There are so many different types of diets, it can be hard to keep up. Nowadays, there seems to be a new trendy diet every other month, and they are promoted as being the healthiest or best diet for reducing your carbon footprint. The sheer amount of popular diet names can make it quite confusing for those interested in either losing weight or gaining muscle. So, which of these types of diets is the best one for you?
Before deciding on which diet is the “best,” there are many factors one needs to take into consideration. From your body type to your metabolism to even your psychological and philosophical make up, what is considered the best diet for one person may not be suitable for you at all. We’ve developed this guide to help you get to know these different types of diets to see which one can best fit your lifestyle and help you reach your nutrition goals.
The carnivore diet
Unlike a herbivore, who only consumes plant-based products, the term carnivore refers to any organism who primarily consumes meat or animal products. Thus, following the carnivore diet means consuming solely animal products (i.e., cutting out vegetables, fruits, grains, processed foods, etc.)
Since most animal products tend to be low in carbohydrates and high in fat, those doing the keto diet often incorporate foods from this diet to allow them to enter into ketosis, which is when the body burns fat for energy instead of glucose.
The carnivore diet can help with increasing your nutrient density and reducing chronic inflammation that is caused by consuming processed foods. It is also a suitable diet for diabetic patients since the carnivore diet follows a low-carb rule.
However, there are some significant dangers to this diet as well. Being restricted to only animal products, the carnivore diet tends to be high in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Saturated fat raises bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease. However, recent studies do not seem to suggest there to be any link between saturated fat and heart disease risk. Consuming excessive sodium can increase blood pressure and the risk of kidney disease and is also known to cause bloating issues in some cases.
This diet also misses out on beneficial vitamins, fiber and minerals that are present in most fruits and vegetables. Thus, it is often advised that avid meat consumers incorporate some vegetables and fruits for a more well-balanced diet, meaning you become an omnivore (someone who consumes both animal and plant-based products).
The vegetarian diet
Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from all foods that are byproducts of animal slaughter. This includes all red meat, poultry, pork, seafood and fish products. Aside from the health benefits, many people go vegetarian as a stance on animal rights and believe meat consumption is a form of animal cruelty.
There are many forms of the vegetarian diet, depending on their various restrictions and allowances. A lacto-ovo vegetarian diet allows for dairy products such as eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. A lacto-vegetarian diet allows for dairy products and restricts eggs, while an ovo-vegetarian diet does not allow for any dairy products but allows for eggs.
Vegetarian diets do possess many health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing the risk of certain types of cancer (like colon cancer) and enhancing weight loss. However, a vegetarian diet does fall short of providing certain nutrients which are primarily found in animal foods like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, zinc and iron. Therefore, those on a vegetarian diet may take supplements to fulfill their vitamin and micronutrients requirements to avoid symptoms like fatigue, bone loss, anemia or thyroid issues.
The vegan diet
A vegan diet is a vegetarian diet, except no dairy products are allowed. This diet restricts the consumption of all animal-based products. The vegan diet is a more restrictive form of vegetarianism, and as such can be quite difficult for those who are used to not having to think twice before purchasing food at the supermarket. Many people may also wonder how difficult it will be to get sufficient protein while on a vegan diet.
Most vegans apply these restrictions throughout their lifestyle, meaning abstaining from all animal products like leather, furs, animal-tested beauty products, honey and more. If an animal was used at any stage of the production of a product, it won’t qualify as vegan.
The paleo diet
Also referred to as the “cave man diet,” this trendy diet has garnered popularity due to its extreme restrictions. The gist of the paleo diet is to emulate what humans in ancient times used to eat, specifically early hunter-gatherers during the Paleolithic era. This includes a mixture of fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs and grass-fed meats.
You may think that doesn’t sound too restrictive. However, the paleo diet does restrict you from eating all processed foods, dairy products and grains. The best way to remember what is allowed in the paleo diet is to think if an early hunter-gatherer would be able to source that food in nature and eat it. Avid believers of the paleo diet believe that the advancement of food technology (i.e., GMOs and processed foods) means that modern foods aren’t digestible by our bodies and can cause chronic inflammation, digestion issues and allergies.
The paleo diet is a more well balanced diet to follow since it isn’t as restrictive as the carnivore diet. However, diabetic patients may find the carnivore diet more apt for them since the paleo diet does allow for a higher carb intake, meaning space for sugary fruits like watermelon, mangoes, grapes and more.
The pollotarian diet
Someone on the pollotarian diet is primarily a vegetarian but consumes poultry products as their source of meat. The most common poultry foods are chicken, duck and turkey. Those following the pollotarian diet may do it as a step toward transitioning into a vegetarian or as a way to avoid the damage that red meat has on our bodies and the environment.
Like with all of the other vegetarian-related diets, the pollotarian diet has the same benefits and drawbacks that a vegetarian diet does. However, the concern for animal welfare is less prioritized in a pollotarian diet than with something like a vegan diet.
The pescatarian diet
This is essentially the same as the pollotarian diet, except that instead of consuming poultry products, a pescatarian allows for fish products instead. A pescatarian diet is largely a plant-based diet, but uses fish products as their main source of protein. There are also those who follow a “pollo-pescatarian diet,” meaning they allow for both fish and poultry products but eliminate red meat and pork entirely.
The flexitarian diet
Also known as a semi-vegetarian diet, a flexitarian is someone who follows a vegetarian diet for the most part, however will occasionally indulge in animal products either for social purposes or to satisfy certain cravings. This diet is quite attractive for the masses due to being less restrictive than other vegetarian diet plans. This is your off-again-on-again vegetarian diet, where the occasional hamburger won’t rock the boat as long as it’s not a major component of your daily eating habits.
The fruitarian diet
The fruitarian diet is an extreme version of the vegan diet, whereby people primarily consume fruits. Vegetables, nuts and seeds are allowed in moderation, however other types of vegan foods like legumes and grains are completely eliminated.
While fruits provide many nutritional benefits like sufficient fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, maintaining a diet which consists primarily of fruits can be dangerous and lead to malnourishment issues due to the absence of protein, fat, calcium, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
The malnourishment risk of a fruitarian diet may send your body into starvation mode, meaning your metabolism will slow down and conserve energy by tapping into other fuel sources. Also, most fruits tend to be high in sugar, making this a poor diet for those with diabetes. For these reasons, a fruitarian diet is discouraged.
So, which of these types of diets is best for you?
The idea of the perfect diet is a myth. Just like following a vegan diet may be suitable for you, following a pescatarian diet may be the perfect diet for someone else. To decide which is best for you, try each diet and see which one you react to the best.
Even better, consult a nutritionist to determine which foods are best suited for your body type. Whichever of these types of diets or lifestyles you choose, make sure you do your research and consult a doctor to make sure it’s safe for you.
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at firstname.lastname@example.org