The list of diets, and their various intricacies is endless. One person swears by fasting. Another finds success slashing carbs. Others fill up their dinner plates with only plants. Regardless of the dieting method, many embark on a specific diet plan to lose weight. Other health measures such as improved energy levels and mental clarity are also motivating factors.
From a Paleo perspective, it is important to respect a person’s choice and explore what works as opposed to being fixated on a specific dogma of being ‘right’.
But how can all these different diets actually work?
And how can such wildly different nutrition programs all lead to positive results?
As it happens, many of the most successful program are not as different as you might think.
Common Dietary Trends
The Paleo diet eliminates agricultural-era foods such as grains, legumes, and dairy. Instead, Paleo adherents focus their eating efforts on the meat, fish, eggs, naturally occurring fats, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit that were available to hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era. Many experience fat loss, more energy, clearer skin, less bloating, fewer sugar cravings, and a drop in disease-provoking inflammation. Studies show that a Paleolithic-type diet can improve blood sugar control and blood lipid numbers, which may confer protection against maladies such as diabetes and heart disease.
By removing processed foods and focusing on nutrient density, the Paleo diet is very effective at curbing hunger and building metabolism-boosting lean body mass. The Paleo diet is necessarily a low-carbohydrate diet but can be modified to suit most lifestyle choices and requirements
Keto dieters obtain 70%–80% of their calories from fat while significantly reducing carbohydrate intake to below 5% of daily caloric needs and ensuring adequate protein intake. The carbohydrate restriction shifts the body into ketosis, prompting it to access ketones generated from stored fat (as opposed to ingested carbohydrates) as its primary fuel source. This in turn results in a trimmer waistline, fewer energy crashes, and better protection against certain conditions, including diabetes. Ketone bodies themselves may have a direct hunger-reducing effect. Some beneficial metabolic changes that come with the ketogenic diet, can include less insulin resistance and lower blood triglyceride numbers.
Although no foods are technically prohibited, those looking to achieve long-term health often focus on food and fat quality along with macronutrient values. Foods included on a ketogenic diet include avocados, coconut oil, egg yolks, olive oil, nuts and fatty meats and fish including sardines and bacon.
The concept of plant-based eating stresses a diet that is centered around foods grown in soil, namely vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It is possible to follow these principles whilst still allowing for meats and dairy in the diet, making it more flexible. Vegetarian diets eschew meat and fish, but commonly allow eggs and dairy products. Veganism takes this idea to the next level, cutting out every item of animal origin. Vegans avoid any food made with animal flesh, dairy products, eggs, or honey.
Depending on how plant-centric the diet is, followers need to ensure adequate levels of the nutrients readily found in animal-based foods, such as protein and vitamin B12. For plant foods at their nutritional and flavor peak, it is best to concentrate on seasonal and local produce wherever possible.
Not a diet in the classic sense, intermittent fasting (IF) is defined as cycling the diet between periods of restricted eating and periods of eating ‘normally’. There are several different patterns of intermittent fasting, but a few of the more popular include the 16/8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and eat only during an eight-hour period; the 5:2 diet, where you eat no more than 25 percent of your normal calorie intake two days out of the week; and the eat-stop-eat method, which involves a full-blown 24-hour fast once or twice per week.
The theory is that when your body is in a fasted state, it’s more likely to alter metabolism to improve blood sugar numbers and pull more energy from your fat stores. People gravitate toward intermittent fasting because there are no off-limit foods- simply limits on how much you can eat at certain points. It can also support becoming more attuned with your true feelings of hunger and fullness as well as reduce the need or desire to consistently be eating.
Food quality matters and in this regard, IF can be a welcome addition and compliment to any dietary philosophy. Diets that naturally reduce hunger and increase satiety often create a natural rhythm of eating and fasting.
Are These Diets Similar?
Most effective nutrition programs are more similar than different. (Yes, even Paleo and plant-based eating.)
When done properly, Paleo diets, plant-based diets, high carb diets, low carb diets, eating small meals frequently, eating larger meals infrequently, and the like. all accomplish a few goals:
Create Nutrition Awareness
People always want to discuss the food itself — the proteins, carbs, and fats. What to eat more of and what to avoid.
Research is now showing that simply paying better attention to what you eat is a key factor in whether you’ll lose fat, get lean, and improve your health.
Whether your attention is trained on avoiding carbs, eating more vegetables, seeking out organic / free-range food, avoiding animal foods, or avoiding “non-Paleo” food, you will experience some benefits. This is because what you focus on may not matter as much as simply caring more about what you’re eating in the first place.
Focus On Food Quality.
Paleo and low carb advocates want you to eat more natural, free-range animal-based foods that are higher in protein, higher in fat, and are minimally processed. Vegan and high carb advocates want you to eat more natural, plant-based foods that are higher in fiber, antioxidants, and are minimally processed.
There are definite similarities and ideological overlap.
Very few nutrition camps recommend you eat more processed, chemical-laden 'junk' food.
The majority of solid nutrition plans encourage eating whole, minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods. This may be one of the most important nutrition interventions of all, regardless of the protein, carb, and fat breakdowns.
Eliminate Nutrient Deficiencies
In keeping with the last point, the best nutritional advocates help you shift away from highly processed foods, which are often low in the nutrients that are stripped out during processing, and toward more whole, minimally processed foods, which often have their nutrients intact.
A well-formulated diet of any kind eliminates some of the most common nutrient deficiencies (water, certain vitamins and minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids).
Looking, feeling and performing your best rely upon sufficient nutrient density in the diet. Within a few weeks of correcting nutrient deficiencies, you begin to notice the impacts of eating more minimally processed foods.
When you become more aware of what you eat, choose more satisfying, higher quality foods, and eliminate nutrient deficiencies, you almost always end up eating less total food. You feel more satisfied. You lose fat, gain lean muscle, and perform better.
There is no need for calorie counting here. Focusing on food awareness and food quality is usually enough for people to tune into their own hunger and appetite. This implies natural caloric control. It also means you can maintain your results over the long term.
Lifestyle Over Diet
When people start paying attention to their eating, they usually start thinking about physical activity too. In fact, many of the diet camps recommend regular movement, lifestyle modifications and stress management. Focusing on diet alone has been found to interfere with establishing a consistent lifestyle routine. Most successful nutrition plans emphasize the lifestyle, with food playing both starring and supporting roles.
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It is important to understand how different well-designed dietary philosophies — even when they seem oppositional and antagonistic on the surface — can all promote good health, body composition, and longevity.
In our modern world we tend to think in terms of diets, calories and macronutrients, which are only partially responsible for what we eat. The Paleo diet does not get caught in that trap. A Paleo lifestyle encourages you to look a little wider and deeper and think of food systems. At this level, Paleo is not only the optimal diet for you, but a lifestyle and philosophy that betters your life and the lives of generations to come.