As of October 15, 2015, Medical News Today listed the following diets based on three criteria: how many articles there are around about these diets/lifestyles, how popular they seem to be generally, and how often they receive feedback on them.
- The Atkins Diet
- The Zone Diet
- The Vegetarian Diet
- The Vegan Diet
- Weight Watchers
- The Mediterranean Diet
- The Raw Food Diet
- The South Beach Diet
The diet that is obviously missing from this list is the Paleo Diet. Based on feedback I receive from my patients; Paleo is by far the most popular at this time. So in keeping with the title, I will combine the Vegetarian and Vegan diets and add Paleo to the list.
Atkins Diet or Atkins Nutritional Approach, focuses on controlling the levels of insulin in our bodies through diet. If we consume large amounts of refined carbohydrates our insulin levels rise rapidly, and then fall rapidly. Rising insulin levels will trigger our bodies to store as much of the energy we eat as possible – it will also make it less likely that our bodies use stored fat as a source of energy. Most people on the Atkins Diet will consume a higher proportion of proteins than they normally do.
The Zone diet aims for a nutritional balance of 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 30% protein each time we eat. The focus is also on controlling insulin levels, which result in more successful weight loss and body weight control. The Zone diet encourages the consumption of good quality carbohydrates – unrefined carbohydrates, and fats, such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts.
The are various types of vegetarian diets – Lacto vegetarian, Fruitarian, Lacto-ovo-vegetarian, Living food diet, Ovo-vegetarian, Pescovegetarian, and Vegan. The majority of vegetarians are lacto-ovovegetarians, they do not eat animal-based foods, except for eggs, dairy, and honey. Veganism is more a way of life and philosophy than a diet. Vegans do not eat anything that is animal based, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Vegans do not generally adopt veganism just for health reasons, but also for environmental and ethical/compassionate reasons.
Weight Watchers focuses on losing weight through diet, exercise, and a support network. Weight Watchers Inc. was born in the 1960s when a homemaker who had lost some weight and was concerned she might put it back on created a network of friends. Weight Watchers is now a huge company with branches all over the world. Dieters can join either physically, and attend regular meetings, or online. In both cases there is a great deal of support and education available for the dieter.
The South Beach Diet was started by cardiologist, Dr. Agatston, and a nutritionist, Marie Almon. It focuses on the control of insulin levels, and the benefits of unrefined slow carbohydrates versus fast carbs. Dr. Agatston devised the South Beach Diet during the 1990s because he was disappointed with the low-fat, high–carb diet backed by the American Heart Association. He believed that low-fat regimes were not effective over the long term.
The Raw Food Diet, or Raw Foodism, involves consuming foods and drinks which are not processed, are completely plant-based, and ideally organic. Raw foodists generally say that at least three-quarters of your food intake should consist of uncooked food. A significant number of raw foodists are also vegans.
The Mediterranean Diet focuses on the nutritional habits of the people of Crete, Greece, and southern Italy. The emphasis is on lots of plant foods, fresh fruits as dessert, beans, nuts cereals, seeds, olive oil as the main source of dietary fats, cheese and yogurts are the main dairy foods, moderate amounts of fish and poultry, up to about four eggs per week, small amounts of red meat, and low/moderate amounts of wine. Up to one third of the Mediterranean Diet consists of fat, with saturated fats not exceeding 8% of calorie intake.
The Paleo Diet is the newcomer to this list. It is based on our concepts of what early humans ate in a hunter-gatherer society. A common misconception of this diet is that large amounts of red meat are consumed. In reality, the diet is based primarily on foods that grow naturally that could be gathered prior to the introduction of farming. Meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are the basis of the diet. No grains, dairy or other refined products are allowed.
The Bottom Line:
You’ll have to read my Wisdom Wednesday blogs for the next eight weeks as I explore each of these diets individually. I’ll give you the pros and cons of each diet and the bottom line.