avoided are all dairy products, legumes, grains, refined sugars, salt and highly processed foods in general.
The premise on which this diet is based on is that the human body is not naturally used to our modern diets which include a lot of processed food. A paleo diet is relatively easy to follow as it clearly explains what foods to avoid. While a paleo diet is more like a lifestyle choice, there are some concerns regarding it. A paleo diet restricts consuming grains or lentils, which are known to be really good for health and more easily available.
A vegan diet is pretty straightforward but rather hard to follow. A vegan can consume plant-based foods and anything else that is not derived from animals. Choosing to go vegan is beneficial not only to ourselves but everything around us. Firstly, it saves an animal every day, most of which are put through some horrible conditions. It also benefits the environment since the resources that are used for the animals can be used to feed more people instead. A lot of us might not actually know this, but the meat industry produces some of the highest amounts of greenhouse gases! So this diet takes into account a lot of other factors apart from our own health.
Now, veganism is still a very debatable and controversial topic. But nutritionally speaking, it has benefits like better gut health, improved skin issues, and much more. Many studies do say that a vegan diet may lack certain nutrients and that is true if you do not plan your meals properly. You definitely have to make sure you are getting all the essential nutrients. So if you do decide to go vegan, do your research and be certain that you are consuming the right foods.
The DASH diet was created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to reduce hypertension. DASH itself stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It really focuses on reducing sodium intake and instead including foods that are high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium which help lower blood pressure. Although this diet is not a weight loss diet, people do lose some weight since it encourages you to make healthier food choices. It is also recommended to individuals who have diseases like osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease. The DASH diet prioritizes vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy foods. It also includes grains, fish, eggs moderately and some nuts in small amounts.
The aim here is to reduce sodium intake. So it suggests switching salt with sodium free spices for flavor and consuming foods that have no added salts. This diet does not require strict eating compared most of the other diets and can be transitioned into slowly.
After discussing all of the previous diets, I’d say this one is the easiest and most practical to follow. In fact, it is considered the healthiest and overall most balanced diet by nutritionists and doctors. This diet is based on Mediterranean style cooking, which uses the basics of healthy eating but also does not have a number of restrictions. Research actually shows that a typical Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and even lower bad cholesterol in the body. It is also associated with lowering the risk factor of getting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. If that’s not enough, it has even shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women. Plant-based foods make most of the diet, like veggies, fruits, legumes, etc. Instead of using butter, healthy fats like olive oil is used. Tahini is another famous replacement for butter in this diet. For flavoring, salt is substituted with herbs and spices. Fish is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which is consumed at least twice a week. This diet limits the consumption of red meat to only rare occasions and avoids highly processed foods. Instead, it recommends fresh produce and whole grains. The full-fat dairy is replaced with low-fat foods like skimmed milk and low-fat yogurt. The diet mainly focuses on avoiding unhealthy fats. It also includes a glass of red wine, which is optional. While red wine is known to be good for health, the diet only calls for consuming one glass a day and not more.
I think this diet would be suitable for almost everyone, and can even be adopted by people who find it difficult to stick to strict diets.
These diets are long term but also more of a lifestyle choice. Each one of us is different and what may suit another person may not be the best for us. The best way to know which diet is best for you is to consult a nutritionist or a doctor. People who suffer from chronic diseases or health problems certainly need to make sure the diet they choose if right for them.