You only have to scroll through social media on a daily basis to see the latest diet or weight loss trend being touted. Different kinds of diets tend to go in and out of popularity and often get diluted from their original intent as they gain popularity. There is one diet, however, that keeps coming out on top.
First, though, let's take a closer look at a few of the popular diets out there.
The paleo diet aims to mimic the eating patterns of our paleolithic ancestors, focusing on foods that exist in nature (unprocessed) and can be eaten raw. Most grains, beans, legumes and dairy are excluded. A paleo diet can be a little restrictive and hard to adhere to, but it does provide a healthier diet overall through prioritizing whole foods.
Some take it a step further by following a carnivore diet, consuming only meat and other animal products. By eliminating or drastically reducing your intake of essential nutrients obtained from fresh produce, this is an unbalanced way to eat and can lead to serious health consequences over time.
The ketogenic diet has been shown to offer benefits to certain individuals with specific health issues — like seizures or Type 2 diabetes, according to ScienceDaily — when done under supervised medical guidance. However, for the general population, it can be unhealthy in the long term.
A true keto diet means consuming 70% to 80% dietary fat, 10% to 20% protein and as little as 5% to 10% carbohydrates. Through the prolonged restriction of carbs, a keto diet forces the body into a state of ketosis, where it burns fat and produces ketones for energy instead of glucose. Consuming protein at the higher end of this range, however, can cause your body to convert the amino acid protein building blocks into glucose, kicking the body out of ketosis and negating the benefits.
A vegan diet excludes all animal products including meat, dairy, eggs, honey and any other foods or associated products that come from or are produced by animals. It can be seen as a restrictive diet, but when coupled with attention to essential nutrients like vitamin B12 (which is only obtained through animal sources), it can offer health benefits. A popular adaptation is opting for a mostly plant-based diet that could incorporate high quality protein sources, such as organic eggs and small amounts of fish or poultry.
A common theme through any diet is the incorporation of whole foods and the associated widespread benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. Of all the different kinds of diets that have come and gone, research supports the foundations of the Mediterranean diet as the healthiest eating plan to support weight loss, cardiovascular health and reduce the long term risk of chronic disease, according to ScienceDaily. It's easy to follow, not overly restrictive, and can be adapted to plant-based eating patterns, making it an attractive option for many.
The Mediterranean diet helps balance your macronutrient intake through a variety of foods. The United States Department of Agriculture outlines what a healthy Mediterranean-style eating pattern looks like:
You can incorporate whole grains and complex starches like oatmeal, rice, quinoa or root vegetables according to your goals. Minimize processed foods (baked goods, refined sugars) and dairy. Limit red meat to a few times a week, and opt for grass-fed and finished meat.
This can be a place to start, but the type and amount of macronutrients you need to incorporate daily will always vary according to individual health goals and circumstances. Every person has a different body type, genetic profile and environmental exposure that may benefit from an adjusted dietary approach. A consultation with a health coach can help you optimize your diet and give your body exactly what it needs to feel best.