Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute
Low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free, grain-free… these trending diets and buzz words are everywhere we look. From Vegan and Mediterranean to the Paleo and Keto diets, countless diets are trending across all media platforms. Which current trend for food and nutrition is right for you? The diet that is flexible, balanced, and enjoyable! Keep reading for an overview of today’s most popular trending diets including Paleo, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Whole30®, Plant-Based, and the Mediterranean.
Break it down for me
Be a hunter-gather on the Paleo diet eating only foods available to cavemen. Go extreme with Keto filling up on fats and proteins with little to no carbohydrates. Choose from one of three types of Intermittent Fasting. Commit to 30 days of the Whole30® elimination diet. Fill up on plants with a variety of plant-based eating patterns. Or, travel to the Mediterranean focusing on whole foods without any restrictions. Emerging science continues to reveal both benefits and concerns of each allowing you to consider all the facts before making any changes to your nutrition plan.
Est. Reading Time: 6 Minutes
With so many trending diets to choose from, it’s hard to pick the right one. Nutrition information is overwhelming across all media platforms making us second guess every bite we eat. Continue reading for a review of some of today’s most popular diets based on current science. Keep in mind as you read that many of today’s trending diets and nutrition topics need more conclusive research to confirm the long-term effects.
Tell me about Paleo
Starting over 10,000 years ago, today’s Paleo diet is based on the dietary patterns of hunters and gathers during the Paleolithic era. The goal of the Paleo diet is to return to how our ancestors ate before changes in farming, food processing, and the Westernized diet influenced our eating habits. It’s believed that our bodies are not genetically predisposed to eat the way the average American eats today.
The Paleo diet includes meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in their most natural states.
The diet avoids dairy products, beans & legumes, grains, potatoes (although some consume sweet potatoes), refined sugars, and highly processed foods.
Overall, the diet provides excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but is missing entire food groups that may cause one to fall short in certain nutrients. Studies link the Paleo diet to several possible benefits including better weight management and appetite control, improved blood sugar control, and decreased triglycerides (a form of “bad” cholesterol). Concerns with the Paleo diet include excessive consumption of fats and proteins in combination with low intake of carbohydrates compared to dietary guidelines and the exclusion of entire food groups (grains, dairy, legumes), which may cause one to fall short of daily nutrient requirements.
Keto at the core
The Ketogenic Diet (or ‘Keto’) is one of the most trending diets today. Although it may seem new, this diet was originally developed for clinical use as a form of treatment for individuals with drug-resistant epilepsy, specifically children, in the early 1900s.
The goal of the Keto diet is to shift your body’s energy source from glucose (broken down from carbohydrates) to ketones (broken down from fat) in order to reach a state of ketosis.
Ketosis occurs when the body consistently receives an extremely low intake of carbohydrates causing the body to rely on stored fat for energy. The original Keto diet restricts carb intake to 5% or less of daily caloric intake. To put this into perspective, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming an average of 45-65% of daily caloric intake from carbs.
Benefits of Keto may include short-term weight loss, improved energy levels after the initial ketosis, and possible improvement for certain mental disorders. Those with Type 2 Diabetes see improvements in managing their blood sugar. Long-term research is lacking in determining whether these effects continue to benefit the body over time with controversy on effects it has on cholesterol levels due to the high-fat and low-fiber intake and effectiveness of managing weight after the initial loss with low-carb trending diets.
What is the deal with Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is another historical eating pattern gaining popularity today. Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years by many different cultures. Today it’s used by individuals to improve health and achieve weight loss.
There are three main types of IF:
Alternate Day Fasting
Rotating eating days and fasting days over the course of a week. Eating days involve normal consumption of foods and emphasis on a nutrient-rich diet. Fasting days involve very low caloric intake or not eating completely.
Eating a very restricted amount of food on fasting days. The most practiced version of this is the 5:2 diet where fasting is practiced twice a week, restricting intake to 20-25% of your body’s daily caloric needs or about 500-600 calories per day. A normal-eating pattern is followed on the other five days.
Limits consumption during waking hours. Most commonly, this is practiced with the 16/8 diet plan – 16 hours of fasting with an 8-hour window of eating. This might be done by skipping or eating a late breakfast and eating an early dinner with no snacking before bedtime.
Fasting’s potential benefits include improved blood sugar control, healthy weight management, improved brain function, reduction of chronic inflammation, and improved heart health and blood cholesterol. Long periods without eating may not be healthy for those with diabetes, who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children/adolescents. It may cause disruption to normal hormone function in women. Research also cautions those with thyroid problems, history of eating disorders, or gallstone disease when considering fasting.
The idea of Whole30®
Whole30® is a type of elimination diet that removes specific foods or food groups thought to cause harm to one’s health. After 30 days of restricting these foods, the program slowly begins to add foods back into one’s diet one food or food group at a time to help determine which foods might cause negative effects on your health.
The Whole30® program restricts dairy, soy, grains, legumes, added sugars, and alcohol, which are known to possibly increase inflammation in the body.
The founders of Whole30® believe that by eliminating these food groups short-term and slowly incorporating them back into the body, one will experience weight loss and/or improved body composition, improved sleep and mental clarity, better mood, and a decrease in food cravings. While many of the program’s testimonials state its effectiveness, there is not a substantial amount of research to prove all its implications. Health professionals encourage caution and careful planning with elimination diets.
Plant-based diets are consistently on the rise thanks to increased concerns for environmental and animal welfare. Eating vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, and vegan all emphasize eating food primarily from plants with little to no animal products. The plant-based spectrum ranges from a vegan diet avoiding all animal sources including dairy, eggs and even honey to a flexitarian diet which aims to limit but not completely eliminate any animal sources.
Substantial evidence claims plant-based diets can lead to many health benefits.
These include improved cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood glucose management, immunity, and gut health. It may also reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. A plant-based diet requires careful planning to avoid any nutritional deficiencies as some nutrients in animal products are more difficult to get from plants.
The Mediterranean style
The Mediterranean Diet (voted best overall diet in 2019 by U.S. News & World Report) puts emphasis on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fatty fish, and plant-based fats (like nuts, seeds, and olive oil). Dairy, red meat, and alcohol are consumed in moderation such as for special occasions.
Research states the Mediterranean diet may improve heart health, reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, and improve overall well-being and quality of life. Many health professionals encourage this diet because it includes all the food groups, encourages physical activity and maintaining healthy social relationships, and is applicable to any lifestyle making it easy to make a lifelong habit.
Which of these trending diets is for you?
So how do you know which diet is right for you? Consider your health goals and what is practical for your lifestyle. An eating plan should allow flexibility, have balance, be safe for your body, and be delicious! If a diet keeps you from eating the foods you love, then you probably shouldn’t be on that diet. Rigid or restrictive eating patterns and diets that limit easily accessible food options may put individuals at risk for poor nutrition and developing eating disorders. Each macronutrient consists of important vitamins and minerals. Any extreme shift in macronutrients requires careful consideration and planning. Talk to your physician or dietitian before making any changes to your nutrition.
Take a closer look at the Ketogenic Diet
Learn what the science says on going low-carb versus low-fat in Registered Dietitian McKel (Hill) Kooienga’s post Low-Fat vs. Low-Carb? Find out if Keto is right for you with dietitian Kelley Kennedy’s review in Everyday Health’s article On Keto? 8 Signs the High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet Isn’t Right for You.
Take a closer look at the Intermittent Fasting
Get more science-based pros and cons of IF from Registered Dietitian Abbey Sharp’s article Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss? The Evidence-based Pros & Cons.
About the Author
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
Shannon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor with over 5 years of experience working in Corporate Wellness specializing in overall health, nutrition, and fitness. Throughout her journey to becoming an RDN, she grew her passion for culinary nutrition by teaching and developing hands-on cooking classes for all ages in the community.
Full Bio | All Articles | LinkedIn