With a lot of dieting techniques cropping up, it can be difficult to choose which one is the most effective, most sustainable, and most suitable for you. Dieting depends on the goal you want to achieve or the purpose that you have in mind. Is it simply weight loss? To avoid chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular complications? To be healthier? To be more ethical and whatnot? Here we made a compendium of the most well-known kinds of dieting: what it is, what are the pros and the cons, and some general tips for you to get started.
1. Vegetarian Diets
The vegetarian diet is one of the most popular diets right now. Some even say that it is more than just a diet, it is a philosophy and a lifestyle. Simply put, it is a plant-based diet consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables. However, there are various kinds of vegetarianism:
Veganism – this is what everyone calls the most rigid form of vegetarianism. It eliminates all animal meat and by-products in the diet. Aside from what you eat, all products you use must also be free of any trace of animal cruelty, such as in the cosmetics you use which must not be animal-tested. People who choose this diet, or lifestyle, do so mostly for ethical and environmental reasons.
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian – this form of vegetarian diet still consists mostly of fruits, grains, and vegetables but with the additional eggs, dairy products, and other animal by-product such as honey. If dairy products are included in the diet but not eggs, it is called lacto-vegetarian; if eggs are included but not dairy products, then it is called ovo-vegetarian.
Pescetarian / Pesco-Vegetarian – this diet is still plant-based and eliminates animal meat but with the exception of fish and seafood. Vegetarians may choose to include fish and seafood in their diet for additional protein source and for convenience especially when going out as most restaurants still have limited vegetarian options. Pescetarians may or may not include eggs, dairy products, and other animal by-products in their diet.
PROS: Eating less or no meat can be linked to a healthier body weight, to reduced risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer, and to a longer life expectancy. Plant-based diets are also good for the environment as it produces lower levels of carbon footprint compared to meat processing.
CONS: Vegetarian diets, when not planned carefully, may cause deficiencies in protein, calcium, vitamin B12, omega-3, omega-6, and zinc. Also, the absence of meat in the diet does not automatically mean being healthier as most vegetarians may opt to eating processed junk foods like french fries instead of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
How to get started: Planning is key when it comes to starting out a vegetarian diet. Make sure than you still get the nutrients that your body needs, particularly those usually found in meat and dairy products. Avoid the trap of eating more processed junk foods with the excuse that at least these are not animal meat. If you’re considering becoming a pescetarian, choose the fish and seafood you eat wisely as some kinds may contain high levels of mercury and other toxins acquired from the sea.
2. Raw Food Diet
The raw food diet, or raw foodism, is somewhat related to vegetarianism as it can also be completely plant-based. However, there are also raw omnivores, who may include raw eggs and raw meat in their diet. The premise of the raw food diet is simple: to consume products that are mostly or totally raw and unprocessed. That is, no refinement, pasteurization, pesticide treatment, and such, with the exception of several food preparation methods like juicing, blending, dehydrating, etc. Raw foodists believe that through cooking or processing, you may lose the nutrients and natural enzymes of the fruits and vegetables, or of the food in general.
PROS: The raw food diet encourages eating fresh and organic and preferably, locally grown produce. There should be no trace of pesticide and other harmful chemicals in the raw food you eat. It is also effective for weight loss as the diet is very low in calories. You overall health may also improve as it eliminates processed junk foods and refined sugar, which are linked to a lot of chronic diseases.
CONS: Our knowledge on the effects of the raw food diet in the body is still limited due to little research on the subject. The body may also not get the required daily calorie intake and may also be prone to nutrient deficiencies. Unlike the vegetarian diet in which you can take nutrient supplements, raw food diet strongly discourages doing so. You may also run the risk of foodborne diseases when the raw food you eat is not cleaned or prepared properly.
How to get started: Try to ease into the raw food diet slowly, introducing raw food little by little into your current diet, so as not to shock your body with a sudden drop in your calorie intake. Plan out your meals well to make sure you are getting the enough amount of nutrients you need. Also, make sure that what your eating is fresh and organic; perhaps, start your own garden to be extra careful. Take appropriate steps to clean and prepare your food properly to avoid food poisoning.
3. Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is often considered as the most balanced and easiest to maintain of all the other diets. As the name suggests, the diet consists of foods habitually consumed by residents of the Mediterranean coast, which are Greeks, Italians, southern French, Spanish, and even Portuguese. The diet includes a lot of fresh greens, fresh fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, a lot of olive oil, cheese, yogurt, and wines. Fish, poultry, eggs, and red meat are also included but in moderate amounts. The foods to avoid are few that is so easy to recall: processed foods, too much salt, too much sugar, too much red meat, and saturated fat.
PROS: The Mediterranean diet may be responsible for decreased risk of heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. And it is so easy to maintain in the long run as it is not as restrictive as the other diets. It can be very nutritious and delicious, too.
CONS: As there are no specific guidelines for this diet, it may get confusing when first starting out to determine how much is ‘too much’ or how often is ‘often’. Perhaps, you may be consuming too much cheese or too many glasses of wine than what your body require.
How to get started: Determine how much your body needs in terms of nutrients and incorporate that into your diet meal plan. You may also research Mediterranean recipes that will suit your tastes. This is your chance to explore and develop your Mediterranean culinary skills.
4. Low-Carb Diets
Carbohydrates is one of the main sources of energy, or calories, in your body. Carbohydrates is necessary but too much of it can cause your body to store excess energy and convert it into fat, which may lead to obesity and other health problems. There are several kinds of low-carb diets being practiced right now, some of which are the following:
Atkins Diet – refined carbs found in white rice, white bread, pasta, pastries, and other refined grains may cause insulin levels to rise which then triggers the body to store energy instead of consuming what your body has already stored in the form of fat. The Atkins diet discourages carbohydrates but you may have as much protein and fat as you like.
Ketogenic Diet – this diet is mostly used as treatment for epilepsy. What this diet entails is reducing carbohydrates while increasing the intake of healthy fats which is found in avocados, coconuts, nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil. The body burns the fat for energy instead of the carbohydrates and through the process of ketosis, the body also uses stored fats as source of energy.
Dukan Diet – with the same principle as the other low-carb diets, the Dukan diet avoids carbohydrates while increasing protein intake. The Dukan diet is a process split into four phases, its last phase ensuring that your new weight is maintained as more diverse food groups is introduced back into the diet plan.
PROS: Low-carb diets are effective when it comes to weight loss because when you restrict carbohydrates, your body will use stored fats as fuel instead. In other words, it reduces your overall calorie intake. The low-carb diets may also reduce risk of cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, and high blood pressure.
CONS: Some research suggest that a low-carb diet may be more harmful than it is beneficial as it can cause significant muscle loss in your body. Low-carb diets are also not for everyone as it can cause ketoacidosis in extremely rare cases. This may result in diabetic coma and death if not treated well.
How to get started: It is best to consult your physician or nutritionist before starting a low-carb diet. This diet requires strict professional supervision and must not be done on your own. This diet may be effective for you, especially for weight loss, but it may also be risky if not done properly.
5. Paleo Diet
The Paleo Diet is centered on the theory that most chronic diseases have surfaced because of the consumption of modern processed foods. The best diet is the same as what our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to eat before the discovery and development of agriculture, specifically during the Paleolithic era, which is approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. And so this diet includes lean meats, whole foods, organic vegetables and fruits, nuts, and seeds. It restricts foods that a typical cave dweller may have had no access to such as dairy, refined sugar, or anything processed as well as foods that became widely common thanks to agriculture such as cereal grains, legumes, and potatoes.
PROS: The Paleo diet is effective in weight loss as it decreases calorie intake. It also reduces the risk of heart diseases.
CONS: It can be difficult putting variety in your meals as your choices of food is limited. You are also restricting yourself from several food groups that have clear health benefits to your body such as beans, grains, or dairy.
How to get started: Learn more about how the hunters-gatherers used to live back in the day. Aside from their diet, daily hunting activities may also contribute to their good health. The Paleo diet is best incorporated with an exercise routine that will make those hunter-gatherer ancestors proud.*