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“Yes, I eat healthy. No I am not on a diet.” How many times do you find yourself trying to justify your food choices to friends, family and co-workers? You’re not alone! To us, healthy eating is not about restricting calories or depriving yourself. It is a way of living your life, knowing you are nourishing yourself from within.
But that doesn’t mean all diets are “evil”. If your purpose is short-term weight loss or to alleviate a specific medical condition, a diet can be beneficial and effective in reaching your goals. There’s are positives we can definitely draw from different diets out there. Educating yourself about the pros and cons of each diet and making an informed choice on which habits to adopt is all part of building a healthy balanced lifestyle.
We take a look at 4 different diets that have made waves in the last few years:
We’ve been ‘raw’ring (pun intended) to talk about the subject of raw foods. If you hate cooking, this might appeal to you.
This diet calls for an elimination of all processed, pasteurised, and refined foods, consisting mainly of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some raw meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Raw foodists believe that plants contain enzymes needed for digestion, but which are destroyed during the high heat cooking process, along with other nutrients. Therefore, Raw Foodism does not involve cooking anything at more than 40-48 degrees celsius. However, our bodies also produce enzymes which aid in digestion, and cooking does make certain nutrients more bioavailable – giving rise to disputes on whether a raw food diet is really the most ideal way of eating.
- Weight loss, increased energy, lower blood cholesterol, reduced risk of chronic diseases.
- Positive environmental impact due to minimal or no meat intake
- Incorporates foods that are high in nutrients and fibre like fruits, vegetables nuts and seeds.
- Alkalising – reduces acidity in the body.
- Optimised nutrient intake (eg. vitamins) for certain foods which might be lost in the cooking process of boiling, roasting, grilling, frying etc.
- May result in consumption of bacteria and pathogens found on some raw meat
- Cooking makes certain nutrients more bioavailable, eg. lycopene and beta-carotene and aids in the digestion process
- Might be deficient in calories, some vitamins and minerals and protein often derived from omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D and iron.
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash
Yabadabadoo! The paleo diet (also known as the caveman diet or the stone-age diet), takes us back to a time of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, where the whole idea is to eat what would have been available to our ancestors such as meat, fish and plants. Since they didn’t have grocery stores back then, it’s safe to say that that eliminates processed and refined foods, along with sugar and dairy. There’s some dispute as to whether grains and legumes were available to our paleolithic ancestors, but the general consensus in a Paleo diet is to exclude them.
- Good for people allergicor sensitive to wheat and grains (eg. Celiac disease)
- High lean protein content
- Reduced consumption of processed foods
- Eliminates legumes which have tons of beneficial vitamins and minerals
- Eliminates calcium (from diary) needed for bone health
- Can be more expensive due to higher consumption of meats, nuts and seeds (‘“premium”’ foods).
Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash
A low carb high-fat diet. Eating a Ketogenic diet puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis where it tells the body to start burning fat for energy since it has lost its main source of fuel – carbs. This means, more meat, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, avocados, grass-fed butter and cream. Sounds good yes? Well, this would also mean following a strict guideline of controlling your percentage intake of macronutrients: 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs.
- Reduced body fat as the body works to burn fat first, before burning carbs
- It reduces insulin levels and thus inflammation (good for diabetics)
- Evidence that it helps patients with Epilepsy
- The need to plan and calculate your macronutrients at every meal.
- Might result in decreased energy levels and fatigue due to the lack of carbs
- Potential to eat more unhealthy saturated animal fat
- Low in fibre (usually derived from whole grain carbs and starchy vegetables)
Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash
Unlike the previous diets, there are other reasons apart from health, that might persuade someone to turn vegan such as cultural, ethical or environmental reasons. A vegan diet is high in plant-based food, and calls for an elimination of all meat or animal derived products (eg. honey, gelatin, dairy and eggs). Do note however that not all vegan food is healthy! It can still include processed junk food such as Oreos, french fries, white bread and pasta.
- More environmentally sustainable as it reduces the strain on food and resources
- Kinder to animals
- Aids in weight less due to high fibre intake
- Lowers cholesterol, rate of heart disease, and protect against certain cancers.
- Reduced risk of ingesting bacteria or excess antibiotics found in some animals
- Lacking in certain nutrients such as iron, B12, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D andomega-3 fatty acids usually obtained from meat sources and supplements need to be taken
- Need to keep track of eating the right amount of plant proteins
So, what’s the conclusion?
Diets are a singular short-term approach which looks at limiting food variety and intake. A healthy lifestyle is long-term and includes other factors such as physical activity and lifestyle habits (eg. smoking and drinking).
How you choose to eat is ultimately a very personal choice, but here’s what we would suggest:
- Incorporate a mix of both raw and cooked foods in your diet
- Avoid processed and refined foods
- Avoid foods you know you are intolerant or allergic to (duh!)
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes
- Supplement with vitamins/minerals (if necessary)
- Listen to your body when you eat
- Eat based on your own individual value or belief system
Keep calm and live healthy!