7 Popular Diets in Review, and How to Choose the Right One for You
There is a certain theme that is true across all diets: they will in some way restrict your caloric, carbohydrate, and/or fat intake. There is no one diet that is the ideal option, and the goal of this article is not to demonize or discourage any specific options (by no means an exhaustive list). Here, we will simply discuss the pros and cons of several trending diets, and who will benefit from each. Whether you’re already participating in one of the below trends or just considering which might be a good fit for you, read on for the full scoop:
Carnivore Diet:involves eating only animal products and byproducts, such as meat and dairy products.
Pros: high in protein; eliminates processed foods and sugar
Cons: lacks several micronutrients and fiber found in fruits and vegetables
Who may benefit: if your body likes fat as a fuel source, you’ll likely feel great trying the carnivore diet. It has virtually 0 carbs. You’ll also feel very full due to all the fat and protein, which is more satiating than carbs.
Veganism:forbids consumption of all animal products and byproducts.
Pros: eliminates a lot of the inflammatory foods in the modern diet; promotes lots of micronutrients from a variety of fruits and vegetables; high in fiber
Cons: can be difficult to consume adequate levels of protein daily (especially for athletes); lots of processed vegan options on the market that aren’t inherently healthy (though you may be lead to believe they are); often low in nutrients found from animal products (such as iron, calcium, zinc, omega-3s)
Who may benefit: if you’re at risk of heart disease or Alzheimer’s, a plant-based diet like veganism may be beneficial for you.
Paleo Diet:focuses on eating foods ancient humans would have consumed, designating grains, dairy and processed foods off-limits.
Pros: emphasizes whole foods, lean meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds; eliminates processed foods and added sugar; eliminates dairy and grains that may be inflammatory for some people
Cons: eliminates healthy options such as whole grains, legumes and dairy
Who may benefit: if you are sensitive to dairy, this is a good option that will keep a well-rounded nutrient balance while discouraging unhealthy processed food options. It’s also good for high cholesterol and blood pressure, and helps with risk of heart disease as well.
IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros):prescribes a set of macronutrient goals within which you can eat whatever you want.
Pros: doesn’t restrict food choices; precisely tracks your macronutrient intake making it easy to avoid weight-loss plateaus and achieve consistent weight loss
Cons: people may get carried away fitting “fun” foods into their macros and lose out on the nutrient-dense options other diets encourage; you have to manually track the macros of everything you eat
Who may benefit: anyone trying to lose weight who's willing to track their food will benefit from tracking their macros. The catch is to focus at least 80% of your intake on nourishing whole foods and let the other 20% fall in the “fun” or processed food categories.
Ketogenic Diet:requires your daily caloric intake to come primarily from fats, with moderate to low protein and minimal carbs (>25g per day).
Pros: eliminates added sugars; reduces appetite so you feel less hungry; trains your body to use fat as a fuel source
Cons: some people feel like trash using fat as a fuel source; severely restricts protein and carb intake; restricts fruit intake
Who may benefit: if your body likes high-fat diets, this may be a great option for you. But, be aware: “true” keto requires a much higher ratio of your calories to come from fat than you may anticipate. Not only carb but protein intake is also restricted, versus a classic low-carb diet that allows protein. Know the difference.
Whole30: allows only “whole” foods, barring specific inflammatory foods, with no processed options permitted.
Pros: eliminates added sugars and processed foods; short term “reset” for the body; promotes eating whole foods
Cons: short term weight loss solution
Who may benefit: anyone experiencing chronic dietary discomfort should benefit from this diet. It will act as a month-long reset where you can identify your problematic foods and give your body space from potential toxins to repair gut health, blood sugar levels, immune health and hormonal health.
Intermittent Fasting:sets a timeframe within which you eat all your calories, the eating window sometimes as short as 4 hours per day.
Pros: doesn’t eliminate or restrict any food options, so it’s a mentally easy “diet” to accept and a low barrier to entry, may increase metabolic rate short-term, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cancer
Cons: restricts eating window, which may lead to binging for some people, not good for people sensitive to dropping blood sugar
Who may benefit: anyone who finds themselves snacking a lot at night (or any other time of day) that doesn’t want to be snacking will benefit from intermittent fasting. It’s easier for many people to set a limited eating window than restrict the actual foods they may eat.
All in all, there is no one-size-fits-all option to dieting. The correct choice will always be the one you will consistently adhere to and can sustain long term. If you look across the board, you'll notice every single option above restricts added sugar and processed foods. If going whole hog on a diet is overwhelming, that may be a good place to start. Small changes over time lead to big results! Stay healthy, Team CK.