Food for thought: There are many ways to eat healthfully; find the right one for you


With so many diets purported as “the one” for optimal health and weight loss, it can be difficult to decide which method to try next. Here, we’ve rounded up a number of popular diets and lifestyle practices, breaking down the benefits and risks of each. Find which process best fits your lifestyle, so that—in conjunction with moderate exercise—you can feel and look your very best.

Vegetarian

Vegetarians might follow a meat-free diet for health reasons, over animal rights concerns or both. Like pescatarians, vegetarians still eat dairy and eggs, but stop short at fish and seafood. Protein can come from a variety of sources, including eggs, cheese, milk, beans, tofu and soy products like tempeh, leafy green vegetables and meat substitutes. While the vegetarian diet at one time felt limiting, there are now many meatless options available at restaurants and grocery stores. Studies have shown that vegetarian and pescatarian diets can lower one’s risk of heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.

Whether you’re an omnivore, a vegetarian or a vegan, nearly everyone can follow the ethos of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating isn’t a diet; rather, it’s an anti-diet coined by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and it emphasizes integrating mental and physical health. Intuitive eating is commonly used by people recovering from eating disorders, since it stresses the importance of being healthy at every size, eschews weight loss and promotes dignity and respect toward one’s body.

Pescatarian

A pescatarian diet allows for the consumption of fish and seafood but not red meat or poultry. Dairy and eggs are also permitted, but the emphasis of the diet is on eating well-balanced meals that combine protein, vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates and healthy fats. People choose a pescatarian diet for health reasons or to reduce their consumption of animal protein without eliminating all meat sources. Salmon and mackerel provide healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids, while other seafood options like shrimp and tilapia are good sources of lean protein.

Vegan

Like vegetarians, people may opt to go vegan for health reasons, for animal rights or both, but a vegan diet is often thought of as a lifestyle by many animal rights activists. Regardless, all dairy, eggs and meat products are off-limits in this diet. What’s the main difference between a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet? Dairy. If the thought of a life without cheese sounds devastating, rest assured there are a number of substitutes on the market that make a dairy-free life more palatable. While getting enough protein can be a challenge with a vegan diet, a healthy and balanced vegan diet is completely possible.

Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet is very similar to a pescatarian diet, in that it emphasizes eating seafood, fish, eggs and dairy, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and nuts. It differs in that it allows for minimal red meat and poultry consumption. The Mediterranean diet is one of balance, and mirrors how people eat in seaside countries like Greece and Italy, where seafood is abundant and most food is fresh and unprocessed.

Paleo

Adherents of the paleo (short for paleolithic) diet believe that it’s essentially the nutritional blueprint of our ancestors from before agriculture was invented. Based on that hypothesis by keto diet founder Dr. Loren Cordain, the paleo diet excludes processed foods, grains and dairy, so say goodbye to both cheese and bread. Sometimes referred to as the caveman diet, the paleo diet claims to “feed” human DNA—or provide humans with nutrition the way their bodies were designed—and improve nutrient density, which reduces cravings for sweets and refined foods. Cereal, grains and breads, dairy, potatoes, processed foods, refined sugar and vegetable oils are not permitted on the paleo diet, but copious amounts of grass-fed meats, fish and seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and heart-healthy oils are allowed.

Keto

This diet has recently become one of the most popular ways to lose weight and is considered a low-carb diet similar to the once-touted Atkins diet. A keto diet focuses on putting your body in a reduced metabolic state, otherwise known as ketosis. By severely reducing carbs and replacing them with foods high in fat, the body enters ketosis and uses fat as an energy source, ultimately burning more fat in the process. While the keto diet can lead to weight loss and also increase insulin sensitivity—aiding those with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes—the side effects of eating a high-fat diet can include low protein in the blood, extra fat in the liver and developing kidney stones, according to Healthline.com. On the keto diet, all fruits, root vegetables like potatoes, alcohol, sugar and grains are not permitted.

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