What Should I Eat? From Paleo to Keto, Raw to Pegan, find the food lifestyle that’s right for you.
Last week in the first of a 4-part blog series on weight loss,I wrote about the math of weight loss and the macros of what you are eating. This week is an overview of various diets and food lifestyles.
Paleo: This diet is focused on foods that have been eaten by humans for thousands of years during their evolution. It includes non-starchy vegetables, grass-fed meats, free-range chicken, wild-caught fish and seafood, nuts, seeds and healthy fats like healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, coconut oil. It excludes processed foods, sugar, dairy and grains, especially gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye. The traditional paleo diet includes meat, but there are also vegetarian variations.
Paleo macros are roughly 40% protein, 35% fat, 25% carbs. You can learn more about how to calculate your macros here.
Keto: The keto diet is about getting your body into a state called nutritional ketosis. In ketosis, your body shifts from burning carbohydrates as fuel to burning fat as fuel. The ketogenic diet generally promotes nutrient dense, whole foods and avoids processed foods, sugar, and high or moderate carbohydrate heavy foods (including many vegetables, grains, etc.). It sharply restricts your carbohydrate intake to put your body into ketosis.
Keto macros are roughly 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbs.
(I tried the keto diet for a month in 2018, you can read about my experienc here).
Aktins: This is a low-carb, multi-phased diet focused on weight loss. It begins by cutting out all carbohydrates in the first phase, then slowly adding low-carb foods back in over the remaining three phases to help you find the optimum balance for weight loss and maintenance. You can learn more here.
Whole30: This is a 30-day elimination diet. It is a nutrition reset that helps you see how different foods affect your health, energy and body composition. For 30 days you eat whole, unprocessed foods only including vegetables and fruit, natural fats, herbs, spices, and seasonings. You can learn more here.
Raw: The raw food diet is composed of mostly or completely raw and unprocessed foods. A food is considered raw if it has neer been heated over 104-118 F (40-48 C). A raw food diet generally eliminates refined, pasteurized or chemically altered foods.
Pescatarian: A diet that eliminates all meat from mammals but allows you to eat fish and seafood.
Vegetarian: A diet that eliminates all meat from mammals and all seafood. It allows dairy and eggs.
Vegan: A diet that eliminates all animal products including meat, dairy, eggs and products derived from animals such as gelatin, which is used as a setting agent in some foods like jellies and desserts..
Pegan: Yes, there is now a pegan diet.. Pegan is a mix of paleo and vegan and advocates for a heavily plant-based eating style. It allows meat (so it is clearly not vegan), but it advocates for plant-based eating more than the traditional paleo diet. It was created by Dr. Mark Hyman with the goal of optimizing health by reducing inflammation and balancing blood sugar. You can learn more here.
Anti-inflammatory diet: This diet is intended to provide steady energy, plenty of vitamins and minerals, and the essential fatty acids needed to maintain optimum health. It advocates eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains including brown rice and bulgar wheat, lean protein sources and omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts. It also recommends spices like ginger, curry, and other spices that have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. It avoids processed foods, saturated and trans fat, refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice and cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
Which diet is healthiest?
It depends on how you approach them. Any of these diets can be unhealthy if you aren’t thoughtful about your food choices. You can be vegetarian but eat tons of white sugar and empty carbs. You can be vegan and eat lots of fried food. You can be paleo or keto and eat almost exclusively red meat and cheese. No one diet is healthy or unhealthy. It is all about how you work with the diet and make good food choices. The main question is “what are you trying to change?”
If you are trying to lose weight, Dr. Mark Hyman has this helpful guide about carb consumption. You can watch this documentary about elite athletes who improved their performance dramatically on a vegan diet. If you have a specific health issue, the anti-inflammatory, Keto or paleo diets are often good choices. For my diet, I follow the rough principles of a paleo diet, but I don’t eat meat, and I do eat eggs and dairy. What you eat is a deeply personal choice and depends on lots of personal variables: your body, your genetics, your environment and lifestyle to name a few. That said, the guidelines I think apply to all of us are:
-limit or eliminate white (refined) sugar
-limit or eliminate processed foods (as a general rule of thumb, avoid packaged food with more than four or five ingredients. And make sure none of the ingredients are chemicals!).
-be conscious about your consumption of gluten (this includes products containing wheat and other grains, for an extensive list see here https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/gluten-food-list#foods-to-avoid )
-be conscious about your consumption of meat and fish
-drink lots of clean water!
Personally, I don’t eat meat, sugar or gluten. I do eat fish. I’m generally low carb, high fat, high protein, but I’m not super rigid. When I eat at home, I’m strict and when I eat out, I’m more relaxed. This works for me, but as I outline above, people are different. You can experiment with the diets above to see what works for you. In addition to weight loss or weight maintenance, you will know a diet is working for you when you feel satisfied from your food (you’re not constantly thinking about your next meal), you have lots of energy, and you are rarely sick.