This diet reduces carbohydrate intake big-time while upping fat intake (but only “healthy” fat-containing foods: avocados, coconuts, Brazil nuts, seeds, oily fish and olive oil), which allows the body to burn fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates. Protein alternatives like tofu are limited, as are grains, starches and sugary fruits. Green veggie protein is preferred for fiber and micronutrients.
This approach leads (in about three days) to the breakdown of fat deposits thus creating ketones, which are in turn used for energy. Some experience mild malaise for a couple of weeks. There may be a small risk of ketoacidosis for people with Type 1 diabetes. There is promising value for Type 2 diabetes management but less evidence for sustained weight loss. Some patients with cancer may have heard of it from friends and family, but there’s no evidence that “starving the cancer of glucose” does anything other than depriving a person of one of the joys of life. This diet does need supervision.
This is my favorite diet – for me, it’s easy to comply with (or, as we say now, “adhere to.”) It follows the nutritional habits of the enlightened folk of Greece, southern Italy, Spain and southern France, who relax in the sun discussing philosophy; it’s a way of life.
Lots of plant foods, fresh fruits as dessert, beans, nuts, whole grains, seeds, olive oil as the main source of dietary fats, and cheese and yogurts for dairy foods. The diet also includes moderate amounts of fish and poultry, up to four eggs per week, small amounts of red meat, and moderate amounts of wine.
The Mediterranean diet is the most extensively studied diet to date, with reliable research supporting its use for improving a person's quality of life and lowering cardiovascular disease risk; it may also help delay the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
Many people choose a vegetarian diet for ethical reasons, as well as health. I talked to Stewart, a colleague, who says, “My wife watched ‘Earthlings’ about how we slaughter animals. She’s experimenting with going vegan though I don’t think she’ll last. I’m trying to be a lacto-ovo-pesco-vegetarian. We all eat too much meat.”
I agreed with that. Meat once a week, fish once a week and chicken on special occasions used to be the norm. Now it’s chicken burgers alternating with hamburgers every day and night.
And there’s a new glossary of vegetarian sub-types: lacto-vegetarian, fruitarian-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian etc. Most vegetarians are lacto-ovo vegetarians: no animal-derived foods, except for milk, cheese and eggs. Honey is OK.
Stewart suggested I watch “Earthlings,” a documentary about humanity's use of animals for scientific research and as food, clothing and entertainment. The slaughter house sequences are disturbing including the brutal Kosher slaughtering of cattle portrayed in one abattoir. All human carnivores should watch this YouTube documentary or visit a slaughter house (as I have done.) You eat less meat after that.
Will we look back at the coming of Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers and shake our heads in 50 years at today’s mass slaughter of creatures for our dining pleasures? Perhaps. Studies over the last few years have suggested that vegetarians have a lower body weight, suffer less from diseases, and have a longer life expectancy than people who eat meat, though it may just feel longer.
Veganism is more a way of life and a philosophy than a diet. A vegan eats no animal-based grub, including eggs or dairy. Vegans do not usually adopt veganism just for health reasons, but also for environmental, ethical and compassionate reasons.
Vegans believe that modern intensive farming methods are bad for our environment and unsustainable in the long term. If everybody ate plant-based food, the environment would benefit, animals would suffer less, more food would be produced, and people would generally enjoy better physical and (apparently) mental health – so say vegans.
Weight Watchers Inc. focuses on losing weight through diet, exercise and a support network. It was started in the 1960s by a New York homemaker, Jean Nidetch, who had lost some weight but worried she might put it back on. She and a network of friends created Weight Watchers, stumbling on a brilliant money-making business with global branches and a steady cash-flow of returnees who had quickly put all their weight back on.
Other names for the Paleo diet include the Paleolithic, stone age or hunter-gatherer diet. The idea is to return to eating like early homo sapiens (though not necessarily in the manner they scarfed) during the Paleolithic era 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, apparently an era of advanced health and longevity. The diet's shaky hypothesis is that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with farming – the “discordance hypothesis” – believed to contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease today.
A Paleo diet includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds – fodder obtained by hunting and gathering: grass-fed animals, wild mammoths, mountain lions and raptors. This diet limits foods that became available when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. Fish is OK, but processed foods, spuds, salt, whisky and Twinkies are out.
The difference between the Paleo diet and other diets is the absence of whole grains and legumes, which dieticians consider good sources of fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Also frowned on are dairy products – good sources of protein and calcium.
For some, a Paleo diet may be too expensive. And archaeological research has demonstrated that early human diets may have included wild grains as much as 30,000 years ago – well before the introduction of farming. I suspect this diet is BS, but if you have some Neanderthal genes on 23andMe, it may be worth a try.