Low carb diet, intermittent fasting, paleo, vegan, ketogenic diet, … Are you still following?! And do they really work?
In this article I’m comparing a few of the most popular diets of the moment.
To begin I’ll explain the word ‘diet’, coming from the Greek word ‘diatia’, what literally means; the type and amount of food an individual usually eats.
So apparently it has nothing to do with weight loss, although that’s what we wish to achieve by following one of the diets below, don’t we?!
- Paleo diet
Also known as the caveman diet. Initially it isn’t a weight loss diet, but a way of living. The paleo-diet cuts modern foods and returns to the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. It consists of 100% unprocessed foods as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. All processed and modern foods as bread, potatoes, legumes, all sort of grains, etc are not permitted. The benefit of this diet is that it’s rich in unprocessed foods; no additives, no sugar, no salt, etc. By following this diet, you will lose weight, because any time you restrict entire groups of food, the total calorie intake tends to be lower. The disadvantage is that it’s quite limited in options, and it contains lots of red meat, which increases the risk of getting colon cancer. Also, low-carbs diets could shorten life, as has been shown out of a recent research.
- Intermittent fasting
One of the newest trends, although fasting isn’t quite new. Some religions have been using it for ages, take the Ramadan as example. Intermittent fasting involves alternated periods of fasting and eating. Fasting every other day involves one day eating about 25% of your normal energy intake and eating normal on the other day. The most popular type of fasting is named “16/8 intermittent fasting”. This involves limiting food and caloric beverages to a set window of eight hours per day and fasting during the other 16 hours.
For example: eating between 8 am and 16 pm and skip dinner or eating between 12 pm and 20 pm by skipping breakfast (I could never start the day without my porridge though…).
Practicing this diet seems to give many beneficial changes in our body such as weight loss, better blood sugar levels, improved brain function, extend longevity and many more.
Drinking water or other calorie-free beverages while fasting can help control your appetite. Of course, it’s important to eat balanced and healthy during the eating periods. Overdoing it on junk food could negate the positive effect of intermittent fasting and may end up doing more harm than good for your body.
I always try to eat everything within 12 hours; for example, between 7.30 and 19.30. If I’m not feeling hungry in the evening I skip dinner or eat something very light like a small salad, some raw veggies or soup.
- The low-carb diet
Probably the most practiced diet of them all. Cause carbs are baaaaad, aren’t they? No, actually they aren’t. Yes, we should all reduce refined sugars. But complex carbs and especially whole grains (rich in fibers; oats, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole grain bread, …) are needed to maintain a healthy body. High fiber food gives you a longer satiating feeling which can be helpful in weight loss. They also support a healthy digestion.
A low carb diet contains about 50-150 gram of carbs (normal diet: 200 – 250 g). That means this diet is higher in fat and protein, in relation to a normal diet. Due to a full food group restriction (carbs), the total calorie intake will drop, what makes that weight loss is a normal consequence of a low-carb diet. Research points out that a low-fat diet gives the same results, as the principle is similar.
Not everybody finds it easy to persevere this, or another kind of diet. Once you give up, the chance is big you can welcome your lost weight again soon!
My opinion? The typical western diet contains too much carbs. The chance is big you eat more carbs than needed. Try starting lunch with some raw veggies or a soup and eat 1-2 slices of bread less.
Fill your plate with vegetables, as much as possible but at least half of your plate, add maximum a quarter of carbs (potatoes, rice, quinoa, pasta,…) and a quarter of proteins (like fish, chicken, legumes, tofu, …).
- The ketogenic diet
Taking it a step further than low carb, the ketogenic diet contains about only 20-50 g carbs a day. With a normal diet, carbohydrates are our number one fuel. Our body converts carbs into glucose which gives us the energy we need to breath, to digest, to move, etc. This diet gives our body no other choice to use other sources of energy; energy from fats. When following a ketogenic diet, fat gets transformed into ketones by the liver. These ketones then serve as fuel throughout the body.
This diet can be very helpful to epileptic patients. It seems to decrease the symptoms significantly. Since it’s also quite effective in weight loss, everybody starts trying it out. As said before, any diet that is temporary, will do more harm than good for your weight. Once you quit the ketogenic diet, your weight will increase faster than ever. That’s what we call YOYO-ing. So, except if you are epileptic, you have no reason to start to keto!
- Vegan diet
Another diet on the rise is the vegan diet, eliminating all animal products. But is it really a hype? Or is it a new kind of lifestyle, being practiced by more and more people lately? In my opinion it’s not a temporary thing. More and more people change to a plant-based diet for several reasons; animal welfare, health, the environment, climate, … I started to eat vegan a year ago (not to lose weight!), and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
A vegan diet is not automatically a healthy diet. More and more fast food restaurants got vegan options; vegan burgers, vegan cheese, vegan desserts, etc. Also, lots of cookies and snacks appears to be what we call accidentally vegan.
The whole food plant-based diet focuses on natural, fresh, minimally-processed foods. This diet consisting of mainly plants, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, can improve health significantly. People practicing this diet, also often pay attention to locally sourced and organic food where possible. As you exclude a few food groups from your diet, weight loss is a logical consequence.
It’s proven that a healthy(!) plant-based diet lowers the risk of several diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, etc.… According to the American Dietetic Association, a well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are appropriate for individuals for all stages of life. Though, it’s very important to consult a dietitian or somebody else specialized in vegetarian diets before starting it on your own.
Check out my Instagram account for vegan recipes: healthyfoodhappymood_
Jumping from one diet to another one won’t give you your desired result. You’ll end up with a higher number on the scale than before you started. Please don’t diet, once you quit you’ll gain weight again really fast. Instead, create new habits that work on a long term. Stop focusing on your weight, it’s just a number. Focus on a healthy lifestyle, taking it step by step. This can be difficult if you are doing it on your own, it can be a huge help to consult a dietitian who supports you and gives you the right advice.