Keto, Paleo, Plant-based, Mediterranean, Intermittent dieting, what do they all mean and is one better than the other.
The ketogenic diet (keto)
The Keto diet consists mainly of healthy fats, moderate protein and restricting carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice are eliminated in favour of lots of fresh vegetables, salad and some fruit. Starchy vegetables such as white potatoes and sweet potatoes are also avoided. The diet includes good quality lean protein such as chicken, beef, lamb, fish and vegetarian sources. Bacon and any cured meats are restricted. Healthy fats include nuts and seeds and healthy oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed, walnut oil, preferring cold-pressed oils.
How the keto diet works, is by restricting carbohydrates your body will use an alternative source for energy such as fat (ketosis).
The pros of the keto diet include lower blood glucose and insulin levels as a high carbohydrate Western-style diet has been linked to an increase in diabetes and cholesterol levels. Consuming higher fat also promotes satiety and appetite suppression thus promoting weight loss.
The cons are that it may be difficult to maintain long term. Also, if it is not followed correctly you may be consuming the wrong fats, proteins and not enough vegetables and salad.
A ketogenic diet is recommended for a minimum of 2-3 weeks and a maximum of 6-12 months. After which there should be a gradual transition to eating more wholefood carbohydrates.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet or Cavemen man diet is consuming foods that our ancient ancestors ate. These included grass-fed meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. As there was no processing, all packaged and processed foods are off-limits.
This also includes modern food such as dairy products, grains and legumes (beans, lentils
The benefits include vitamins, phytochemicals, omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and antioxidants.
The cons are it can be expensive, meal preparation can be time-consuming and if not followed properly that many people are consuming mainly meat on this diet and not enough vegetables.
The Mediterranean Diet
The traditional Mediterranean diet is primarily plant-based that includes a daily intake of whole grains, olive oil, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Animal protein is eaten in smaller quantities and the preferred animal protein is fish and seafood. Cold-pressed extra virgin oil was the principal source of fat. Fruits and very small amounts of local cheese were consumed with small amounts of red wine during the main meals.
Many people are under the impression that the Mediterranean diet is lots of pasta, pizza and red wine. The traditional Mediterranean diet focuses on food eaten around the Mediterranean Sea.
Today the composition of the traditional Mediterranean diet has changed dramatically, and the quality and quantity of the food people eat nowadays. Therefore, there has been an increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease and certain cancers in these countries.
The pros of the traditional Mediterranean diet is that it helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
Also, as it contains most food groups it is generally easier to follow.
Plant-based (vegan / vegetarian)
Vegetarians avoid eating any meat products, whereas vegans avoid eating any meat products and any animal-derived products such as dairy and eggs.
A healthy plant-based diet aims to maximize consumption of nutrient-dense plant foods while minimising processed foods, oils and animal foods (including dairy products and eggs). It encourages lots of vegetables (cooked and raw), fruits, beans, peas, lentils, soybeans, seeds and nuts.
Its benefits have been shown to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Both Vegan and Vegetarian diets are highly effective for weight loss. It has also been shown that vegetarian populations have lower rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
The cons are that a plant-based diet may be lower in protein. Essential amino acids are found in meat, dairy products and eggs. These can be obtained in a plant-based diet by combining certain plant-based foods such as brown rice and beans. Therefore, a healthy plant-based diet requires more planning and guidance from a Nutritionist or Naturopath to start with.
A plant-based diet may not have enough iron, especially for women. The iron in plants has a lower bioavailability than that in meat. Those following a plant-based diet may be vulnerable to B12 deficiency. There may also be a deficiency in essential fatty acids, especially omega 3 fats.
This is very popular and can be done a variety of different ways such as 16:8 or 5:2.
Firstly, intermittent fasting is restricting eating to certain time windows during the day or fasting on certain days of the week.
The 16:8 fast is where you eat within an 8-hour window such as between 11 am – 7 pm. Outside this window, you only drink water, black coffee or tea.
The 5:2 diet is where you eat normally for 5 days and 2 days only eat 25% of your normal calories.
The benefits of both of these include weight loss if combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The cons are that many people can’t cope with the long duration of fasting and are usually ravenous by the end of the fast.
If you want to try a fast, I suggest a late breakfast/brunch fast.
Eat a nourishing dinner combined with lean protein, healthy fats and lots of vegetables/salad by 7 pm.
Only consume water after your dinner. In the morning you can have black coffee or tea. Have breakfast/brunch at 10 am. Again include protein, healthy fats and vegetables. I recommend not fasting on consecutive days and only do it twice a week to begin with.
So which is the best diet? Firstly it doesn't need to have a name. The best way of eating is the one that nourishes you, with the maximum nutrients and fits into your lifestyle.
I believe that eating a whole food diet as close to nature as possible, reducing processed/packaged goods.
Aim to eat vegetables with every meal, with lots of colour and variety. Include healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds. Eat good quality protein such as organic or free-range and don’t b afraid to eat more vegetarian sources such as beans, lentils and tofu.
Grilled Haloumi and Kale salad with tahini dressing
This recipe is from 'The Pioppi Diet: a 21-day lifestyle plan.'
100g kale leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
30g blanched almonds
1 avocado deseeded and cut into chunks
4 spring onions thinly sliced
100g radishes thinly sliced
seeds of 1 pomegranate
2 tsp sesame seeds
For the halloumi
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
200g halloumi cut into 1cm thick slices
Tahini yoghurt dressing
100mL Greek yoghurt
1/2 a lemon, zest and juice
2tbs extra virgin olive oil
Remove the stalks from the kale and cut into bite-sized pieces. Put the leaves in a large mixing bowl, add the salt crushing between your fingers. With both hands massage the leaves with the salt for a minute or two. This will soften the kale. Add all the other ingredients, mix together and set aside.
Put the turmeric, paprika and oil into a bowl and mix well. Add the halloumi and coat well.
Turn the grill on moderate to high.
Place the halloumi on a baking sheet and place under the grill. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then turn over and cook another 3-4 minutes. Keep warm till needed.
Mix all ingredients through to make the dressing.
To serve, place salad in a large bowel, add dressing and top with halloumi.
If you have any queries, please get in contact.
1. Mohan, V., & Joshi, S. (2018). Pros & cons of some popular extreme weight-loss diets. Indian Journal Of Medical Research, 148(5), 642. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.ijmr_1793_18
2. Tosti, V., Bertozzi, B., & Fontana, L. (2017). The Journals Of Gerontology, 73(3).
3. Tuso, P. (2013). Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. The Permanente Journal, 17(2), 61-66. doi: 10.7812/tpp/12-085