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It can be difficult to determine what is the best diet out there at any given moment. The media is flooded with all the latest and greatest strategies for health and wellness and we are left scratching our heads wondering if it is okay to eat a banana today or not. Join me on a little journey through a few popular ways of eating. You’ll find out more about some of the popular diets of today. Admittedly, this is really just a scratching of the surface here. Each of these ways of eating has merit that is worthy of being celebrated. Each of these diets also has drawbacks that are worth discussing. Ultimately, the best diet for you is the one that suits you in best in your current age, stage and with any medical considerations taken into account.

Mediterranean Diet – This diet focuses on whole foods, healthy fats, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts fish & poultry. Red meat is limited. Herbs & spices are preferred to salt for flavouring foods. Olive oil in place of butter. Red wine in moderation is encouraged but not necessary. If you prefer, deeply coloured grape juice will glean similar benefits.

Vegetarianism

  • Vegetarian – a diet free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh
  • Lacto-vegetarians – eat dairy products but not eggs
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian – no animal flesh, eat eggs and milk products.
  • Pescatarians – eat fish and seafood
  • Flexitarians refer to vegetarians who occasionally eat meat and fish
  • Vegans – no animal products whatsoever
  • Raw foodists are vegans who eat mainly raw fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouts, and nuts.
  • Fruitarians follow a diet that includes fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant food.

Paleo – This diet is based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans – meat, fish, vegetables and fruit and excluding dairy, grain products, beans, legumes and processed food. The belief is that once we transitioned from being hunter/gatherers to farmers, we began adding in cereal grains, dairy & processed foods and modern day illnesses became prevalent.

Keto  – A diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates (sugars) that causes the body to break down fat into molecules called ketones. Ketones circulate in the blood and become the main source of energy for many cells in the body. A ketogenic diet is used to treat some types of epilepsy and is being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer.

source: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/ketogenic-diet

High Fat, Low Carb  – Similar to keto but allows for some carbs such as complex carbs like root vegetables on occasion. The focus is still on whole foods but does allow for more red meats and saturated fats than other diets. Long term adherence to either the ketogenic or high fat, low carb eating should be monitored with the assistance of your health care team to track cholesterol levels, especially if you have and heart disease risk factors such as family history and your personal health history.

Whole 30  – Emphasis is on whole foods, removing as much processed/inflammatory foods from the diet at possible (added sugar or sweeteners, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy), for 30 days.

Weight Watchers – Points based weight loss. The idea is to assign a simple value point to food (not the caloric content) to make tracking food intake easier to manage. The WW program has improved greatly over the past several years with the emphasis on whole foods as opposed to artificially sweetened & modified food products.

The Verdict? – Each of the above diets have plenty going for them. Most of them focus on eating real, whole and minimally processed food. By virtue of this there are minimal refined flours and sugars for your body to have to process. Some of these diets can be challenging to maintain for long periods of time. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth trying, it just means that you may have to devote more time and energy to your food choices for a time. This could be considered a therapeutic diet that you strictly follow for a time depending on your health & wellness goals or concerns. We all go through different stages and what works well for you now may not be what works well for you in five years. Some people find that in following a strict diet for a period of time allows them the opportunity to hit the reset on their diet and enjoy significant improvements in their health. Over time, they are able to modify the diet to allow for flexibility while maintaining their level of health.

Following any restrictive diet can also have its drawbacks such as vitamin & mineral deficiencies like iron & B12 and the struggle to get enough plant based protein for those following a vegan diet. In the case of the paleo, keto or HFLC diet, the type of fat that is chosen is extremely important as not all fat is created equal. Eating bacon everyday is not a good option regardless of what diet you are following.

The ideal diet is purely based on you. Your ideal diet allows you to listen to your body’s cues rather than adhering to a strict list of rules. Meal times are enjoyable and mindful. Meals are less about math and more about quality. Travel and gathering with friends may take a little planning from time to time, but overall you can lead your life without letting your diet take over control.

What about you? How do you eat to feel your best?