Nowadays, we are flooded with diets and nutrition-lifestyles which all claim to have a large basis of research and are truly compelling to the layman’s eye. Many of these diets show real health outcomes and result in substantial weight loss. What is mind-blowingly confusing is that some of them are giving us very different and even contradicting suggestions.
The main diets in issue are low carb diets (Paleo, Keto, and classic low carb) which encourage eating animal products and fats, vs. whole food lifestyle and Veganism. The latter, by default, have much more carbohydrate-based foods and hardly any animal products (or none). If so, how is it possible that these contradicting diets can all co-exist and be healthy for us?
In this article, we will get a better understanding of these opposing schools of thought, and their health benefits. How the common grounds of the diets in the subject are actually the first and most important step to a healthy lifestyle.
Low-carb diets have been popular for decades, and although this type of diet is controversial, it has gained mainstream acceptance in recent years. Low-carb diets, for example, tend to cause more weight loss than low-fat diets. On top of that, it improves numerous health issues, such as HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
The three main types of this eating pattern are:
- A Typical Low-Carb Diet consists of lower carb intake and higher protein than a typical Western diet. It usually emphasizes meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. The expectation is to minimize high-carb foods like grains, potatoes, sugary drinks, and high-sugar junk foods.
- The Ketogenic Diet is a very-low-carb, high-fat diet. The goal of a keto diet is to keep carbs so low that your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis. In this state, the insulin levels plummet and instead of running on carbs, our brain starts relying largely on ketones. Ketones are acids that are produced by the liver from fat intake and flowed into the bloodstream rather than glucose.
- Paleo Diet encourages eating foods that were likely available in the Paleolithic era — before the agricultural and industrial revolutions. It is very similar to the Ketogenic diet, but the basic perception is different: returning to the diet of your prehistoric ancestors should improve health because humans allegedly evolved and adapted to eating such foods. A strict paleo diet eliminates processed foods, added sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy products.
Plant-based diets: Many studies have shown that plant-based diets are beneficial for weight loss. The high fiber content of these diets helps to shed excess pounds and may also help keep weight off in the long run.
- A Vegan Diet eliminates meat and animal products, which will inevitably lead the participant to rely more heavily on other foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds. As opposed to a normal Western diet, the larger proportion of these foods contributes to higher daily consumption of certain beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. Moreover, they appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C and E. Vegan diets have a natural tendency to reduce calorie intake. This makes them effective at promoting weight loss without the need to actively focus on cutting calories. Going vegan may also have benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function. However, it is important to mention that poorly planned vegan diets may provide insufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, iodine, or zinc.
- Whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB diet) limits all animal products and focuses on plants, particularly vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, seeds, and nuts. This type of diet excludes added sugars, white flour, and processed oils. Finally, it focuses on the quality of the food, promoting organic ingredients whenever possible.
Adopting a WFPB diet may be an effective tool in managing and reducing the risk of developing diabetes, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and reversing cognitive deficits.
The Bottom Line
If we can ignore the varying amounts of animal product intake in the diets listed above, we will notice they all share one rule: vegetables are the main component of daily meals. According to the USDA, the most popular source of vegetables that Americans consume are potatoes and tomatoes. Americans eat only 1.5 cups of vegetables daily (!). The data in Europe is a little more hopeful: on average, more than half of the population in the EU reported that they consume from one to four portions of fruit and vegetables per day. It is no secret that western eaters consume large amounts of processed foods with low nutritional value.
The first and most important issue all these diets emphasize is eliminating sugars, processed foods, and adding large amounts of vegetables, nuts, and other whole foods. Naturally and immediately we are adding to our diet large amounts of healthy fibers and nutrients. These additions help the digestive system function, help us lose weight, and strengthen the immune system, which in turn can prevent many chronic and fatal diseases. These are the qualities we should be focused on, and choose the rest of our diet in accordance with our likings, beliefs, and products that are available to us.
This article was written by Guten Buganim, a content marketing specialist and graphic designer at Guten.Studio