Diets are popular. From weight loss to health goals, chances are you have been on a few already. But have they worked for you? Likely they haven’t.
Yet, diets aren’t useless. They work. The reason why most dieters fail isn’t due to the ineffectiveness of the diets, but due to a mismatch between the diet and the devotee.
Are YOU on the right diet?
Answer the questions below. This little quiz can reveal whether you are on the right diet and whether your current menu supports your health goals. Just count your “yeses”.
- Are you bloated after meals?
- Do you experience fatigue?
- Do you have difficulty losing weight?
- Are you taking any prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, or supplements to reduce chronic symptoms or improve lab results?
If you answered yes to ONE of the questions above, chances are your diet can be improved. If you answered yes to ALL of them, your diet needs immediate change.
Which diet is for you?
Which diet is most suitable for you, depends greatly on the current state of your health and your end-goals. The rule is as follows: the more ambitious the goal, the more dramatic the dietary shift that needs to happen. For example, if you are a diabetic, switching from low-fat diet to low-junk diet will give you extra energy and improve blood sugar numbers, but that’s about it. If you are looking to reverse T2 that won’t be enough. For that you need to go much further, into keto or carnivore.
Low-fat, low-junk, low-carb, or zero polysaccharides?
Here is a breakdown of four most popular diet types: low-cholesterol, low-junk, low carb, and low in polysaccharides. They all have very different health effects, so study them carefully before leaping into one.
Low (saturated) fat/cholesterol diets
Examples of diets: Vegan, nutritarian, Eat-Lancet, Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory, Noom, Ornish, Flexitarian, etc.
Dietary focus: The premise behind the diets is that the lower the meat and saturated fat the healthier the menu. Hence, the diets focus on restriction or elimination of animal products for health (and other reasons).
When to adopt: Avoid long-term.
Effects: Here is the catch: if you are switching from SAD (Standard American Diet) to plant-based menu you will be singing high-pitch praises, but your joy may not last. While short-term vegan diet may bring temporary boost to health, the long-term effect is highly disappointing.
Caveats: Vegan diets are insufficient in nutrients and are frequently irritating to the gut. New scientific insights suggest that they may promote inflammation and contribute to chronic diseases. They may accelerate aging and contribute to frailness. If you have been advised to follow plant-based diet long-term, it is time to question the advice.
If you are hungry, have cravings, or have difficulty adhering to the regiment, the plant-based diet is not for you. If the diet deepened your anxiety, depression, made you put on weight, or made you feel frustrated about the state of your health, it is time to move away from vegan menu.
Low junk food diet
Examples of diets: Paleo, Mediterranean, Clean Eating diet, The primal diet, Whole30 diet, 69 Pleasures
When to adopt: Eat when healthy and to stay healthy. Eat to improve cardiovascular status and improve blood sugar management. Eat to reduce fatty liver. Eat to improve general energy. Eat to lose weight.
Effects: These diets can help you lose weight, lower cardiovascular risk, reduce blood pressure and blood sugar swings.
Caveats: If you suffer from autoimmune disease, have exceptionally hard time losing weight, or are on prescription medication, focusing on real food may not be enough. If you feel stuck don’t despair. Temporarily transition to one of the diets below. Maybe your body just needs a break from some types of carbs.
Low carb diets
Examples of diets: Keto, LCHF (low carb, high fat), low carb Paleo, Atkin’s
Dietary focus: Low carb diets, as their name suggest, exclude food that are high in carbohydrates.
When to adopt: Eat when carbohydrates mess with your health. Eat when you want to lose weight rapidly. Eat to manage blood sugar better. Eat to lower triglycerides. Eat to improve cholesterol profile. Eat to clear up acne. Eat to improve insulin resistance and PCOS. Eat to stabilize mood. Eat to improve brain health. Eat to improve oral health.
Effects: Low carb diets helped many people regain control over their health. The research seems to also be very positive. Low carbs are exceptionally helpful for excess weight, water retention, food cravings, blood sugar swings, and hyperinsulinemia. Low-carb can successfully eliminate Candida and environmental sensitivities. Low carb can also clear skin, as many skin conditions are exaggerated by high carb/high sugar menu.
There is an added bonus for those who go high fat. Animal fat can greatly help restore low thyroid, low adrenals, low testosterone, or low cortisol. No surprise here. Animal fat contains cholesterol and cholesterol builds hormones.
Caveats: Counting carbs is not the same as minding health, so if your health isn’t perfect on low carb, drop anything that hasn’t been made by nature: diet pop, low carb cupcakes, or artificially created edible garbage that boasts zero carbs. Say no to all processed foods (whether coconut flour, stevia, peanut butter, or protein powder) and see where your health ends up.
Zero polysaccharide diet
Example of diets: Carnivore
Dietary focus: Here only animal products are allowed. The exclusion of plants has been dictated by many reasons: gut irritation, anti-nutrients, toxic compounds, insulinemic properties, toxic agricultural residues, ethical and environmental reasons.
When to adopt: Eat to starve off bad gut bacteria. Eat to improve digestive health. Eat to reduce food allergens and irritants. Eat to reduce chronic condition that do not respond to low-carb diet. Eat to bring autoimmune diseases to remission. Eat to boost lean muscle mass. Eat to lose weight rapidly. Eat to manage blood sugar better. Eat to reverse atherosclerosis. Eat to look sexy. Eat for mental and physical performance. Eat for anti-aging effect. Eat to eliminate anxiety and depression. Eat to recuperate faster. Eat to be kind to the environment.
Effects: Excluding all plants may sound extreme, but for many adopters the effort seem to make sense. Anecdotal evidence exist that such drastic diet is not only highly satisfying, but also incredibly healing. The most dramatic effects are noted in the digestive, nervous, and immunologic systems. Adopters claim to be cured of bloat, chronic obesity, chronic inflammation, gut dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and a litany of autoimmune diseases including MS, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Athletes claim to gain extra muscle mass, extra strength and performance. Women rave about its beautifying effect and researchers noticed telomere-lengthening effect.
Caveats: the theory states that carnivore diet may lead to vitamin C deficiency. Although that hasn’t been proven in practice, it would be prudent not to ditch vitamin C supplements till you know for sure. Temporary constipation may affect some individuals, thus you may want to keep magnesium supplementation handy.
So, what should YOU eat?
Until research proves otherwise or your health has particular needs, are aim to eat real food omnivore diet. If your health isn’t great you may want to experiment with low-carb or zero polysaccharides to speed up the recovery process. But remember: dramatic shifts cause dramatic effects, so expect discomfort and be prepared for a quick medication adjustment.
If you are frail, or rely on a stack of prescription meds, seek professional assistance and stick to gradual changes. Sudden dietary shifts and polypharmacy don’t go well together.
When to switch to a new diet?
Don’t be afraid of trying things. Nothing can replace an actual hands-on experience. With every one of us being different, it would be foolish to form an opinion based on a media hype or a study or two. Unless you try it, you won’t know how a diet could affect YOU.
Give a new diet at least two to three weeks. That’s enough time to know whether the new eating regiment would be a good match for you. Don’t get discouraged by the first few days. Although you may not feel your best, improvement should follow shortly afterwards.
Stay on the diet if your digestion has improved, you feel energized, and lost weight. Continue for at least three months before you retest the biochemical parameters. Compare the following: CBC, HbA1C, TSH, TG, HDL, LDL, eGFR, inflammatory markers, nutrient markers, and hormone levels. If you and your diet match, you should see great progress in those.
Nine out of ten “sick” people don’t need medication.
Health is a Skill, not a Pill.