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So many diets to choose from!
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This is always one of the more difficult questions for me to answer because there are so many variables to consider when choosing which dietary approach is right for an individual. I don’t believe one diet is always better than all the others. I do believe a person needs to find a diet that is right for them and one they can incorporate into their life without it becoming too stressful, time consuming, expensive, or dealing with the continuous feeling of deprivation.
The trick is really about finding a diet that works for your life and leaves you feeling satisfied while meeting your nutritional needs. Pretty straightforward right? Well, it’s often more complicated than we would like when we add food sensitivities, avoidance of GMO’s, pesticides, food additives, etc. into the equation.
Listed below is a brief synopsis of the most common dietary approaches I see in my practice, along with some of the more obvious pros and cons.
Paleolithic Diet– it’s all about eating like your ancestors did. This diet plan is based on eating plants and wild animals similar to what cavemen are presumed to have eaten around 10,000 years ago. It’s meat heavy and very low carbohydrate. To get an idea of what foods are recommended on this diet click here.
Pros: great for balancing blood sugar and weight loss or management. Very satisfying due to the high protein and fat content. Good for eliminating food sensitivities since it is gluten and dairy free.
Cons: Only high quality animal products are recommended, which can be expensive and difficult for some to obtain. Requires doctors guidance for people with kidney or heart disease due to high protein and fat content.
GAPS– acronym for Gut And Psychology Syndrome. This diet is essentially derived from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, but with a few differences. It was developed with the intention of treating children with neurological disorders like Autism and ADHD, and has proven to be a useful diet for more than just those conditions. The focus of this diet is to heal the gut and re-populate the GI tract with healthy bacteria.
Pros: Great for also treating allergies, eczema, and preventing asthma attacks in some children. Supportive for the immune system and GI health.
Cons: Difficult to get kiddos to eat fermented foods and other foods that are recommended with this diet. Requires a lot of planning and preparation.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)- I have a slight bias toward this one because I have seen much success come from this particular diet. Developed in the 1950’s by a physician of Elaine Gottschall, whom after becoming well by implementing the diet herself made it popular by writing the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle”. The basis of the diet is to heal the GI tract which is essential for the treatment of many conditions, even those outside of the gut.
Pros: Easy to follow diet with Gottschall’s book. Online resource with a list of “legal/illegal foods”. Great treatment for those struggling with bacterial or yeast overgrowth. Good for kids.
Cons: Requires a lot of planning, can feel restrictive.
Anti-inflammatory diet- For people who have any inflammatory condition like arthritis, joint or muscle pain, acute injury, fibromyalgia, and certain autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or Lupus. But in all honesty, we can all benefit from this diet.
Pros: Not as restrictive as some diets. Can still consume starches and some grains. Eliminates the common food allergens and many food sensitivities. Decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and significantly reduces pain for many.
Cons: Challenging to start, requires meal planning.
FODMAPS– the term FODMAPs is used to describe a collection of short-chain carbohydrates found in many common foods. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. What!? Essentially it’s avoidance of foods that tend to cause excessive gas and bloating in many. There are many lists available online that state foods you can and cant eat on this diet. Here is one.
Benefits: Significantly helps in the treatment of IBS
Cons: Difficult to follow and requires planning
Blood Type –this diet is based off of the individuals blood type. Theoretically we should be eating what we evolved to eat which can be determined based on our blood types. For instance type O blood correlates to the hunter and gather type and type A folks are better or a plant based diet.
Pros: Has been effective for people trying to lose weight and change their diets to a more health based nutrient rich diet.
Cons: Does not help specifically with food allergies or food sensitivities.
Vegan/Vegetarian: Plant based diet that restricts the use of animal products or meat. There are many types of vegetarians ranging from lacto-ovo to strict vegetarians that teeter on the edge of vegan. Vegetarian diets can be extremely healthy if done properly and the person does not evolve into what we call a “carbo-tarian”.
Pros: often low in saturated fat and encourages high fiber, high nutrient diet of vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits.
Cons: Must be sure they are supplementing B12 and other essential amino acids found only in animal products if they are strict vegetarian or vegan. Can easily over do it on carbohydrate rich foods like pasta because it is easy. Not good for diabetics.