New diets pop up every day. Remember to always consult a physician before switching to a new diet. Here’s our take on some popular ones:
Carnivore Diet: This way of eating only allows meat, fish, and other animal foods like eggs and certain dairy products. It excludes all other foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. In other words, the Carnivore Diet is like Keto on steroids.
~This extreme approach may be difficult to maintain, and you’re missing out on all the vital nutrients that come from vegetables and low sugar fruits. In addition, this type of eating also comes with a certain level of intestinal distress as your body tries to adjust to processing only fatty meats.
Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent Fasting diet (IF), which means cycling between periods of fasting and eating, with fasts ranging from 16 hours to 24 hours or more. You can learn more about the different types of IF here, but the idea behind IF is that it boosts weight loss by lowering your insulin and excess blood sugar levels so your body releases stored fat and burns it for fuel.
~If you’re following a low carb or keto diet, your body is already adapted to burning fat for fuel and able to naturally control blood sugar levels but fasting can give your body a reset and your digestion a break. You can do this simply by not eating after dinner (say, 7 p.m.) until about 12 to 16 hours later, because who hasn’t eaten too late at night, only to feel the ill effects of indigestion, heartburn, and interrupted sleep? When you’re following a low carb diet like Atkins, you’re naturally “cleansing” your system of sugar, refined carbs, and overly processed foods, but feel free to give a 12- to 16-hour fast a try and see how it makes you feel.
Keto Diet: Well, Keto isn’t likely to go away soon, and has actually been around for quite some time, as it was originally developed to help children with epilepsy control their seizures. A classic keto diet requires that 75%-90% of calories come from fat and less than 5% of calories from carbs.
~ Unless you are trying to control seizures, this high level of fat consumption may not be necessary, and there’s very little room for protein, which is essential for maintaining muscle mass. This is why Keto can be confusing, because there are so many definitions and philosophies. With Atkins, you have structured, clear-cut phases to find your carbohydrate tolerance for weight loss and weight maintenance, and all of the benefits of Keto without the rigid restrictions of high fat and very low carb intake.
Mediterranean Diet: You eat similarly to the Mediterranean culture, which means mostly plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables), potatoes, whole-grains, beans, nuts and seeds. You can also have small portions of yogurt, cheese, poultry and eggs, fish and seafood twice a week, and oils (not butter), and herbs and spices. You limit sweets and red meat.
~This diet is challenging if you are carbohydrate intolerant, since you may be consuming more carbs than your metabolism can handle. On Atkins you will learn to identify your individual carbohydrate tolerance, which will allow you to lose weight and maintain it. You are also allowed to consume higher levels of protein, which help keep you satisfied for longer between meals.
OMAD—This stands for “one meal a day”, and it is an extreme form of Intermittent Fasting. The idea is to fast for 23 hours straight and then eat one large meal in a 60-minute window. It has been gaining in popularity as a way to lose weight and tackle chronic disease and other health issues.
The structure of your one meal is important so your body doesn’t go into starvation mode and start breaking down muscle. No foods are excluded, although fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and adequate protein, plus larger than average portions to boost calories and fat, are recommended for the one meal of the day. This diet is not recommended for people who are underweight or have a history of eating disorders, pregnant, breastfeeding women, type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
~ This way of eating is not sustainable, and it’s likely you’ll gain whatever weight you lost once you resume your regular eating habits.
Paleo Diet: This is based on eating whole foods from food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten during the Paleolithic Era. These foods include fresh meats, fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils. You eliminate dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars, and processed foods.
~Paleo’s one-size-fits all approach does not allow an individual to discover their personal carbohydrate tolerance and uncover potential food sensitivities. Atkins is an easier entry point into a low-carb lifestyle, while still emphasizing whole foods; healthy fats, optimal protein intake, vegetables, and fruit. While you eliminate grains, legumes, potatoes, and dairy, with Atkins you can incorporate certain carbs back into your eating plan.
Whole 30: This 30-day diet that focuses on whole foods and the elimination of sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy. It is similar to but more restrictive than the Paleo diet, as you can’t eat natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. You can eat vegetables, fruits, unprocessed meats, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, oils, and coffee. The idea is that you learn how your body responds to certain foods by eliminating them and then slowly reinstating them.
~It’s true that you may discover you feel better after not eating foods containing gluten or dairy if you happen to be intolerant, or that not eating legumes or grains for 30 days helped stabilize your blood sugar and energy levels, so this way of eating may show you that you feel better if you reduce your intake of some foods. But if you simply go back to your regular way of eating after 30 days, especially if this involves processed foods high in sugar, you’re defeating the purpose.
What do all these diets have in common? While some of these diets may not be as sustainable as Atkins, there is an emphasis on replacing processed, high-sugar foods with lower carb, whole foods.