New Year, New You...New Diet?

New Year, New You...New Diet?

Did you make a New Year's resolution this year? If you said yes, chances are you're aiming to lose weight or exercise more. Some polls place those two as more than 25% of all resolutions, making it the top two on the list! And to hit those goals, many people include a new diet.

There are many different diets to choose from. Most of them will help you lose weight and they also have the added bonus of health benefits and preventing the risk of chronic diseases. They usually do come with tradeoffs though. You obviously need to restrict what you eat and how much you eat, but some diets can also be harmful depending on your health's history. It's good to remember that everyone's body reacts differently to each diet. You really need to experiment and find the one that fits you best. And as always, it's wise to consult your doctor before starting a diet.

We wanted to discuss a few of the more popular diets out there today. There are a lot of them but the most common ones we see are:
  1. Mediterranean
  2. Intermittent Fasting
  3. Vegetarian
  4. Vegan
  5. Keto
Each of these diets have their own pros and cons. Some may be easier to stick with than others. Again, it really depends on you, your body, and knowing what compliments your own lifestyle...and cravings. =)

The Mediterranean diet has been ranked the #1 best diet overall by US News & World Report for the last 4 years. It's been linked to helping lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and some cancers. Pretty amazing, right?

It features high fiber, lean-protein, and antioxidants. This means minimally processed foods and mostly plant-based foods. Stick with the clean and natural stuff. Things you can eat on this diet include:
  • fruits and vegetables
  • red wine
  • seafood
  • poultry, eggs
  • whole grains
  • beans, legumes
  • nuts and seeds
  • cheese, yogurt
You can also eat red meat and sweets when you truly crave them or for rare and special occasions. You'll use lots of extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, and spices. And of course, everything in moderation! You will still need to count those calories. Plus there's very little health risk for anyone to try it so it's a great option for everyone.

The Vegetarian diet has been out there for centuries. It started with a concern for animal welfare and the environment. We've learned that there are health benefits such as protecting your heart and liver as well as reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes. There are so many more health benefits linked with plant-based eating that it deserves a different post on its own.

The diet is pretty simple to follow. Just don't eat meat. No chicken, beef, or fish. If it moves and makes noise, it's a friend, not dinner. Some vegetarians eat eggs and dairy or one of the two. It's more of a philosophical and personal choice than it is a dietary restriction. Veggies, nuts and seeds, legumes, tofu, beyond meat, they're all allowed on this diet.

There's no real downside or health risks associated with this diet either. It's safe for everyone and can lead to healthy weight loss while doing good for the earth.

The Vegan diet is the next step above vegetarianism. It's taking your beliefs and sympathy for animal welfare and environmental impact to the highest level. There are definitely some big health benefits to this diet as well. It's been linked to decreasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Most vegans have a lower average BMI and the getting rid of the fat and cholesterols from animal products is great for your health. But because the diet is so limiting on what you can or cannot eat, you will need to pay close attention on your nutrition. You might be missing out on critical nutrients you need to maintain adequate health.

A vegan diet is very similar to a vegetarian diet. Plants are good, animals are friends. But to really follow this diet you'll need to read labels and understand how food is made. Animal products are not allowed like eggs, dairy, milk, or butter. Gelatin from animal hooves and honey from bees can't be consumed either. Vegans are very conscious of animal welfare and how animals are being exploited. Vegans will often refuse to eat from a pan that was used to cook animal meat or animal derived foods.

Because of these restrictions, this diet is definitely not for everyone. Your options will be severely limited and you'll be surprised how many foods out there contain animal products. For example, lots of veggie burgers contain eggs or dairy so they won't fit a vegan diet. And just because it's vegan, it doesn't mean it's good for you. You can eat a ton of corn tortilla chips but that doesn't really help you lose weight, does it? Most importantly, you'll miss out on critical nutrients like iron, protein, calcium, and B vitamins, so you need to be conscious of that and get your nutrients elsewhere like vitamin drinks or pills.

The Keto diet is one of the new kids on the block. Healthy fats and super low carbs are key. Celebrities endorse it and there are keto-friendly foods all over the supermarkets today. Is it good for you though? Well, it's still fairly new so studies are still ongoing. Early research says it's an option for treating epilepsy and has shown promise for Alzheimer's patients and other cognitive diseases. And though not proven, many claim that it is a great diet to lose weight quickly. The problem is that the health benefits don't seem to last and it's not an easy diet to stick with.

This diet consists of proteins, high-fats, and low carbs because the idea is to get your body to start using fat as a source of energy instead of using glucose, or sugar that comes from carbs. If your body doesn't have any glucose to use for energy, it will look to the next best source, your fat reserves.

Some of the foods you can eat include:
  • red meat, bacon, salmon
  • avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber
  • eggs, butter, cream
  • cheese, nuts
  • extra-virgin olive oil

But you need to watch your daily carb intake so no grains, starches, chips, baked goods, or sugar. Some veggies like carrots that are high in sugar are out too. Most fruits are super high in sugar so those don't fit either. Stay away from processed foods and most sauces.

This diet is a great way to kick start your weight loss process but it's tough to stick with and it isn't healthy for everyone. People with existing liver or kidney issues, diabetes, or pancreatitis may see their health worsen. Other people break out in hives or can have allergic reactions.

Intermittent Fasting is probably the most popular diet in recent times and definitely trending up compared to the rest. There are some good health benefits to this diet as well. Studies do suggest that you can lose weight as a low calorie diet but this diet is also linked to regulating blood sugar levels and lowering your cholesterol. There are even some studies that suggest this diet can help decrease inflammation and some cancer risks.

It's also a pretty interesting diet from a scientific point of view. From a high level, fasting helps reduce glucose spikes in your system as well as deprives inferior cells in your body of nutrients and these cells essentially die off. These inferior or mutated cells are often the root cause of cancers and other chronic health issues. Again, these are just a couple of quick points. There is much more information you can find on the scientific concepts around this diet.

The most important rule of this diet is when you eat. On this diet, you'll fast for most of the day and eat only during certain windows. Some people choose a 16 to 8 window meaning you don't eat anything for 16 hours and only eat for 8 hours during the day. During those 16 hours, you're only allowed to drink water and non-caloric drinks like black coffee or tea. But during your 8 hour window, you can eat anything you want. Well, almost anything. You'll still want to avoid processed foods and fast foods. You're still on a diet after all so you shouldn't be eating foods you just plain know are bad for you.

There are some downsides to intermittent fasting. You'll need to consult a physician if you have diabetes or low blood pressure. You can't fast if you need to take certain medications with food. There can be issues if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. This diet might not be good for you if you plan on high intensity workouts or endurance training like marathons. And lastly, this diet is probably not right for you if you have a history of eating disorders.

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