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So Many Diets! Which One is Right? (Part 1)

There are so many different diets out there. How do you know which one is good for you?

Everyone is different, and everyone has different nutritional needs. None of us is exactly the same. Some people do better on a plant-based diet. Some people need meat. My goal is not to tell you that one type of diet is good for you and the other is bad. My goal is to give you some information and some choices and let you decide which diet works better for you.   

Paleo Diet 

According to some, the Paleo diet is the healthiest diet you can come across since it is the only nutritional approach that works with your ancestral genetics. Thanks to this correlation with our ancient genetics, the Paleo diet will allow us to stay strong, lean, and energetic.

When it comes to health benefits, for many people, this diet brings desired results with regard to weight loss, improved blood lipids, and decreased pain from autoimmunity diseases. The Paleo diet is a diet based on consumption of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts (except peanuts. Peanuts are legumes), and healthy oils, including olive and coconut oil, while it prohibits: processed food, dairy (since our ancient ancestors were not farmers,) grains and legumes, starchy vegetables (like potatoes), sugar, salt, and refined oils (such as canola.)

When it comes to simplicity, the Paleo diet is quite simple since there is no need for calorie counting! Another benefit of the Paleo diet is that it requires food preparation from scratch. This may not sound appealing at first, but with homemade food, you can control several things. You get to choose the best and healthiest ingredients, and you know that your food is prepared in a clean environment. You can also prevent food contamination.  

Overall, the Paleo diet has shown to be effective when it comes to health benefits, especially weight loss and diabetes issues, but how does it compare with some other diets?  

Gluten-Free Diet 

A gluten-free diet is a diet typically for the treatment of a medical condition known as celiac disease. This diet excludes protein gluten from your diet which can be found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.  It also includes grain-derived foods such as bread, pasta, muesli, oatmeal, rice cakes, breakfast cereals, pastries, and cookies. Gluten found in these grains causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Eating a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease to control their symptoms and prevent complications that gluten may cause.  

There are doctors who have written books about gluten and how it affects your brain and your gut. These doctors say gluten has a negative effect on everyone, not just people with Celiac Disease.  Part of it traces back to the fact that most wheat is now genetically modified (called Dwarf Wheat) and also that wheat is treated with glyphosate, which is a toxic chemical with negative effects on the body.  

Either way, gluten from wheat may have a negative effect on you. My suggestion would be to try going for a few weeks without gluten, and see how it affects you.  As the name says, all products and food that naturally do not contain gluten is desirable. Therefore, beyond being a medically approved diet for celiac disease, a gluten-free diet may have a variety of other health benefits such as improving cholesterol levels, promoting digestive health, and improving energy. If you decide to try out a gluten-free diet, you will also be eliminating unhealthy food like processed food and foods that are breaded as well as desserts that are high in sugar and fat. 

Paleo and Gluten-Free Diet – Pros and Cons 

Both of these diets are gluten-free and provide a number of health benefits. Still, both of these diets have some pros and cons as listed below: 

Paleo Diet 

Pros: 

  • Paleo is a clean diet without preservatives, additives, and chemicals (this assumes you are using meat that is clean and has not been injected with hormones, antibiotics, etc.) 
  • You will consume more iron and protein through increased meat intake 
  • With the Paleo diet, you will improve satiety, due to intake of fats and protein 
  • You can expect an anti-inflammatory benefit from the plant nutrients in vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils 
  • You may experience weight loss since you will have limited food choices, no processed foods, and only complex (good) carbs 
  • Since this diet does not include added sugar, diabetics may experience some health benefits 

Cons: 

  • Paleo excludes grains, even whole ones that have vitamins and fiber 
  • Paleo excludes dairy, and lack of dairy products can cause a deficiency in vitamin D and calcium 
  • This diet can be quite difficult for vegetarians since it includes meat and excludes beans 
  • When it comes to money, this diet can be expensive since grass-fed products are preferred 
  • If you exclude nutrients certain food can offer, like beans, and do not find adequate supplements, you can create a nutritional imbalance 
Gluten-free diet 

Pros: 

  • Since this diet excludes gluten, inflammation will be reduced or completely disappear 
  • A gluten-free diet favors homemade cooking in order to prevent food contamination  
  • A true Gluten-free diet excludes processed foods. Processed gluten-free foods are not healthy. 
  • A gluten-free diet can help with overall health and help with weight loss

Cons: 

  • Lack of nutrients can be a big issue with a gluten-free diet. You will need to find a way to get iron and fiber from sources other than grains. 
  • Gluten-free products may be higher in fat, sugar, and calories 
  • A gluten-free diet is linked with a lack of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin 
Overall: 

Both of these diets are rising to the top in regard to recent health trends. Just because gluten-free products do not contain gluten does not make them healthier with regard to nutrient content. They can still be packed in sugars, sodium, fats and artificial ingredients. On the other hand, the Paleo diet promotes naturally gluten-free food and all-natural products. Beyond this, the Paleo diet has restrictions when it comes to sodium, sugar, and certain types of fats you can consume.

When compared, both diets have positive and negative examples, but the Paleo diet is the one that combines completely natural and gluten-free foods. A gluten-free diet may be more effective for people with celiac disease or when done on a short-term basis. 

Vegetarian Diet 

A vegetarian diet is focused on the consumption of plant-based meals. These include fruits, vegetables, dried peas and beans, nuts and seeds. There is no one type of vegetarian diet, but instead can be divided into several categories; Lacto-vegetarians who do not consume red or white meat, fish, or eggs but consume dairy products. Ovo-vegetarians who do not consume any type of meat, fish or dairy products, but consume eggs. Pollotarians who consume fowl and poultry, but do not consume red or white meat and fish. 

These days, we are practically bombarded with information on how meat is bad for us since it is filled with unhealthy substances like hormones, antibiotics, and toxins. Since vegetarians do not consume red meat, are they healthier than non-vegetarians?

Avoiding meat and living according to vegetarian rules has its benefits. It has been shown that vegetarians have a lower risk of developing diabetes, obesity, and breast cancer than meat-eaters, in general. This is because the vegetarian diet is low in fat and high in fiber. This is also helpful for reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. 

Vegan diet 

A vegan diet is a sub-type of the vegetarian diet. This diet is specific because it excludes all animal products, even eggs, dairy, and honey. This meat-egg-dairy free diet may help with weight loss, heart health and diabetes prevention. This diet is also rich in quality foods that are often suggested and treated as healthy food like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and seeds.

Although a vegan diet is considered to be a “diet”, it is often referred to as a lifestyle and a philosophy of an individual. Many vegans even go a step further and avoid animal products and will not even use animal-based products for clothing or any other purpose.

Overall, a vegan diet could be treated and considered as a healthy diet since it excludes animal fats and proteins that have been linked with a risk of developing cancer, hypertension, heart disease, and a number of other illnesses and conditions.  

Vegetarian and vegan diet; pros and cons

Both of these diets have health benefits, but certain disadvantages are linked with both of these diets. Although a vegan diet is a sub-type of a vegetarian diet, each of them have differences. 

Vegetarian diet: 

Pros: 

  • A vegetarian diet can help you manage your weight since this diet is high in fibers and low in fats. 
  • A potential health benefit you may experience thanks to a vegetarian diet would be a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure. 
  • You will avoid animal products that are packed with hormones and antibiotics 
  • A vegetarian diet is versatile, and you can choose to be ovo or lacto vegetarian 

Cons: 

  • Since a vegetarian diet is basically a plant-based diet, you will not be able to get as much Vitamin B12 that you need, since this vitamin is naturally present in animal-based foods.  
  • Beyond vitamin B12 you may find it harder to get the protein you need. Protein is important since it repairs muscle tissues and manufactures blood cells.  
  • Some vegetarians substitute meat with carbs and fats such as pasta. Too much pasta, carbs, and fat can lead to weight gain and gut issues. 
Vegan diet: 

Pros: 

  • A vegan diet is actually cheap; it is less expensive to consume veggies and fruits than meat cuts 
  • A vegan diet may be appropriate for those who suffer from lactose intolerance since is does not include any animal-based products 
  • A vegan diet may help with weight loss and reduce risk of cancer, all thanks to antioxidants and fiber from fruits and vegetables 

Cons: 

  • If not well balanced, vegans may experience nutritional deficiency 
  • Since vegans avoid all animal-based products like eggs and dairy, protein from eggs or calcium from dairy is something they may not be getting through a normal meal 
  • Vegans, unlike vegetarians, do not have as many options when it comes to food since there are no different types of a vegan diet 
  • Vegans can be at risk of iron deficiency 
Overall:

Both vegan and vegetarian diets are healthy and can help with different health issues, plus the environmental impact is huge. When comparing these two, a vegetarian diet may be slightly better nutritionally, since certain types of vegetarian diets allow eggs and dairy intake, which are important sources of calcium and protein. 

Of these four diets, which is right for you?