POPULAR DIETS: THEIR PROS AND CONS (Ketogenic diet, Paleo diet, Atkins diet)

06.09.2023 Annely Püttsepp

The topic of diets has become increasingly popular in recent decades, and people are constantly looking for new ways to improve their health, lose weight or achieve specific health indicators. In this regard, several different popular diets have appeared on the market, all of which claim to be the best or the most effective.

In this write-up, we will focus on three different diets that have recently become widespread and gained a lot of popularity: the keto diet, the Atkins diet, and the paleo diet. Let’s take a closer look at the principles, food choices and goals of these diets and find out if these diets are as health-promoting and with positive results as they are advertised.

We will also briefly touch on fasting and cleansing courses, as they are also very popular and are said to be beneficial.

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is a way of eating based on significantly limiting carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake. Such a diet puts the human body into a state of ketosis. If there are very few carbohydrates and the blood sugar level in the body is low, fatty acids are broken down in the liver into ketone bodies, and ketosis is a state where the body uses ketone bodies to produce energy.

A ketogenic diet mainly involves eating foods that are rich in healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and -butter, and proteins, such as meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Carbohydrate sources such as sugar, cereals, potatoes, desserts and some fruits are excluded from the diet or severely limited.

The ketogenic diet was originally developed for medical purposes, primarily to treat epilepsy. Today, the ketogenic diet is popular among weight losers because the body uses fat stores for energy and it is very effective in weight loss. It has also been found that the ketogenic diet can have a positive effect in the treatment of certain health problems in addition to epilepsy, such as type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers.

Although the ketogenic diet can be very helpful for various health problems, it must be remembered that maintaining such a diet for a long time is difficult and can lead to side effects such as a strong appetite for sweets, weakness, too low blood sugar, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, etc.

The ketogenic diet is becoming increasingly popular among weight-losers and is being touted as a miracle diet that can help you achieve your ideal weight quickly. However, it should be understood that there is no miracle diet for quick and, more importantly, permanent weight loss. Weight loss primarily requires lifestyle changes. The most reasonable thing is to consult with a competent nutritional therapist or consultant, with whom you can find a suitable way to lose weight and keep it off.

It should also be kept in mind that only doctors and, in certain cases, functional nutrition therapists can put a person on a ketogenic diet. However, a nutritional therapist who has received the appropriate training can guide a person in carrying out a ketogenic diet if it has been prescribed by a doctor.

In summary, it can be said that the ketogenic diet is a therapeutic diet and should only be followed if prescribed by a doctor or a specialist. To lose weight, you need to make lifestyle changes, not follow an extreme keto diet.

What is the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet emphasizes that it is the only approach to nutrition that takes into account genetics evolved over millions of years and thus helps you enjoy a long life lean, strong and active. The motto of the diet is “eat real food”. We should eat only those foods that are available to us in nature. For example, berries, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, seeds and nuts. Anything that has been processed in any way must be discarded. This includes, for example, dairy products, cereals, legumes and, of course, prepared food. The Paleo diet’s approach to nutrition is kind of healthy, down-to-earth, and can build credibility more easily than other extreme diets.

Proponents of the Paleo diet claim that this way of eating can offer a number of health benefits, including weight loss of up to 5 kg per month, stabilization of blood sugar levels, better digestion and healthier eating habits.
What worries me about the Paleo diet are the foods that are left off the menu. These include cereals, legumes and dairy products, which are very useful for our body. In the paleo diet, carbohydrates are essentially reduced to zero. Eliminating carbohydrates from the menu will of course lead to rapid weight loss, but such a diet is definitely not healthy and is not approved by ETTA (Estonian Nutrition Therapist Association) or ETNÜ (Estonian Association of Nutrition Counseling).

Analyzing both free and paid Paleo diet menus available, the common thread is that Paleo diet menus are out of place in terms of calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, and the portion system.

In summary, it can be said that the Paleo diet definitely reduces weight, but it is not beneficial for health. Rather than focusing on one specific diet, it is wiser to try to follow a varied and balanced diet that includes a wide variety of healthy foods and can be helped by a qualified nutritionist or counselor.

What is the Atkins Diet?

The Atkins diet is the most popular four-phase high-protein diet in the world. As with the keto diet, the Atkins diet menu is high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. However, they still have a difference. Both diets restrict carbohydrate intake, but the degree of restriction may vary. Like the keto diet, the Atkins diet starts with a very low carb intake, but unlike the keto diet, it is gradually increased in each phase.

The Atkins diet emphasizes eating foods higher in protein, such as meat, poultry, and fish. A keto diet can also contain moderate amounts of protein, but the emphasis is on fat rather than protein.

The Atkins diet consists of four phases:
1. Period of restrictions (about two weeks). 20 g of carbohydrates can be consumed per day. It is allowed to eat meat and fish products, eggs, most cheeses, cream, butter, etc. You can also consume small amounts of certain vegetables that do not contain too many carbohydrates. Cereal products must be excluded.
2. In the second phase, fiber-rich vegetables are gradually added.
Phases 3 and 4 are maintenance phases. Carbohydrate intake can be increased as long as the weight does not start to increase. The condition is that the carbohydrates consumed are unprocessed and unrefined.

Proponents of the Atkins diet cite rapid weight loss, a good way to control blood sugar levels, and a greater sense of fullness and retention as positive aspects of the diet.

However, it is important to note that the Atkins diet also has its downsides. Since carbohydrates are restricted for a long time, there is a lack of fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Also, restricting carbohydrates can lead to digestive problems because fiber is severely restricted. A particularly important negative side of the diet is the high intake of saturated fat. This diet can increase the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. It is also important to point out the negative effects of the Atkins diet on the kidneys, as high protein intake increases the burden on the kidneys and can cause kidney problems.

In summary, the Atkins diet can lead to a number of negative effects. As with other diets, it is recommended to prefer a balanced and varied diet that supports long-term health and well-being.

In conclusion, popular diets are often short-term solutions that focus on quick weight loss, but do not provide sustainable results or support overall health. Instead, it is important to pay attention to a healthy diet and a complete lifestyle change. The benefits of healthy eating and lifestyle changes over diets are clear. Long-term success, better health, sustainable habits, and the freedom and enjoyment of food are just a few reasons why we should prioritize healthy choices and change our lifestyle holistically. Always consult a professional to tailor your diet to your individual needs.

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