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Choosing the right diet

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Choosing the right diet

With summer swiftly approaching, you may be more curious or even desperate to find a diet that promotes weight loss. Looking good and feeling confident as we peel the many layers of winter off is oh so important to us.

While many have found success with various diets including the ketogenic diet, paleo and others, you may be wondering about the sustainability, and long-term effects. As our health and wellbeing are also very near and dear to us, let’s look at some popular diets in more detail.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet, or “keto” as it’s commonly referred to, has gained a lot of attention in the last few years. Despite the success in weight loss keto is well known for, the diet was initially proposed and prescribed to patients with epilepsy. It was meant to mimic fasting, which was a well-documented and believed cure for many diseases, dating further back than the bible (1). Keto focuses on eliminating carbohydrates and focuses heavily on consuming high fat foods. This produces ketones and is what the brain and body rely on instead of carbohydrates as it normally would. This, in turn, has a fasting effect, and is highly beneficial to those who suffer from seizures or epilepsy. Although it is no longer used in the treatment of seizures as many practitioners turn to medication first, it has become very popular to lose weight. While this diet has some success in the management of weight loss, it comes at the cost of elevated LDL levels and cardiovascular risk factors associated with higher amounts of saturated fat (2). Remember, LDL is the lipoprotein we want to keep low. Also, in order to see results from this diet, you must remain in ketosis, meaning once you fall off the wagon, you are no longer going to see results.

 

Paleo

Another popular diet that has gained some traction is the paleo diet. Short for paleolithic, the belief behind this diet is that you should only consume what you would be able to hunt and gather, including vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, eggs and some nuts and seeds (3).

While some carbohydrates are allowed, many grains are excluded on this diet. What’s important to note is that unless you are allergic or intolerant of a certain grain or cereal, studies have not conclusively supported a positive health effect of a grain-free diet (4). Without these grains you could be missing a great deal of nutrients and vitamins including certain b-vitamins, fiber and other phytochemicals. As this diet focuses more on a whole-foods approach, and less on consuming dangerous amounts of saturated fat, it is more approachable than keto, however, still has some holes.

 

Mediterranean Diet

A more comprehensive and well-studied diet is called the Mediterranean Diet. As the name implies, this diet follows what countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea in doctrine including France, Spain, Greece and Italy. Researchers found that people from these areas, following a relatively simple diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and omega-rich fats were healthier than others and had less chronic disease including obesity (5). The nice thing about this so called “diet” is that it really doesn’t have any strict rules or guidelines.  It consists of consuming mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes and grains, fish, seafood and olive oils, while limiting saturated fats like poultry eggs, cheese and yogurt, as well as red meats, and processed foods. No eliminating food groups, no counting calories, and no drastic lifestyle changes. Simply focusing on a diet full of whole foods while limiting added sugar, refined grains, oils, and processed meat has tremendous benefits, and not just weight loss. Studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to longevity, a reduced risk of heart disease as well as stroke (5).

 

Losing weight is far more than just looking great and feeling comfortable in your skin as the weather starts warming up. Maintaining an ideal body weight drastically improves your quality of life, increases your lifespan, and lowers your risk for many chronic and life-threatening diseases (6). Getting to an ideal weight, however, should not come at a cost to your health or lifestyle. The point of losing weight is to increase your overall health, not jeopardize it! The takeaway here is that in order to achieve an ideal body weight, it’s important to get there in a sustainable, nourishing manner. While that may look different for everyone as our needs vary, the same is also true for everyone; lasting, healthy weight-loss cannot be accomplished by any short cut. It is accomplished by a balanced diet and lifestyle.

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