As National Nutrition Month moves along, the Center for Healthy Living (CHL) on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus would like to take a moment and reflect on some different patterns of eating you might be familiar with – also called ‘diets.’ The term ‘diet’ can be defined both as a noun: “the kind of food a person, animal or community habitually eats” and a verb: “to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” Personally, I like to define “diet” as the foods (noun) you consistently eat not because you have to, but because you want to. I believe some of the healthiest diets can come from a long list of foods you add to your meals instead of a long list of foods you can never eat. Continue reading and consider trying a variation diet of healthy foods you might enjoy eating habitually.
- Vegetarian/Vegan Diet
Vegetarians do not consume meat while vegans do not consume meat, eggs dairy or any animal-derived products. Within the category of vegetarians, there are several different variations and some vegans will avoid clothing, shoes and cosmetics that contain animal products as well. It is important to note, a vegetarian could habitually eat salads, vegetables, fruits and whole-grains. Vegetarians and vegans can also eat foods high in calories and low in nutrition like Oreos and sodas. It is very possible to regularly eat a less-than-optimal vegetarian diet.
Pros: Associated weight loss, improved lab values, reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Cons: Pay close attention to certain nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and iron.
Healthful Take-Away: It is always beneficial to add more plant-based foods you enjoy to your diet.
- Low-Carbohydrate Diets
Low-carbohydrate diets go by various names and each version has different carbohydrate limits. Atkins, Ketogenic, high-protein/ low-carb diets all have the primary aim to use more fats for fuel. Typically, glucose is your body’s primary source of energy and glucose is readily found in carbohydrate-containing foods. When glucose is unavailable, the body can use fat as a fuel source. This can happen during periods of fasting (like overnight or between meals) or while eating a low-carb diet. There are some healthy ways to eat a low-carbohydrate diet with lean meats, cheeses and nutrient-dense plant foods. There are also some unhealthy ways to eat a low-carbohydrate diet with fatty foods, excessive butter, and no plant-based foods.
Pros: Can be effective for weight loss and improving lab values.
Cons: Not everyone sees positive results, low-carb diets eliminate some nutritious foods, may have side effects associated with ketosis.
Healthful Take-Away: There are benefits to decreasing the typical carbohydrate intake of the Standard American Diet.
- Paleolithic Diet
The Paleo diet is also referred to as the cavemen diet, and is based on the idea that modern humans should eat the same foods their hunter-gatherer ancestors ate before there was modern agricultural methods. There is an emphasis on enjoying the whole version of foods in their original form. Foods include lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, herbs and spices. Whole 30 is similar to the Paleo diet but is meant to be a reset over 30 days and places further limits on sugar in its original forms.
Pros: Can be effective for weight loss, blood pressure control and improving lab values.
Cons: Comes with a long list of ‘bad’ foods you should never eat and even eliminates some nutritious foods.
Healthful Take-Away: Choosing nutrient-dense foods in their basic, whole form is preferred.
- Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is one of the most studied diets and places an emphasis on primarily plant-based foods, local eggs, local fish, local poultry, moderate red wine (optional), herbs and spices while limiting red meat intake. There are also some lifestyle recommendations within the Mediterranean Diet which includes getting plenty of exercise and enjoying meals with friends and family. The Mediterranean Diet is very similar to the DASH diet, which stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” The DASH diet has variations of sodium (salt) restrictions and is more liberal with lean meat intake.
Pros: Associated with improved lab values, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced mortality and backed by extensive research.
Cons: Moderate consumption of wine may not be advisable for certain populations.
Healthful Take-Away: An overall healthy lifestyle approach is important to consider – including how you eat your meals.
Which diet is right for you?
For some people, a specific diet adds stress and more to-dos on an already exhaustive schedule. For others, a diet can provide guidance and structure to mealtime. Every person, body and schedule is unique. Do what is right for you, and choose the mixture of foods that work for you. Focus on the healthful take-away messages from each of these lifestyle diets and see where you can make healthier food choices.
Reach out to the CHL today and schedule an appointment with a health coach or dietitian. They can discuss different diets and lifestyles more in-depth and make a plan that works best for you. No matter what type of eating lifestyle you follow or are interested in learning more about, we are here to help you! Appointments are available Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. In-person and telephonic appointments are available to provide easier access to the CHL team. Call the CHL at 765-494-0111 or login to the patient portal to schedule.
Be kind. Be well. Boiler up!