Trending Diets: Explaining Keto, Paleo, and Vegan. How do you know which is best for you?
With so many diet trends out there, it can be confusing to understand the benefits of each one, and hard to determine which is the best for you.
Today, I want to discuss some of the more popular dietary lifestyles and give you an idea of their health benefits and drawbacks, so you can make an educated decision for yourself.
First, keep in mind that every BODY is different. We each respond differently to various food. The most important thing is to tune into your body, and really start to understand what foods make you feel energized, focused, and are easy for you to digest. You want to pay equal attention to what foods or diets make you feel sluggish, foggy-headed, and upset your stomach. This is the first step to figuring out what diet/dietary lifestyle is best for you.
Second, no matter what you subscribe to, the QUALITY of your calories is of utmost importance. Just because you’re eating a restricted diet, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Try to avoid processed foods, and eat colorful, nutrient-dense whole foods as much as possible. What does this mean? Eat your veggies! No matter what dietary protocol you’re following, eating your greens (both leafy greens, and other green veggies), will keep your body healthy, and keep disease and inflammation at bay.
The Keto Diet
Ketogenics is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that is traditionally used to treat epileptic children who aren’t responding to anti-seizure medications alone. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel. When your carb stores are very low, the body produces ketones, and starts burning fat (instead of carbs) for fuel. This is called ketosis.
Fat is very satiating, so one would be consuming less food when eating a high fat diet. The diet helps to control hunger and minimize blood sugar spikes by using more fat and fewer carbs. When the body has less carbs, this means it is producing less insulin, which can decrease cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and potentially minimize chances a heart condition.
This is a strict diet and requires a certain amount of discipline and calculation to keep the body in ketosis. There are urine test strips available to measure when your body is truly in ketosis.
The Keto Diet ratio is approximately:
5% carbs (approximately 20-50 grams of carbs per day)
Some potential drawbacks to the Keto diet are:
1- To actually put your body in ketosis, it takes a lot of effort to count carbs in everything you are eating. This can become an obsessive behavior, which is not a healthy way to approach any diet.
2- The main side effect of ketosis (or lack of carbs in general) is foggy-headedness and irritability. People who follow the Keto Diet say this tends to subside after a couple weeks, once your body gets used to the lack of carbs, and then you become more energized.
3- The Keto Diet is NOT recommended for:
· People with type 1 diabetes
· People with compromised kidney function
· People on medication that impacts their kidneys and liver
· Women who are pregnant, nursing, or have gestational diabetes should consult with their doctor
· People who have suffered from eating disorders
Here are some of the foods that are acceptable on the Keto Diet:
· Coconut and coconut oil
· Salmon and other fatty fish
· High-quality (preferably non-processed) meats
· Greek yogurt (full fat with no added sugar)
· Butter and cream
· Some nuts and seeds (macadamia, pecan, and walnuts are lowest in carbs)
· Non-starchy vegetables
· Berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are the lowest in carbs/sugar)
Creamy Keto Berry Smoothie:
2 servings, approx. 15-20 net carbs per serving
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup frozen strawberries
½ cup frozen raspberries
1 cup spinach
½ of an avocado
½ cup full fat Greek yogurt
· Blend all ingredients until smooth.
· If you prefer a thinner smoothie, add more coconut milk until desired consistency.
Walnut and Feta Pesto over Salmon and Zucchini Spaghetti
2 servings, approx. 8 net carbs per serving
2 Salmon filets 3-6oz each
½ cup raw walnuts
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh spinach
1 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
Juice from ½ a lemon
¼ cup olive oil (or more to thin if needed)
· Use a spiralizer (available online or at Bed Bath, and Beyond) to make zucchini noodles. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can improvise with a vegetable peeler for zucchini ribbons.
· In a pan, heat a small amount of oil, and sauté zucchini until just starting to become tender.
· Place salmon filets in a pan coated lightly with olive oil, and cook over medium heat for approximately 8-12 minutes, or until done.
· While salmon is cooking, put walnuts, feta, basil, spinach, garlic, salt, and lemon juice in food processor (or blender, if you don’t have a food processor).
· Process until fine.
· While the processor is still running, slowly pour in olive oil. Scrape down the sides, and continue to blend until smooth.
· If pesto is too thick, add more olive oil in small doses.
· You can either mix the pesto into the cooked zucchini noodles, or top the salmon filet with the pesto and eat it over the zoodles.
The Paleo Diet:
Paleo refers to the Paleolithic humans, or hunter and gatherers. The Paleo Diet mimics the diet people from this era would have followed. On this diet, you will be limiting processed foods, refined sugars, dairy products, legumes, high-sugar fruit, and most grains. This method of eating can be easier to adopt, and can help balance blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and promote weight loss without having to obsess about calorie counting.
You should avoid the Paleo Diet if you have type 1 diabetes, or have compromised kidneys or liver, unless authorized by a doctor.
Here are some foods that you can eat on the Paleo Diet:
· High-quality meats and poultry
· Fish and seafood
· Most non-starchy vegetables
· Lower sugar fruits (berries, apples, pears, melon, etc.)
· Tubers (sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips, etc.)
· Nuts and seeds
· Healthy fats and oils
· Herbs, salt, and spices
Egg Cups in a Sweet Potato Hash Nest
Makes 6 egg nests
Sweet Potato Nest:
½ of a large sweet potato shredded with a cheese grater
Drizzle of olive or avocado oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Broccoli, finely chopped
Bell pepper, diced
Green onion, chopped
Use whatever veggie combo you prefer. I sautéed shallots and combined them with the spinach for half of the nests. The other half, I combined sautéed broccoli and green onion.
If you’re not on a strict Paleo diet, it’s fun to top these egg cups with feta, mozzarella, or whatever cheese you like.
· Preheat oven to 400 degrees
· Shred sweet potato and combine it with olive oil, salt and pepper.
· In a greased muffin tin, divide the sweet potato amongst 6 muffin cups, pressing it down to form a nest up the sides of the cups.
· Bake for 20 minutes
· Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk together until smooth, adding salt and pepper to season.
· Distribute eggs into sweet potato nests, and add in veggie fillings to each nest
· Top with cheese, if desired (remember, dairy is not part of the Paleo Diet)
· Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until egg is thoroughly cooked
Easy Cauliflower Stir Fry
½ sweet onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 package of Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower, fresh or frozen
3 heads of small Bok Choy, chopped into bite-sized pieces
7-12oz of your choice of protein (grilled chicken, ground turkey, beef, etc.), chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 Tablespoons cilantro
Stir Fry Sauce:
2 Tablespoons coconut amino acids (available at Trader Joes and Whole Foods)
Juice from one lime
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
· Sauté onion in pan, lightly sprayed with oil
· Sauté package of riced cauliflower (2-3 cups)
· While riced cauliflower is cooking, whisk together sauce ingredients (coconut aminos, lime juice, and sesame oil)
· Add chopped Bok Choy and 2 Tablespoons of cilantro to cauliflower mixture and allow to wilt in pan
· In a separate pan lightly coated with oil, add chicken (or preferred protein)
· Pour half of sauce in pan with chicken, and cook until thoroughly done
· Remove from heat
· Plate veggies and meat together
· Top with remaining Tablespoon of cilantro and remaining sauce
Veganism is a plant-based diet where no animal products are consumed. This means no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, or honey. People adopt the Vegan Diet for a number of reasons, including improved blood sugar control, lowered blood pressure, reduced inflammation, weight loss, as well as ethical and environmental reasons, too. Many people who subscribe to a vegan diet, also abstain from buying leather, fur, and products tested on animals.
Eating vegan includes healthy fats and lots of fiber, which are beneficial for a number of health reasons, but there are some pitfalls to be aware of. Vegans should keep an eye on their iron levels. Anemia is common in the vegetarian and vegan populations, because meat is a main source of iron. There are many plants that provide iron such as spinach, lentils, beets, and broccoli. Vegans also need to make sure they are eating enough protein, and not loading up on vegan “processed foods”. Just because something is vegan, does not mean it’s healthy
Organic Steel Cut Oatmeal with Walnuts and Blueberries
¼ cup uncooked (becomes ½ cup when cooked) organic steel cut oats
1 cup water or milk alternative
½ cup fresh blueberries or raspberries
¼ cup raw walnuts, slivered almonds, or hulled hemp seeds
Dash of cinnamon
· Cook oats and water (or milk alternative) in a small pan on medium-low heat 45 minutes
· If you are looking for a quicker cooking method, soak the oats in the water overnight in the fridge, then cook on the stove for 10-15 minutes the next day
· Top cooked oats with berries, walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon
Iron Buddha Bowl
½ cup uncooked quinoa (will become approx. 1 ½ cups when cooked),
1 cup steamed lentils (you can buy already prepared steamed lentils at Trader Joes)
4 sliced beets, cooked
4 cups of raw spinach
Squeeze of lemon
Pinch of salt
¼ cup tahini
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
Juice of ½ a lemon
3-4 Tablespoons hot water (to thin)
*Whisk to combine ingredients and keep adding hot water until sauce is pourable
· Cook quinoa according to instructions on package
· In a lightly coated pan, heat up prepared lentils
· Slice beets into thin circles
· In two large bowls, distribute 2 cups of spinach into the bottom of each bowl
· toss spinach with a squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt
· Top the spinach with ½ of the quinoa, lentils, and beets
· Drizzle tahini dressing over the top of the bowl
Intermittent fasting (commonly referred to as IF) is another popular health trend, though it’s been common practice in some cultures for centuries. IF has a number of health benefits including improved digestion, decreased inflammation in the digestive system (gut health is directly connected to mental health, and other body functions!), and potential weight loss.
There are various ways of practicing intermittent fasting, but essentially it means having a shorter window of time you eat during the day. The most popular IF practice is fasting anywhere from 12-16 hours, between dinner and breakfast the following day.
IF is often used in conjunction with the Keto Diet, because it helps the body achieve ketosis. Those who subscribe to the Keto Diet and IF, typically do a 16:8 fast. This means they fast for 16 hours between their last meal one day, until their first meal the following day. This gives an 8 hour window to eat during the day.
Fasting is not for everyone, so consult with your doc if you have any concerns or medical conditions.