Decoding Diet - ts

Decoding 5 Popular Diets

By Teresa Garvey, MS, RD, CSOWM, Registered Dietitian
Virtua Food Farmacy

Feeling bombarded with information about diets promising to help you lose weight? Read on to learn the pros and cons of these popular nutrition plans.

Mediterranean
This diet emphasizes lifestyle habits from “Blue Zone” areas, including the Greek and Italian islands. The Mediterranean diet focuses on food groups like legumes, fermented foods, seafood, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, while shifting away from red meat, refined grains, and processed foods. The largest meal usually is eaten in the middle of the day.

Vegan and Vegetarian
Optimal for those who would like to focus on plant-based fare while reducing diabetes and heart disease risk, vegan and vegetarian diets eliminate foods that come from animals. Instead, they focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy, nuts, and seeds. Careful planning is necessary to avoid deficiencies in vitamins B-12 and D, as well as calcium. Also, premenopausal women risk becoming iron deficient with these diets.

Gluten-Free
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, and should be avoided for those diagnosed with celiac disease. “Gluten sensitivity” may be a reaction to a carbohydrate also in foods with gluten, rather than the protein itself.

If you find that certain foods trigger unwelcomed gastrointestinal issues, consulting your health care team, including a registered dietitian, is essential before eliminating this group of foods.

Paleo
The Paleolithic diet includes foods that were easily accessible to our ancestors, like meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and berries. It limits grains, dairy, sugar, salt, and legumes. Because this diet excludes whole grains, legumes, and dairy, it can leave you without adequate sources of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. 

This lifestyle worked during the Paleo era 10,000 years ago using available foods of the time and a very high activity level. So if you choose to try Paleo, be sure to follow both the nutritional and exercise aspects of this diet.

Remember, physical activity is an important partner with any diet to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Keto
This high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet puts the body into ketosis, which means it starts burning fat for energy. Typically including meats, butter, nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, and fish, the diet eliminates grains, most fruits, and starchy vegetables. This regimen is difficult to sustain and is nutritionally lacking long term.

Although not a diet, intermittent daily fasting is a promising strategy to help manage eating patterns while including healthy food choices that meet your health goals.

As you start your journey towards a healthier lifestyle through diet, consult a registered dietitian to guide you in achieving a healthy well-being.

Not Sure Which Diet to Try?
Virtua registered dietitians work with your food preferences and health needs to help you develop a healthy eating strategy that fits your lifestyle.

Call 888-847-8823 to make an appointment.

Updated June 29, 2021

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