Which Diet is Right for You?

Keto, paleo, Whole30, vegan, Mediterranean, oh my!

There comes a time in your life when you realize it’s time to go on a diet. Whether it’s due to sudden weight gain (thank you covid), gradual weight gain, an increase in health conscientiousness, or a vague sense of your own mortality, starting a diet is a common response to the many things life throws at you.

“Do you have any gluten-free dairy-free paleo options?” That has never been me. Confession: I’ve never been a diet person…unless you count my tendency to avoid mayonnaise, which could be considered hypocritical based on the fact I have no qualms eating other equally unhealthy foods. When I decided it was time for me to start eating healthy (vague, I know), it was incredibly difficult for me to choose a diet.

There are just so many options, and it’s confusing for those of us who aren’t up-to-date with the latest health trends. Come with me as I explore 10 of the most popular diets and discover which one can benefit you the most.

1. Sugar-Free Diet

If you have a sweet tooth, I might have already lost you. But the sugar-free diet offers enough health benefits to outweigh the cost of, well, giving up sugar. These include weight loss, improved dental health, and decreased health risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammatory markers.

The challenge is actually implementing this diet. After all, sugar is sneaky and exists in many foods you’d never guess (think pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt, and even coleslaw).

Here are the sugars to look for in the ingredients: brown sugar, corn sugar, corn syrup, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, raw sugar, sucrose, syrup, and turbinado sugar. Fortunately, you can continue eating natural sugars such as those occurring in whole fruits and 100% fruit juices.

Still struggling with sugar cravings? Evidence shows a connection between a low-quality diet and lack of sleep. That means if you prioritize getting your 7-9 hours of sleep every night, it’ll be easier to say no to sugar consumption.

Also, focusing on healthy fats mitigates sugar cravings. If you’re having trouble cutting out sugar completely, try lowering your intake to 100-200 calories per day. Your health will still improve significantly.

2. Ketogenic Diet

Keto is perfect for you if you’re afraid of being hungry. It focuses on replacing carbs with fats, letting you eat until you’re full and not worry about counting calories. The standard breakdown is 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.

The lengthy list of health benefits includes weight loss, reduced blood pressure, reduced triglyceride levels, improved insulin sensitivity, and lower risks of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body in a state of ketosis, which is a metabolic state where your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbs. Many keto practicers adopt intermittent fasting as well because it helps you enter ketosis faster.

These are the foods to focus on eating for keto: meat, fatty fish, pastured eggs, grass-fed butter, heavy cream, unprocessed cheese, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables. Check out this sample meal plan for an idea of the diverse meals you can enjoy while on keto.

If you’re an athlete, this low-carb diet might not be right for you. Keto is ideal for those who want to lose weight and aren’t trying to add large amounts of muscle.

3. Vegan Diet

People typically choose this diet for environmental or ethical reasons, but that doesn’t mean it can’t benefit your health as well. Vegans tend to have a lower BMI, lower blood sugar levels, lower risk of high blood pressure, increased insulin sensitivity, and reduced risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and poor kidney function.

The vegan diet eliminates all animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy, and bee products. It is important to use substitutes in order to get adequate nutrients. Popular plant-based substitutes include tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, plant milks, algae, and whole grains.

Many vegans also take supplements to ensure they are receiving enough nutrients. Getting plenty of nutrients makes it easier to stick to the vegan diet.

4. Paleo Diet

This diet strives to eliminate processed foods and instead focus on the whole foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. The idea is to avoid obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle diseases.

Paleo is a somewhat flexible diet that many people adjust to suit their own needs. The main concern is excluding sugar, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed foods. Basically, don’t eat anything that was made in a factory. Oh, and paleo allows you to indulge in small amounts of red wine and dark chocolate.

5. Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is highly recommended by experts and is backed by numerous studies. It is meant to imitate the dietary habit of Italians, Greeks, and other Mediterranean people in the 1960s. This diet is conducive to weight loss and longer life, preventing heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.

Essentially, the Mediterranean diet centers on healthy plant foods along with fish and seafood. It eliminates refined grains, processed foods, added sugars, and trans fats. Fortunately, this diet is relatively easy to follow if you eat out regularly. Just choose fish or seafood from the menu and ask them to fry it in olive oil. 

6. Bulletproof Diet

The Bulletproof Diet is popularized by Dave Asprey, the father of biohacking. He used to weigh 300 pounds but now uses this diet to feel bulletproof.

This is a cyclical keto diet that combines 5-6 days of keto with 1-2 days of carb refeed days that are meant to mitigate the possible long-term side effects of ketosis (constipation and kidney stones).

This diet incorporates Bulletproof Coffee for breakfast every morning, a popular product meant to suppress hunger and improve mental clarity, as well as intermittent fasting. The goals of the Bulletproof Diet are to burn fat, curb cravings, and increase energy. 

7. Whole30 Diet

Are you looking for a temporary diet that will help you determine which foods your body can’t tolerate? If so, Whole30 might be the diet for you. It’s a 30-day program that eliminates foods and then reintroduces them one at a time. These problematic foods might be causing issues in mood, sleep, digestion, energy, focus, and pain.

Whole30 consists of vegetables, fruits, seafood, unprocessed meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and black coffee. As you can see, you’ll be eliminating a lot of foods…and in the process you’ll discover which foods are the culprits behind your health issues.

8. Gluten-Free Diet

While this diet is most commonly used by people who suffer from celiac or other medical conditions associated with gluten, it has also been adopted by people who wish to lose weight. If you think you might have celiac disease, you can do a blood test to determine whether you have the antibodies.

For this diet, you need to avoid all wheat, barley, rye, spelt, durum, kamut, semolina, triticale, malt, and brewer’s yeast. That means no bread, pasta, beer, soy sauce, or cereal.

Fortunately, there are many gluten-free substitutes available. If your goal is to lose weight, however, it’s best to avoid processed substitutes such as cakes, pastries, and snacks.

9. Dairy-Free Diet

Like the gluten-free diet, the dairy-free diet is often adopted by people who are lactose intolerant. Even if your body is able to handle lactose, there are several benefits you can get from this diet, including weight loss, digestive health, clear skin, and increased energy.

The dairy-free diet gets rid of milk and milk products. Thankfully, there are many delicious substitutes out there including almond milk, hemp yogurt, cashew cheese, nut butter, and coconut milk ice cream. Again, if your goal is to lose weight, it’s best to avoid many of these substitutes.

10. Continuous Glucose Monitor

This is not a diet but rather a tool to help you personalize your diet to suit your own body. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) shows you which foods spike your glucose so you can avoid eating too much of those foods. Although it is most often used by diabetics and pre-diabetics, it has benefits for others as well.

A CGM offers personalized nutrition information and the ability to improve your blood sugar. Choose your CGM and then implant it using microneedles. Don’t worry, this doesn’t feel like a shot–just a tiny prick.

Then use an app like Levels Health to track your glucose levels. Once you discover which foods make your glucose spike, you can adapt accordingly and level up your health.