The Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet (keto) is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet that forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Originally developed to help children with difficult-to-control epilepsy, the keto diet has gained traction as a lifestyle choice among weightlifters and people who want to lose a significant amount of weight.
Typically, the brain runs on glucose converted from consumed carbohydrates. When there are very few carbs in the diet, the liver begins to convert fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The brain begins to use the ketone bodies as fuel, and this state is known as ketosis. This change has significant benefits for about half of children with refractory epilepsy as well as adults. (It should not be considered a holistic, natural or alternative treatment to epilepsy, but may be one part of an overall doctor-supervised plan to treat epilepsy.) The research hasn’t been conducted to properly evaluate the ketogenic diet as a long-term weight management system.
Getting into ketosis can be challenging. Many people who follow the keto diet try to consume fewer than 20 grams of carbohydrates a day: the typical American eats 300 grams or more. A nutritionist familiar with the keto diet should be able to offer suggestions for the right kinds of fat, protein and carb-free vegetables to focus on.
More an eating pattern than an actual diet, intermittent fasting (IF) is a carefully regimented plan to alternate days of normal eating with periods of fasting and restricted caloric intake.
Some IF followers participate in the 16/8 method, limiting daily eating to an 8-hour period, then fasting for 16 hours. Some choose to fast for 24 hours once or twice a week, perhaps eating dinner one day then not eating again until dinner the following evening. Other fans of IF ascribe to the 5:2 Diet, eating only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days each week, eating as normal on the other five.
It’s absolutely essential to talk to your doctor before considering fasting or restricting calories. Once your doctor has cleared you to start IF, ease into the diet and track your calories and macros to ensure you’re staying consistent. Remember to drink plenty of water, even when fasting.
Studies in the National Center for Biotechnology Information archives have shown possible links between IF and boosted cellular repair and human growth hormone. The bad news is that several studies have shown that IF may be no more effective for weight loss than simply counting calories and macros while eating on a normal schedule.
Rather than a long-term diet, Whole30® is a 30-day eating plan, aiming to reset eating patterns by cutting out certain food groups, like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes. It’s a branded program that sells books, coaching and products to support you for the month.
Whole30® is fairly restrictive. The first rule is to cut out added sugar, whether real or artificial. Skip alcohol in any form, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, baked goods, junk food or other treats (even if they are made with approved ingredients). Whole30® also discourages stepping on the scale or taking measurements throughout the month.
Like most short-term fad diets, there isn’t much research to back up the implied benefits. It’s hard to study how changing your diet so intensely for 30 days is actually affecting you. The complicated rules make it difficult to follow, even for such a relatively short window. Most people will find the Paleo diet’s slightly more relaxed rules easier to follow.
Many people find Vegetarianism difficult to commit to on a long-term basis. Rather than making a total overhaul to exclude animal products, Flexitarianism focuses on making smart swaps with plant-based products when possible. Rather than a diet, it’s a lifestyle change that is backed by some pretty solid evidence.
Research shows that regularly consuming red meat and processed meats increases the risk of death by heart attack, stroke and diabetes. On the flip side, diets that are too low in nuts, seeds, seafood, fruits and vegetables are also deadly. Flexitarians plan their meal choices to address those issues. As an added benefit, it’s easy to create vegetarian dishes that are lower in both fat and calories while being more nutrient-dense.
Flexitarians tend to swap red meat and processed meats for other proteins and plant-based dishes. Many go completely vegetarian or vegan for certain days of the week, such as Meatless Mondays. Flexitarianism shares many qualities with the Mediterranean Diet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and is associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.