Quick overview of what we’ll cover in this blog post:
- An overview of 4 popular diets:
- How each address different health goals
- How each can go wrong
With so many diets out there, it’s sometimes easy to get overwhelmed and often difficult to separate the fad from the good. But which diet is best, and which diet can help you live the longest, healthiest life possible?
The short answer is that any diet is fundamentally a step in the right direction. But it may also be true that a particular diet might not be best for you or might not align with your goals as closely as another diet.
For example, are you just trying to lose a few extra pounds? Or are you looking to reduce inflammation, improve digestion, or even reduce your risk of chronic disease? Depending on your response, your current diet may not be fulfilling what you set out to achieve.
So, we thought we’d break down a few of our favorite diets so they’re a little more digestible for your longevity plan.
You may hear some refer to this as the “caveman diet,” but that phrase is unjustly reductive, failing to capture the fundamentals of this diet that have attracted millions in the last decade.
The Paleolithic diet, or Paleo diet for short, is based on what some understand as the diet of early humans, consisting entirely of unprocessed foods without sugar, dairy, or other ingredients that were impossible to create or acquire in the paleolithic era.
So while fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meats are all included in this diet, freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, and processed nuts, seeds, and meats (like sweet mixed nuts and deli meats) would be excluded, along with anything that has sugar or grain.
As you may have already guessed, this diet is based on a few troubling assumptions: namely, that we know for certain what early humans ate and that their diet was superior to the typical, modern human diet. Some recent studies have challenged these assumptions, while others have labeled this as a fad diet.
But there are still noteworthy benefits to this diet, especially if you’re looking to improve your metabolism and overall body composition. For these reasons, the Paleo diet has been championed by fitness influencers and active-minded people.
The keto diet has also received some unfair criticism in recent years. But unlike the Paleo diet, the ideal ketogenic diet is based entirely in science.
The idea behind the keto diet is for our bodies to achieve a state of ketosis. This happens when our body is forced to burn fats for energy rather than carbohydrates. We can achieve this by eating a high-fat, low-carb diet with moderate protein consumption.
By reducing the amount of carbohydrates we consume, we force our liver and other organs to seek alternative energy sources other than glucose. As such, our liver turns to our fat stores to convert fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies, which replace glucose as an energy source.
However, the keto diet isn’t to be confused with other low-carb diets. Specifically, the traditional keto diet advocates a strict 4:1 ratio of total fats consumed to total combined protein and carbohydrates consumed. This is why it tends to be more effective (but also more restrictive) than low-carb diets like the Atkins diet.
Further, there are some variations on the keto diet that aren’t quite as well rooted in science. These include lazy keto, which only calls for tracking carb intake, rather than total fat and protein intake; and dirty keto, which allows for less nutritious diet options like processed and fried foods, so long as you stay within your carb limits. While you may lose weight on these less restrictive diets, they may not necessarily be healthier than your previous diet.
But the primary benefits of keto and low-carb diets are largely similar: by reducing the amount of glucose in our bodies, and thereby improving glycemic control, we are not only potentially reducing inflammation, but also shedding excess weight, all of which can increase our healthy years. Whether the strict benefits of the keto diet or the more relaxed, modified low-carb diets fit your longevity plan is entirely up to you.
A plant-based diet is, well, what it sounds like: a diet consisting primarily of plant products ranging from fruits and vegetables to grains, nuts and legumes. The term “plant-based” includes a wide variety of diets such as vegetarianism and veganism. However, this isn’t to confuse “plant-based” with “plant-only” diets, as some animal products such as eggs and milk are acceptable or even recommended. As such, the plant-based diet may best be understood as that which maximizes plant consumption while minimizing consumption of animal products.
The benefits of a plant-based diet are easy to understand, as they’ve been popularly supported by health advocates for as long as the word “diet” has been in popular use. Still, you might be surprised to learn that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as reduced inflammation and a decrease in all-cause mortality.
However, it’s important to note that many of these benefits are also associated with reduced consumption of processed foods, sweets, and refined carbs. This is where many plant-based diets can go wrong: just because you’re microwaving a pack of plant-based chicken tenders doesn’t necessarily mean you’re practicing a healthy diet.
Though calling this diet plan “Mediterranean” is a bit vague, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to have some of the most direct, evidence-based benefits on our longevity. It is the only diet with proven benefits for both heart health and cancer risk, and proponents have also shown additional digestive improvements as well.
So then, what is the Mediterranean diet?
As it sounds, this diet is inspired by the cuisine of Mediterranean countries ranging from Greece and Italy to Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. At first glance, this can seem like less of a diet and more of a cultural preference. After all, there are certainly unhealthy foods popular in all these countries, not to mention the carbs!
But at its core, the Mediterranean diet is almost a “best-of” compilation of many other diets with a unique, cultural flavor, featuring a healthy ration of fish, vegetables, legumes, fruits, cheese, yogurt, and olive oil as its foundation. With that in mind, the Mediterranean diet is all about balance: eating too much of any one of the above can knock your diet out of harmony.
Perhaps it’s primarily olive oil that elevates this diet to its place above others. Nonetheless, the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduction in chronic diseases, with evidence to suggest that it can help us live longer. For this reason, it’s one of three diets recommended by the Dietary Guidelines of Americans.
The Meat & Potatoes (aka, The Bottom Line)
Each of the above diets have their own, unique purpose, and many of us might find ourselves bouncing from one of these diets to the other to better match our current longevity goals. But you might notice a recurring theme throughout these diets: replacing processed foods and sugars with organic meats, fruits, and vegetables, while reducing the total number of carbs consumed.
You may even find that it’s still difficult to choose which diet is right for you and your current longevity plan. That’s why our longevity experts make themselves available to explore the options with you and help separate the fad from the diet.
Note: The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.