- The “Plant Based” Diet
Also known as The ‘Flexitarian’ Diet, this style of eating emphasizes all the benefits of eating a diet based mostly on plants, but without the restrictive nature of true veganism. A plant-based eater, for example, might prioritize eating plant proteins whenever possible, but won’t turn down a nutritious veggie soup simply because it’s made with a home-cooked chicken broth.
It would be accurate to say that the long-popular Mediterranean Diet falls into this overall category, and it was ranked the Number One overall Diet by U.S. News and World Reports this year. Inspired by the eating habits of people in Greece, southern Italy and Spain – the Mediterranean Diet encourages the consumption of olive oil, legumes, whole grains (including pasta), fruits and veggies – with some room for a small-ish amount of fish and dairy. There is convincing scientific evidence that this type of diet lowers the risk of heart disease and enhances longevity.
Popular foods for a plant-based eater:
- Plant proteins – including pea protein, hemp protein, almond protein, etc (most shy away from soy protein)
- Adaptogens, like turmeric, ashwagandha and reishi mushrooms
- All natural, whole foods -- like nuts, fruits and veggies – with short, clean ingredient lists (no fillers, nothing artificial)
- The Primal Diet
Arguably the latest iteration of the ongoingly-popular Paleo Diet, the Primal Diet prioritizes the eating of foods that are clean, unprocessed and (broadly speaking), might have been available to a person living like a caveman several thousand years ago. This includes a heavy-emphasis on hunter-gatherer type staples, including veggies, nuts, and wild-raised animals (fish, meat, etc). The Primal Diet also encourages the consumption of some dairy (ideally raw), and root vegetables. Both diets require the omission of grains, gluten, corn, and processed foods, like sugar.
The Paleo Diet proved so popular during the start of this decade (think 2010-2015) that it has since spawned dozens of ‘later’/more ‘evolved’ versions, including the Whole30, which is basically ultra-strict Paleo eating for 30 days (and was one of the hottest diet trends in 2019) and Dr. Shawn Baker’s meat-tastic “Carnivore Diet.”
Popular foods for the Primal Diet include:
- Lots of hunter-gatherer-friendly nuts, including almonds, cashews and coconuts (but no peanuts – since they’re technically a legume)
- Grass fed, pasture raised meats and whey protein, free range eggs and collagen protein
- Veggies and low sugar berries, including spinach, kale and blueberries
- The Keto Diet
Eating “Keto” promises to continue to be all the rage in 2020 for those looking to lose weight fast. Followers eat a diet that is very high in fat, moderate in protein, super low in net carbs (total carbs minus fiber), and rock bottom in sugar. This diet is known for helping people shed weight fast, although the medical community is still up in the air about it due to its high fat content being correlated with things like heart disease. Still, its fast results are a proven commodity, which is a rare accolade for the diet industry.
Dieters typically consume their calories in the following rough breakdown: 70 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 10 percent or fewer carbs. Eating super high fat at these levels allows eaters to shed weight fast because it causes the human body to switch from burning carbs (glucose) to burning fat (ketones). This is called “being in ketosis.”
This causes weight loss because carbs are what cause the body to produce insulin and insulin is what causes fat cells to be stored (as fat) instead of being used (through the liver) as energy. As a result, when a person is in Ketosis their fat cells are burned as fuel because there’s no storage creating insulin to keep them from being burned.
Popular foods for a Keto Eater:
- Chocolate – the higher the cacao content, the better (ie; 100 percent cacao is best!)
- All sorts of nuts, including almonds, cashews and coconuts (peanuts are great too, even though their technically a legume)
- Grass fed, pasture raised collagen protein and grass fed whey protein
- MCT oil (ideally derived from coconuts) and avocado-everything
- Intermittent Fasting (lots of versions exist, including the Dubrow Diet and The Daniel Fast)
Periodic fasting periods have been popular religious tools for centuries (for the latest incarnation of this, check out The Daniel Fast). Now, a growing number of non-religious dieters (ie; reality TV star, Dubrow) are trying their hand at fasting for health and weight loss. There are dozens of different ways of doing intermittent fasting, but all involve splitting the day/week/month into distinct eating and fasting periods. During the fasting periods, the dieter eats nothing (or very little, depending on the version). These are the three most popular intermittent fasting types right now:
- The 16/8 method.(Most popular!) Dieters restrict their daily eating period to a strict 8-hour block (ie; noon-8pm), and fast the other 16 hours (ie; 8pm til noon the following day). Mostly, this means skipping breakfast and cutting food off strictly post dinner.
- Eat-Stop-Eat.Dieters eat normally except for 1-2 days each week during which they eat nothing.
- The 5:2 diet.Dieters eat normally 5 days of the week and severely restrict calories on the remaining two days (ie; eating just 500 calories or so on each of the fasting days). By reducing your calorie intake, all of these methods should cause weight loss as long as you don't compensate by eating much more during the eating periods.
Ultimately, all fasting diets aim to cause weight loss through caloric restriction. And caloric restriction works… as long as dieters don’t accidentally compensate for lost calories during open eating periods.
Popular “Fast-Breaking” Foods to support metabolism and health:
- Collagen protein (ideally grass fed) or bone broth protein
- Veggies, like kale and spinach
- Healthy fats, like coconut oil, egg protein, nuts, seeds and grass fed whey
- The MIND Diet
The MIND diet is an acronym for the unwieldy sounding Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and its popularity is no doubt a hat tip to the growing aging population (thanks, Baby Boomers). This diet aims to help a dieter’s brain by reducing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. While the scientific community is still ‘out’ on whether it works, some early studies seem to show that eating this way consistently correlates with people who are cognitively around a decade-younger than their ‘standard diet’ peers.
From a practical perspective, the diet is extremely similar to both the Mediterranean Diet and The Nordic Diet (basically the Mediterranean Diet with canola oil instead of olive oil). In short, it’s a mostly plant-based diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and well-sourced wild-caught fish and low-fat dairy. They avoid processed foods, red meats and fried fats.
Those eating with MIND in mind gravitate towards the following foods:
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts – whole or in nut butter form -- all great!)
- Well-sourced dairy that isn’t high in fat (ie; grass fed, pasture raised whey protein)
- Berries, fruits and veggies (think blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale, etc)