March is National Nutrition Month. We've been taking a look at popular nutrition plans to see what following them involves, along with their pros and cons. Click here to read Part 1 about Whole 30, Keto, and intermittent fasting. Now, we're diving into learning more about Paleo, Mediterranean, and plant based diets. Remember, what is good for one person might not work for another, so we recommend consulting a doctor or nutrition professional before making significant dietary changes.
About Paleo: Sometimes referred to as the Caveman or Stone-Age diet, the Paleo diet promotes eating foods that were available during the Paleolithic era. These are foods that could be obtained by hunting and gathering, including lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago, like dairy products, legumes and grains. These limitations are based on the thought that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with farming practices. Weight loss is common because of limited food choices, and the higher intake of protein and fats may keep you satiated between meals.
What can you eat? Lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs, fruits, vegetables, olive and coconut oil, and small amounts of raw honey.
What can you not eat? Grains, cereals, dairy, beans, potatoes, legumes, alcohol, coffee, salt, vegetable and canola oils, and most processed foods.
Pros and cons: Along with weight loss, Paleo dieters may feel fuller due to increased protein, get more iron due to additional red meat, and enjoy anti-inflammatory benefits from the nutrients in fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds. On the other hand, this diet can be expensive due to the higher cost of red meats and seafood.
About Mediterranean: This heart-healthy diet incorporates many foods associated with the regions near the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this way of eating continues to top the charts for reducing the risk of heart disease as well as cancer, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's diseases. As of 2018, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.
What can you eat? This is primarily a diet geared toward plant-based eating. It should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Healthy fats, like olive and avocado oils, replace butter and other animal fats. Fish should be also be a regular part of your diet. Dry red wine can also be recommended, but is limited to 5 oz daily.
What not to eat? You don’t have to cut red meat out completely, but it should be limited to no more than a few times a month. Skip the salt and season your meals with herbs and spices instead. Avoid high-fat dairy products and stick with low-fat products such as skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.
Pros and cons: Most fat in the Mediterranean diet is from monounsaturated fat, which is known for reducing heart disease. Other benefits include the high concentration of inflammation-fighting antioxidants because of the emphasis on fruit and vegetables, and lower sodium intake due to the reduction of processed foods. This diet may not be for you if having specific calorie or serving size guidelines is important to you. The emphasis on seafood can make this one of the more expensive diets.
About Plant Based: This is another diet that can be good for your heart, according to Harvard Medical School. A plant-based diet focuses on minimally processed foods--specifically plants--and is effective at stimulating weight loss and improving health. This way of eating is not necessarily vegan or vegetarian, since followers eat mostly plants, but animal products aren’t off limits.
What can you eat? Whole plants such as grains, nuts and fruits. This includes starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits and Omega 3 sources. Meat is a choice--small amounts of eggs, poultry, seafood, meat or dairy are allowed. Locally sourced, organic food is encouraged whenever possible.
What can you not eat? Dairy, added fats, refined flours, and any foods with added sugars (i.e. candy bars) are discouraged. Processed and artificial foods are also off-limits because they can be high in sugar, sodium, trans fats, and preservatives. Sodas, fruit juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, and blended coffee and tea drinks are also not recommended.
Pros and cons: Plant-based diets are low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol, making them heart healthy. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, so along with lowering body weight and decreasing inflammation, they can lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a number of cancers. Disadvantages of a plant based diet are that it can take time to fully adapt to a drastic change in eating habits, you’ll need to prepare most of your food by yourself to avoid processed ingredients, and you may require supplements to meet all of your vitamin needs.
Remember, a healthy lifestyle is a balance of positive food relationships and healthy activity that fits your body’s needs. If you’re looking to add more physical activity to your daily routine, California Family Fitness is committed to help you and your family have fun while getting fit. In our 20 Sacramento area gyms we offer convenient, clean locations, state-of-the-art equipment, personal training, programs, and fun activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. Always consult with a healthcare provider before embarking on significant changes to your lifestyle--including nutrition and/or exercise—to make sure that any changes you make will be beneficial and safe for your individual health needs.
Read Sorting Through Nutrition Trends Part 1 HERE.