A diet isn’t necessarily a way to lose weight. The word “diet” just refers to the way you habitually eat — but for decades, different styles of eating have come and gone (and, in some cases, come back again). What are they all saying, and which one is right for you? Keep reading to learn the high-level details about popular diets, from paleolithic palates to varieties of vegetarianism.
PROS AND CONS OF POPULAR DIETS
- Limits carbs and puts you in ketosis, a state where you burn fat for fuel
- Doesn’t require calorie counting or portion control
- Clearly defined phases for a structured approach to weight management
- As your body switches from burning carbs to burning fat for fuel, you may experience the keto flu
- Staying low-carb for extended periods of time doesn’t work for everyone
- Atkins products aren’t ideal for people with food sensitivities
Developed in 1972, the Atkins Diet is a style of the ketogenic diet that breaks weight management into four phases. By eating lower-carb, you eventually enter the fat-burning metabolic state called ketosis. You’ll likely feel full and satisfied when you load up on quality protein and fats, but tread carefully with Atkins convenience foods — they can contain ingredients you might want to avoid, like gluten, sucralose, and palm kernel oil.
BLUE ZONES DIET
- The holistic approach to wellness that encompasses diet, social connection, a whole food plant-based diet, and moderate physical activity
- Minimizes processed foods and excess sugar
- Grains and legumes are not ideal for people with food sensitivities
- Minimizes meat consumption, which can fit into a balanced diet
The Blue Zones diet got its name in 2005, but it’s based on demographic research into regions of the world where author Dan Buettner found people live longer than average. Based on their habits, the Blue Zone is a framework of living to support longevity. The diet emphasizes whole grains, a handful of nuts, a cup of beans, and five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and it minimizes sugar-sweetened beverages, salty snacks, packaged sweets, and processed meats.
- Easy to follow — just eat meat and nothing else
- Puts your body in ketosis, which promotes brain power, energy, and satiety
- Completely eliminates foods commonly associated with food sensitivities
- Extremely restrictive
- A zero-carb diet may not be sustainable long-term
The carnivore diet is deceptively simple: just eat animal foods. Some carnivores will allow coffee, dairy, and animal fats, while others are meat-only. This diet is effectively a zero-carb diet, which can increase your risk of digestive issues and thyroid problems long-term. And because you aren’t eating any fruits or vegetables, you’re missing out on immune-boosting antioxidants and fiber.
- Emphasizes whole foods
- Reduces processed foods and added sugar
- Provides easy guidelines to apply to your everyday meals
- Allows artificial sweeteners (in moderation)
- Limits saturated fats altogether — read why that’s a problem
- Not ideal for people with food sensitivities
Created in the 1990s, the DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. True to its name, it’s designed to lower blood pressure by reducing sodium intake and emphasizing vegetables, fruits, and low-fat foods.
- Eliminates gluten, a protein found in wheat, grains, and barley that can cause sensitivities or even allergic reactions
- More accessible thanks to the growing popularity of gluten-free foods
- Not inherently healthy or a way to manage weight
- Requires extra care to avoid gluten contamination
- Difficult to manage if you’re eating out
For people with celiac disease, even a small amount of gluten in their diet can trigger severe autoimmune reactions like bloating, nausea, and joint pain. Other people are just sensitive to gluten, leading to allergy-like symptoms like inflammation, fatigue, and brain fog. If you cut grains out of your diet and find yourself feeling better, you may have been dealing with gluten sensitivity.