Which Diet Is The Best?
That is a tough question. Let’s think about that. Perhaps it’s not the right question to ask. Instead of asking, “Which diet is the best?”, we should be asking,
“Which diet is the best FOR ME?”
Even that question is questionable. We can add on, “Which diet is the best FOR ME for weight loss, menopause, pregnancy, mental health, etc.?”
The point is that asking a vague question like, “Which diet is the best?” is hard to answer and if you encounter someone who will answer that question without answering that question with more questions, then I’d walk away. Be wary of professionals who are fixated on one “diet plan” or one “protocol” as an answer to everything.
There are professionals who think that a Keto Diet is the answer to everything from Diabetes to weight loss and Keto can do no wrong.
If Keto didn’t work for you, those same professionals will say that you didn’t’ do it right. I’m not saying that Keto is bad or wrong. It can be helpful at certain times for certain people. Work with to figure out why it worked or didn’t work for you.
Diet may change over time depending on your goals and your stage of life. For example, if you’re a female, then you have to consider your hormones including menstruation and if you are going through perimenopause and menopause. Some may even need to ask themselves, “Which diet is the best for me THIS WEEK?”
Another example of a need to reassess your diet is if you’re still growing (infant, child, teen, pregnant, lactating) where you may need more nutrition, or if you are more mature in age and need to think about maintaining or building muscle and reassessing digestion.
Your goal may be more temporary such as a diet to support injury recovery or to support surgery recovery and success rather than a diet to help with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension or a diet for autoimmune disease.
Diet needs may change as you change and as your health goals change too.
What I’ve noticed and experienced as a seasoned Registered Dietitian:
Your diet is your foundation to health. If you have a variety of foods that is full of clean, minimally processed real foods, you have a good start.
What I mean by this is to eat foods that are actually grown from the Earth – vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Have these foods as your staple. We don’t add enough herbs these days. Vegetables, fruits and herbs provide your diet with more fiber and antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
That is the basics to start.
Having clean animal protein in your diet will depend on your goal, your stage in life, and your current health condition. That’s true for every food and diet – What is your goal? What is your stage in life? What is your current health condition? Of course, there’ are always more questions to ask, like “What is your socio-economic situation like?” “What is your support structure like?”
You get the drift…so many questions to answer one question but this is what must be done to truly answer the original question.
Eat a variety of clean, organic, minimally processed, real foods to start.
Here’s my take on some of these “tools”. Remember, this is just my general observation and experience. This is not to diagnose anyone or to treat anyone either.
If this is what you are doing already and it is not working for you, then I can help you.
Basically, a Keto Diet is diet consisting mostly of fat, low in carbohydrates, and also moderate in protein (15% of total calories). In my professional experience with my client population, I find that people who do well with a Keto diet are young men in their 20-40’s who are basically healthy. Also, some obese men, and some obese women may do well short term.
Of course, people who have epilepsy may do well with a therapeutic ketogenic diet and the diet was originally meant for people with epilepsy and it is noted and noticed that there was weight loss. However, being on a Keto diet long term may affect growth and so far, we don’t know how this will affect your gut microbiome in the long run.
I find that those who do not do well on a Keto diet are people who have issues with stress, cortisol, hormonal imbalanced, and thyroid issues. It may also not be appropriate for those who are too frail or for the elderly.
Those who have an issue absorbing fat and protein may not do well on a Keto Diet either.
A Paleo Diet is a diet consisting mostly of lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables including some root vegetables, and nuts. The premise is whatever a hunter and gatherer might find to eat. People who do well on the Paleo Diet are most people especially those who eat a Standard American Diet and will be eliminating a lot of refined and packaged foods, excess sugar and bad oils.
Those that find it hard to do a Paleo Diet are those with digestion or absorption issues (I guess that’s true for any of these “diets”), especially if you have an issue with absorbing fat and protein. If you have liver, pancreas, bile, gut or kidney issues, then I would caution against a Paleo Diet since those organs are needed to be in tip top shape to be able to break down fat and protein.
Also, if you have cancer, then I would be cautious of eating a diet high in animal protein.
Low Fat Diet
Those who do well on a Low Fat Diet could be most people. Typically, a Low Fat Diet is a diet that is not more than 30% of total calories from fat but die-hard low fat eaters may go as low as 10%.
Those who may not do well are those who need more than 30% of total calories from fat to feel satiated because they’ll just always feel unsatisfied. Those who are already lean and underweight, or who have issues with sex hormone imbalances, low cholesterol or those who were tested and showed low in fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D, may not do well either because your body needs a certain amount of fat for optimal health.
Anyone eating a vegan diet will need to ensure certain vitamins and minerals are met. If you are a plant based vegan diet and it’s working for you, then great. It is possible to be a vegan who eats refined carbs and packaged foods – “carbatarian” – and be devoid of many nutrients and, if fact, eating a Standard American Diet. Eating an unhealthy vegan diet may mean you not only are devoid of certain vitamins and minerals but also not getting enough protein. This can be detrimental especially if you have a family history of mental disorders.
Most people could benefit from fasting at certain times and it is practiced in many cultures and religions.
Who may not benefit from fasting are those who are underweight, who have hypothyroid or cortisol issues or trying to get pregnant or lactating because that’s just more stress on the body.
This is not meant to be medical advice and everyone is different but if you want professional help to figure out a personalized nutrition plan for you, then I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist – I can help you.
Again, this is just a generalization. I always take into account lab values, medical history, socio-economic history, family history, signs and symptoms, and a Nutrition Focused Physical Exam before assessment. There is no “one diet fits all”.
Don’t feel like you have to pick the “perfect” diet either. This is a process and sometimes we just have to try something and then take note why it did or didn’t work and keep moving on.
Once you feel like a “diet” is working for you, then look at how healthy it is and how sustainable it is. This is really important because you want food to help optimize your health and you want a “diet” that you know will no longer be a “diet” but just a way of eating. Sure, you may have lost 30 pounds on a Low-Calorie diet or maybe lowered your blood glucose and insulin with a Keto Diet but if it’s ALL willpower and you can’t imagine doing this for the rest of your life, then it’s not sustainable or realistic.
I hope this was helpful. If you need more help, I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who can help you.
Get a free Discovery call with me.
Onki Chan, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian (Nutritionist).
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