There are so many diets out there, that it can be completely overwhelming. You can’t turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or use social media without being subjected to advertising or discussions about the latest diet craze. It is hard to know where to start, and what the right diet is for you.
So, we are here to provide some guidance and insight to some of the current common diets. The 4 diets we are exploring today:
- Mediterranean Diet
- “Flexitarian” Diet
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most researched diets in the world, as it has been around for centuries. In short, the Mediterranean Diet is based on the traditional foods eaten in Mediterranean regions such as Italy and Greece. The Mediterranean diet is considered to be the “best overall diet” by US News & World Report and many others in the nutrition and health world. Plus, the Mediterranean Diet is known to be beneficial for heart health and diabetes, plus it’s super easy to follow!
What Is The Mediterranean Diet
A traditional Mediterranean Diet is rich in plant-based foods including fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and moderate amounts of red wine (yes, wine!); as well as plenty of good quality fats, with the main dietary fat being extra virgin olive oil; as well as fish, poultry, fresh dairy, and eggs. Red meat is used sparingly, and on a traditional Mediterranean Diet there is avoidance of added sugars, refined grains and oils, and other highly processed foods.
The Mediterranean Diet is flexible, simple to follow, and delicious! Plus, individuals typically feel satisfied and satiated thanks to the high-fibre content of the various plant-foods and goods fats being consumed.
- Nutritionally sound/well researched
- Diverse foods and flavours
- Promotes heart health
- Better diabetes prevention and management
- Mental health benefits
- Weight management
- Reduced inflammatory markers
- Cancer prevention
- Environmentally friendly
- Some foods are costly
- Additional guidance may be necessary for certain conditions
- Some dietary restrictions may be challenging
- Concerns with it including alcohol intake
- May fall short on some nutrients
- No specific guidelines to follow
- Can be time consuming
Specific Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
As a result of the high fibre intake from whole foods, and the avoidance of refined sugars and grains, the Mediterranean Diet can help prevent blood sugar fluctuations and may improve cholesterol levels (1).
The Mediterranean Diet can also positively affect physical and mental well-being. It is associated with decreased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (2,3,4,5).
Multiple studies have determined that the Mediterranean Diet can assist with weight loss, help prevent heart attacks and strokes, reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, and decreases premature death (6). One long term study showed that the risk of combined heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease was 31% lower and appeared to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 52% (6).
What We Think?
The societal movement back to more traditional diets is a positive dietary trend. The Mediterranean Diet offers loose guidelines for overall healthy eating that the average person consuming a standard Western diet would benefit from, especially if care is given to moderate alcohol intake.
Vegetarian Diets have been followed for centuries, maybe millennia, in regions the world over – from Israel to India. In modern day, it’s a common misconception vegetarians are generally healthy, but this sometimes is not the case. A healthy vegetarian will focus on whole foods, but nowadays there are many vegetarians that will fill up on refined grains and sugars, which in combination with the avoidance of meat and seafood, puts individuals at high risk of nutrient deficiencies.
What Is A Vegetarian Diet?
While following a Vegetarian Diet, individuals avoid meat products. However, there are several versions of vegetarian diets:
- lacto-ovo vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products
- lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs
- ovo vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products
Ideally focussed on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fresh dairy, eggs, legumes, lentils and whole grains. Vegetarians need to take special care to ensure they are consuming adequate vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns of the risk of vitamin B12 deficiencies in vegetarians.
- Possible reduced risk of disease
- May boost longevity
- May increase food variety
- Improved weight control compared to a standard Western diet
- Reduced food costs
- Less environmental impact
- Ethical treatment of animals
- Possible nutrient deficiencies
- Fewer food choices
- Reduced satiety
- Less convenient
- Not always healthy
- Difficult if eating out or dining at others homes
Specific Health Benefits of the Vegetarian Diet
There is ample research on the vegetarian diet. In a large cohort study evaluating vegetarian diets, researchers found that the group experienced a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, cardio-metabolic risk factors, and some cancers (7).
Vegetarians may be up to one-third less likely to die or be hospitalized for heart disease (8) and had half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with non-vegetarians (9).
Osteoporosis rates are also lower in countries where people eat mostly vegetarian diets (10).
Several studies have shown that people who follow a plant-based diet may lose more weight than those who do not (11). A review of studies including over 1,100 participants determined those consuming a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost 4.5 pounds (2 kg) more than participants who weren’t (12). However, there are many other diets that provide even more effective weight loss and weight management, so vegetarianism may not be the optimal weight loss diet.
What We Think?
Vegetarianism, done well, can be a therapeutic diet for those addressing cardiovascular conditions or some forms of cancer. Additionally, for individuals particularly concerned with their environmental impact and/or the ethical treatment of animals, the vegetarian diet addresses many of those concerns without the elevated risk of nutritional deficiencies associated with a vegan diet (where eggs and dairy products are avoided in addition to meat and seafood).
The “Flexitarian” Diet
The diet was developed by nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner. She believes that eating a vegetarian diet is healthiest, but recognizes that giving up meat isn’t something everyone is willing to do. Plus, it enables individuals to get some of those key nutrients found in meat such as B12 and iron. She designed a balance that keeps meat in the diet but consumed at a reduced amount and consists of healthy foods to help lose and maintain a healthy weight.
What Is The “Flexitarian” Diet?
The Flexitarian Diet is a meal plan focuses on a vegetarian based diet with consumption of some meat and fish on occasion. Flexitarians limit processed foods and eat more whole foods.
- Emphasizes nutritious foods
- Easy to accommodate personal preferences or needs
- Budget-friendly and sustainable
- Supports weight loss
- May reduce risk of diabetes
- May be difficult for daily meat-eaters to follow
- Potentially low iron intake
- Additional guidance may be necessary for those with diabetes
Specific Health Benefits of the “Flexitarian” Diet
Since “Flexitarian” diets are relatively new, there limited evidence addressing it specifically, but it is expected to offer many of the same benefits as a vegetarian diet while offsetting some of the negatives with adhering strictly to vegetarianism or veganism.
What We Think?
There are no specific rules to follow on a “Flexitarian” Diet, making it an appealing option for many individuals and allowing the space to tap in to what your body is feeling day-to-day or week-to-week and adjusting accordingly. A “Flexitarian” Diet can easily be tailored to suit your own nutritional needs and health goals, which we love.
The “Paleo” Diet also referred to as the Paleolithic Diet, Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet and caveman diet has become increasingly popular over the past decade. It is based on eating the way our early ancestors did.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The basic Paleo Diet consists of whole foods including: animals (meat, fish, reptiles, insects, etc.) with a focus on “nose to tail” eating consuming almost all parts of the animals, including organs, bone marrow, and cartilage; animal products such as eggs or honey; vegetables and fruits; and nuts and seeds that can be eaten raw. While following the Paleo Diet foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago are avoided including: dairy products, legumes, grains and, of course, processed foods.
Specific Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet
There are many health benefits to following a Paleo Diet. In 2017, when researchers compared people whose diets most closely matched the attributes of a Paleo Diet to those whose diets least matched, they found a lower risk of all cause mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality in those that followed the Paleo Diet (13).
Research has shown that participants that followed the diet had improved body composition. One study, in which participants followed the diet for just 3 weeks lost an average of 5lbs per person, as well as experiencing slight reductions in their waist circumference and systolic blood pressure (14).
There is emerging research on possible benefits for patients with MS, and other autoimmune conditions.
- Rich in nutrient-dense foods
- Helps some people lose weight
- May promote heart health
- Linked to longevity
- Avoids many common food allergens/triggers
- Eliminates entire food groups
- Unclear impact on gut health
- Small risk of iodine deficiency
- Costly and time-intensive
- Difficult to follow long term
Bottom line, everyone’s biochemistry is different. The ideal diet for one person might not necessary be the best approach for the next. It really is true that there is no one diet out there that fits everyone.
Your health goals are, what disease or health conditions that you are struggling with, along with your individual genetics and biochemistry – all must be considered together to determine what dietary strategy is best for you.
We would love to help you on your health journey by creating an effective dietary plan that fits for your goals and lifestyle! To find out what is the best approach for you, please reach out to us at Koru Nutrition or book with us today!
1.Mediterranean diet adherence is related to reduced probability of prodromal Parkinson’s disease (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
2. Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan (2019, mayoclinic.org)
3. Role of Mediterranean diet on the prevention of Alzheimer disease (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
4. The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health (2019, ahajournals.org)
6. Le, L., Sabaté, J. (2014). Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts. Nutrients, 6(6), 2131–2147. doi:10.3390/nu6062131
12. Whalen KA, Judd S, McCullough ML, Flanders WD, Hartman TJ, Bostick RM. Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in Adults. J Nutr. 2017;147(4):612–620. doi:10.3945/jn.116.241919
13. Osterdahl M, et al. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Trusted Source European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008.