Every diet now seems to have scientific evidence to back it up and there are many, sometimes conflicting diets to choose from. You may be thinking that they can’t all be right but in reality, every body is different. You may have to find what works for you through trial and error. Below are a few diets that have gained popularity in recent years, what they really are and a quick explanation of why they may or may not work.

Vegan

Vegans do not eat any animal products, including honey. For many, it is more than just a diet it is a lifestyle that extends to the avoidance of all animal products like leather and beeswax as well. Some nutritionists have touted substantial health benefits of a vegan low calorie, high nutrient diet.

Why it might work

Proponents of this diet for health reasons support it for the high nutrient to calorie ratio. When used correctly you can lose weight due to the calorie deficiency while maintaining higher energy because your body will still have all the nutrients needed to function optimally. This kind of diet tends to be high in fiber because of the large amounts of green, leafy foods that are recommended. This can help you feel fuller even though you’re eating less.

Why it’s flawed

Veganism is a strict diet and the benefits of this lifestyle will only last as long as you maintain it. You also have to plan your diet to make sure you get all the nutrients you need. You can’t just become a vegan and then eat all the vegan cookies you want from that fancy bakery down the street. You have to focus on nuts, berries and all sorts of dark green vegetables to make it work.

Paleo

The rationale behind Paleo is to go back to our nutritional “roots” and eat only what pre-historic humans had access to. The foundation of a Paleo diet is typically high in protein and fiber and low in carbs. Followers of this diet avoid any food that emerged as a product of agriculture (e.g. fatty meat from farm animals, processed foods, cereal grains and dairy).

Why it might work

The Paleo diet cuts out a lot of problem foods like refined sugars and other sources of empty calories. Like veganism it tends to be rich in nutrients and fiber, low in calories which can aid weight loss as long as you keep it up!

Why it’s flawed

The logic behind Paleo has been contested by many scientists for different reasons. First and foremost, we may not know enough about these Paleolithic people to have an accurate picture of what their diet really looked like. Second, the Paleo diet insists that humans have not yet adapted to modern agricultural foods but that has been proven not entirely true by things like the inclusion of dairy into the diet of societies who began herding cattle.

Gluten Free

The prevalence of the gluten free diet in recent years has been a lifesaver (literally!) for people who suffer from celiac disease. This is a rare disease where a person’s immune system is triggered by eating gluten which will eventually cause inflammation and damage to their intestines. For others, gluten can simply make them uncomfortable, causing a range of symptoms that result from an allergic reaction.

Why it might work

Gluten does not cause weight gain in a healthy individual but a lot of foods that contain gluten like cake and white bread sure do. If you substitute gluten containing foods with whole grains like rice, barley and oats you may be on your way to a healthier diet. If you’ve noticed that eating food with gluten causes gas, headaches or other strange symptoms you may want to try avoiding it or getting an allergy test that includes gluten sensitivity.

Why it’s flawed

There are plenty of gluten free options that are just as bad, if not worse than the options with gluten in them. If you eat a gluten free pizza, your crust doesn’t have fewer calories. Gluten free options can be made with refined potato or corn flour that doesn’t really offer any more nutrients either. Of course anyone following the news has heard that gluten sensitivity is not as common as scientists once thought. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist but it also means that you may be avoiding perfectly good foods like whole grain bread options unnecessarily.

Any successful diet requires some planning which may be helpful in maintaining the habit. For those of us who have trouble putting in that kind of work, these diets tend to follow the common advice we’ve been hearing since childhood: Eat your vegetables, avoid refined sugars and too many processed foods. In the end, whatever you can stick to consistently that works for you is most likely the right choice.

Kristy Brannon

Kristy Brannon is a freelance writer who is always trying to make time in her busy schedule for better health. She is a yoga and running enthusiast and enjoys reading about the science behind how our bodies work. Kristy loves to cook and likes changing a classic recipe into a healthier option. She hopes to continue improving on herself with exercise and... Read More

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