There is a lot of debate surrounding what kind of diet would be best for humans in general, since the boom in popularity of niche diets such as the vegan, paleo and keto diets have touted superior health benefits. In today’s article we’re going to be discussing the different types of diet that exist, and their individual health benefits or drawbacks.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo, or Paleolithic diet, claims to emulate the diet that ancestors of modern humans used to eat. This traditionally involves a high intake of meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, but no dairy, legumes or whole grains as these would not have been farmed from 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago before farming became popular. The foods allowed are very much ones that would have been acquired through hunting/gathering. So what exactly is the science behind this? The diet stands on the premise that our bodies are genetically mismatched to modern diets, and our farming techniques and adaptations have outpaced our body’s ability to adapt. Genetic modification in foods has had little long-term testing of its effects, safety and effect on the body, equally if a crop is genetically modified to make it more resistant to herbicides, then there is scope to suggest this may increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.
Genetic modification in foods has had little long-term testing of its effects, safety and effect on the body, equally if a crop is genetically modified to make it more resistant to herbicides, then there is scope to suggest this may increase the risk of antibiotic resistance.
The upside of a paleo diet is its elimination of refined sugars is removed, with only sugar from fruit being consumed. This means you’re more likely to eat a cleaner diet, without additives or chemicals. There are anti-inflammatory positives to plant nutrients in the fruits, vegetables, oils and nuts that you are eating. You may also feel much fuller in between meals, as foods higher in protein and fat can have this reaction. However, with increase of these foods there is also a risk of cardiovascular disease. It has been found that people following this type of diet had higher levels of heart disease biomarkers than those following other diets that included grains. Whole-grains help to reduce the risk of hear disease, so without these in the paleo diet may be why this is an issue.
What Is The Vegan Diet?
The vegan diet involves the consumption of no meat or animal derived products. As one of the more popular diet choices nowadays, often hailed as offering superior health benefits to any other diet. It certainly offers some proven health benefits, and obviously some foods that should be avoided or minimised due to their disruptive nature. This diet is often beneficial at reducing cholesterol and saturated fat, reducing risk of coronary heart disease, obesity and also high blood pressure. It’s important to make sure you incorporate sources of protein and vitamin B-12 into a vegan diet, as these are present in foods which would not be consumed.
The drawbacks of the diet include hormone disruption if an increase in soy is taken in, risk of anaemia if there is a lack of iron in the diet, higher risk of depression if there’s less omega 3 fatty acids consumed, B-12 deficiency and potential for zinc absorption issues as many plants containing zinc also contain phytate, which inhibits the absorption of zinc. Eating plenty of beans or legumes can also involve the consumption of too many carbohydrates, which may be troublesome for some people, and it has been shown there is an increased risk of leaky gut due to increased legume consumption. A long-term study looking at 48,000 people over the span of 18 years saw a 20% increase in stroke risk in vegans and vegetarians, they initially suggested this was due to vitamin B-12 deficiency, but more studies are needed to investigate the connection.
What Is The Keto Diet?
The keto diet is a low carb, high protein and fat diet that was designed as a weight loss diet. Carbohydrates are the fuel for the body, but when having 50g or under per day the body runs out of fuel and begins to start burning fat and protein for fuel. This can help to burn fat and lose weight, if a sufficient exercise plan is also incorporated to achieve the weight loss goal.
As your body needs less insulin to store sugar from carbs, it starts to produce less of it. Some studies have suggested this can reduce the risk of developing some types of cancers, but more research is needed to expand on this knowledge. If you have diabetes and considering this diet, you must check with your doctor to make sure you can do this, as it forces the body to produce ketones which in turn can also be harmful. The diet can also prevent heart issues as it helps to keep good cholesterol levels high, and reduce bad cholesterol levels. We’ve also covered previously that the keto diet can be good for the body for epigenetic changes. The downside to the ketogenetic diet is the initial transition process. As you transition to this diet, it’s common to experience hunger, headaches, fatigue, nausea, irritability and constipation, as you starve the body of carbs. However, once through this transition process, many people report higher energy levels than before their change to the keto diet. As you are also reducing the amount of fruit and wholegrains, you may become deficient in key nutrients that are more available in these foods, such as fibre, B vitamins and minerals.
What Is The Blood Type Diet?
The blood type diet bases its findings on eating foods that react chemically with your blood type. Essentially, if you eat foods according to your blood type, your body will digest food more efficiently.
The thought process behind this is that there are proteins called lectins that bind sugar molecules, and there are many lectins in the diet that can target different ABO blood types. Eating the wrong types of lectins can lead to agglutination, which means clumping together red blood cells. There is evidence that a small percentage of lectins in raw legumes and can have agglutinating activity specific to a certain blood type. However, it seems that the majority of agglutinating lectins react with all ABO blood types, so it seems that there may not be any need to focus on the blood type.
The recommended foods according to the blood types would be:
Type O: Typically a high-protein diet including lean meats, poultry, fish and vegetables. It must be light on grains, beans and dairy. The theory also suggests people with Type O blood also experience stomach problems.
Type A: A meat free diet based on fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains. These ideally would be organic and fresh. The theory on this diet is that people with Type A blood have a more sensitive immune system.
Type B: In this diet, it’s recommended to avoid corn, wheat, buckwheat, lentils, tomatoes, peanuts, sesame seeds and chicken. It is more so encouraged to eat green vegetables, eggs, certain meats and a low-fat dairy.
Type AB: This blood type should supposedly focus on a diet filled with tofu, seafood, dairy and green vegetables. It is hypothesised that people with this type of blood have low stomach acid, and should avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoked or cured meats.
There has been a degree of research into this diet, in particular participants who followed the blood type A diet, and the results were better health markers in the participants, but it was shown to be effective in all participants, regardless of blood type. There are no studies that currently suggest a diet based on your blood type is effective.
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What Type Of Diet Is Good For Me?
First to take into account would be any dietary restrictions you have, and what your goals are. Are you trying to lose weight? Increase your health and wellbeing to in general live a longer life? Are you looking to gain weight? Or improve digestive issues?
Despite all the different diets, all of them have common ground that is limiting sugar and processed foods. Your body only needs a small amount of sugar and can only digest certain types of sugars, which means some others can irritate the stomach. Reducing sugar intake is included in a lot of weight loss diets, as higher sugar foods are higher in calories, and the main aim of a weight loss diet would be to expend more calories than you’re consuming. This in turn can help your metabolism and your energy levels.
All diets have their advantages, but it is your goal, current eating habits and restrictions to the foods you currently eat that should be taken into account before choosing a diet.
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