Which Diet is Right For Me?

There is always a new diet trend to follow, normally with differing advice and rules to the last one. Ultimately, what matters is that you’re getting all the nutrients you need and have a positive relationship with the food you eat. To give you a background on some of the most popular diets, we’ve put together a list and explained what’s involved with each one. 

Mediterranean

The sunny sounding mediterranean diet follows what was eaten in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea since the 60s, such as Greece and Italy. Heart disease related deaths were very low compared to the US and Northern Europe, so the diet was copied[1].

Daily foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. You can have fish, poultry, and eggs weekly, and a small amount of dairy products with hardly any red meat. Oily fish is used to provide omega-3, along with a good amount of olive oil as a source of healthy fat.

The reason olive oil is touted as a healthy fat is because it's high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), in particular oleic acid. Using oils high in MUFAs instead of saturated fatty acids has been shown to be good for heart health[2]. Due to the gentler processing of extra virgin olive oil, it also contains phytonutrients which are likely to provide further health benefits[3].

Paleo

The Paleo diet comes from what some believe humans ate during the hunter-gatherer era, although we don’t know exactly what was eaten. There was a wide variety in the foods eaten, but as a general rule the focus is on vegetables, seeds, nuts, spices, and meat.

This is one of the more flexible diets, with a list of typical foods to eat and avoid. Grains, beans, peas, and refined sugars are just some of the foods off the menu, and the stricter diets don’t allow dairy as the belief is that the body hasn’t evolved to process it.

There has been some progress with the paleo diet, with many people now using it as a base for their eating lifestyle. You generally don’t need to calorie count so it’s a relatively simple diet to follow.

Intermittent Fasting

There are a number of types of intermittent fasting diets, each with different rules. The most popular are the 5:2 and 16:8. The 5:2 diet involves a normal eating pattern for 5 days a week, and then for 2 non-consecutive days women can have 500kcal, or 600kcal for men. Due to the calorie restriction across 2 days, the idea is that you will considerably reduce your calorie intake overall.

The 16:8 diet gives an 8 hour window where food is allowed, and then a fast for 16 hours. This diet is based on the circadian biology theory[4]. It’s thought the body has an internal clock operating on a 24 hour cycle. If our eating pattern is aligned with our internal clock then there could be metabolic benefits[5]. Give our Intermittent Fasting article a read for more information.

Low Carb

Atkins

The Atkins diet has been around since the 70s but it’s becoming popular again due to the low carb diet trends. You follow a strict food plan of low carb foods such as fish, dark-leafy greens and eggs, and high fat foods including almonds, coconut oil, and full-fat yoghurt. Sugary foods must be cut, and you’re only allowed to eat starchy foods like sweet potatoes at the very beginning.

Greater weight loss results are often seen quite early on, but research has shown that compared to a diet including carbs, there is little difference after 6 months[6-8].

Keto

The keto diet is ultra low-carb, high in fat, and includes a moderate amount of protein. The diet plan needs to be carefully planned to make sure you’re eating keto friendly foods. When cutting out enough carbs and protein, your body enters ketosis. The idea is that you’ll be burning fat as your primary energy source.

At the start of ketosis, the ‘keto flu’ is quite common. As your body gets used to a low carb intake you might suffer from side effects such as headaches, tiredness, and even muscle cramps which can last for up to a week.

There is research around keto helping some neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s[9]. It’s still unclear as to how the diet may help, but it appears to reduce the symptoms and progression of the disease. Take a look at our What is the Ketogenic Diet? article to read more on this.

A common myth is that carbs cause weight gain, but this isn’t necessarily true. Not all carbs are bad, there are different types, simple and complex. Simple carbs are digested quickly. These include sugary cereals, biscuits, and white bread. Complex carbs such as sweet potato and wholemeal bread are digested more slowly, leading to a feeling of fullness. They also contain a good amount of fibre, an important part of a healthy diet. Give our The Truth about Low-Carb Diets article a read for more information.

Meal Replacement Shakes

Typically focussed on losing weight, meal replacement shakes are normally high in protein and low calorie. The idea is to replace at least a couple of your meals, and up to 100% of your diet with the powder or drinks, and combine with a healthy home cooked meal. They’re designed for a short term fix to lose a couple of pounds and not as a sustained diet, as you won’t be getting all the nutrients you need.

Plant Based

There has been a huge increase in the amount of people taking up vegan and plant based eating. It’s a great way of getting variety into your diet, and it’s also beneficial for the environment too.

It’s important to make sure you’re still getting the essential nutrients that are normally high in animal products. With no meat and fish intake on a plant based diet, ensuring good amounts of plant based protein, vitamin B12, and omega-3 is key. This can be done by swapping dairy milk for fortified plant based milk and eating foods high in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats such as nuts and flaxseed. Give our How to Eat More Plant-based Foods guide a read for tips.

Huel

Often, Huel gets confused with a diet meal replacement or protein shake. Huel is food, just in a convenient format. Our Why Huel is not a Meal Replacement article explains the differences.

You can use Huel whenever you don’t have time to make a healthy meal but still want to make sure you’re getting everything your body needs. It’s ideal for whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain weight, or maintain a healthy diet. From Huel Powder, perfect for a quick breakfast, Ready-to-drink for when you’re out and about, or a Huel Bar to tide you over until your next meal. There’s a nutritionally complete, plant-based, convenient meal always available.

Ultimately, it’s about finding a diet that works for you. The latest trend or your friend’s diet might not work for you. Remember that what matters is that you’re getting all the nutrients you need and have a positive relationship with the food you eat.

References

  1. Willett WC, Sacks F, Trichopoulou A, Drescher G, Ferro-Luzzi A, Helsing E, Trichopoulos D. Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. AJCN. 1995 Jun 1;61(6):1402S-6S.
  2. Clifton, P, Keogh, J. A systematic review of the effect of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on heart disease. Dec 2017. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29174025-a-systematic-review-of-the-effect-of-dietary-saturated-and-polyunsaturated-fat-on-heart-disease/
  3. Romani, A et al. Health Effects of Phenolic Compounds Found in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, By-Products, and Leaf of Olea europaea L. Aug 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6724211/
  4. Chan M-C, et al. Circadian rhythms: from basic mechanisms to the intensive care unit. Crit Care Med. 2012; 40(1):246-53.
  5. Paoli A, et al. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting. Nutrients. 2019; 11(4):719.
  6. Guo J, et al. Objective versus Self-Reported Energy Intake Changes During Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md). 2019; 27(3):420-6.
  7. Das SK, et al. Long-term effects of 2 energy-restricted diets differing in glycemic load on dietary adherence, body composition, and metabolism in CALERIE: a 1-y randomized controlled trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2007; 85(4):1023-30.
  8. Gardner CD, et al. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. Jama. 2018; 319(7):667-79.
  9. McDonald TJW, et al. The Expanding Role of Ketogenic Diets in Adult Neurological Disorders. Brain Sci. 2018; 8(8):148.

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