Diet Types 101

Updated: Jul 10

Healthy eating is a complex topic, and many types of diets have been created to help people be healthy. This article will talk about 6 major diet types

  1. Standard American diet

  2. Paleo diet

  3. Ketogenic diet

  4. Vegan diet

  5. Elimination diet

  6. Medical Medium diet

The Standard American Diet is extremely unhealthy. Paleo and ketogenic diets were invented to reduce obesity and improve overall health. The vegan diet has been around for a long time, and it’s focused on overall health, as well as ethics and the environment. The elimination diet and Medical Medium diet are focused specifically for treating illness.

Standard American Diet

If someone in North America has not researched food and consciously tried to make healthy choices, then chances are, they are eating the Standard American Diet. This diet is full of

  • Processed foods

  • Sugar

  • Salt

  • Refined carbohydrates

  • Saturated and trans fats

  • Fast food and junk food

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These foods are addictive and have little nutritional value. Pretty much all health professionals agree that the Standard American Diet is horrible for our health. People who eat the Standard American Diet become at risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, digestion problems, and high blood pressure. These foods increase inflammation in the body, which is literally physical stress.

The Standard American Diet brings with it the standard American diseases. For example, the American government forced Native American tribes to stop their hunter gather lifestyles by the 1890s. The government then gave them lots of processed foods. As a result, obesity and diabetes became a big problem for those tribes, whereas it had never been a problem before.

Paleo Diet

The paleo diet is based on foods similar to what humans probably ate during the Paleolithic era, which happened around 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. This diet is full of

  • Lean meats and fish

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Nuts and seeds

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These are all foods that humans obtained through hunting and gathering. The paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago, such as dairy, grains, and legumes. The diet also emphasizes drinking plenty of water and being physically active every day.

The rationale behind this diet is that humans have spent millions of years adapting to the hunter gather diet, and the human body has not genetically adapted to foods that came after farming. This mismatch is believed to be a contributing factor to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease today.

Some studies have shown that the paleo diet may help people have a healthy weight and stay healthy, but there aren’t any long-term studies yet.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet (keto diet) emphasizes high-fat foods and severely restricts carbohydrates. In fact, 60%-80% of your calories should be from fats on this diet.

This diet is full of foods like nuts, seeds, and dairy, with smaller amounts of meats, eggs, and fish. Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and low in sugar, such as leafy greens and berries, are also allowed.

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This diet is used by many people to lose weight and to lose body fat. The rationale for this diet is that when the body doesn’t get carbohydrates, it will shift to use fats as the main energy source. Instead of using glucose, the body uses fatty acids to create energy. This process is called ketosis, hence the name ketogenic diet. However, it can a few days or even weeks for the body to get into ketosis. Furthermore, eating too much protein can also interfere with ketosis.

According to a Harvard Health article, whether or not the keto diet works for weight loss in the long-term is still uncertain. The keto diet also has many risks, such as

  • Nutrient deficiency due to lack of vegetables, fruits, and grains

  • Liver problems due to too much fat

  • Constipation due to lack of fiber

  • Fuzzy thinking and mood swings due to lack of sugar; the brain functions on glucose

Harvard Health advises trying the keto diet as an experiment because the diet is very strict and hard to do correctly, and it carries many risks.

Vegan Diet

Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, honey leather, fur, and down (similar to feathers). Vegans eat a diet full of

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Legumes, beans, lentils

  • Plant-based proteins such as tofu, tempeh, and seitan

  • Plant-based milk such as soy milk, almond milk, and cashew milk

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Increasingly, more and more people are going vegan for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. From an ethical perspective, the way humans factory farm chicken, cows, pigs, and fish is completely inhumane. Any quick internet search will reveal the torture that these animals are put through. From an environmental perspective, factory farming is one of the biggest contributors to environmental pollution. These factories dump toxic waste into the soil, water, and air. From a health perspective, factory farmed meat is full of unhealthy hormones that have been injected into the animal to make them grow big and fat in an abnormally short time. When killed, these animals’ bodies are also full of stress hormones. When humans eat the meat, the also eat these harmful hormones.

Vegetarianism is similar to veganism, but it is less strict. Vegetarians don’t eat meat and fish, but they do use animal related products, such as eggs, dairy, honey, leather, fur, and down. Vegetarianism is a great stepping stone to veganism for those who are trying to be more ethical, environmental, and healthy.

According to Healthline, the vegan diet has many health benefits. First, it has proven to be very effective at helping people lose weight, even in comparison to a whole foods diet. Second, it helps regulate blood sugar, which reduces the risk of developing diabetes. Third it reduces bad cholesterol in the blood, which improves heart health.

While causality is not certain, vegan diets are also linked to other benefits such as

  • Lower cancer risk

  • Less pain and stiffness in joints for arthritis patients

  • Better kidney function

  • Lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease

According Harvard Health, “A mostly plant-based diet could prevent approximately 11 million deaths per year globally, and could sustainably produce enough food for the planet’s growing population without further damage to the environment.” Furthermore, it is appropriate for all ages, and a properly planned vegan and vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may prevent certain diseases. They need to plan

  • Protein: tofu, seitan, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds, plant milk

  • Healthy fats: olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocadoes

  • Calcium: tofu, Chinese cabbage, leafy greens, fortified plant milk

  • Iodine: seaweed, sea salt

  • Vitamin B12*: fortified plant milk or supplement

*In his book, Liver Rescue, The Medical Medium explains that pretty much everyone is deficient in Vitamin B12, whether they are animal-based or plant-based. The reason is that our bodies can’t actually use the B12 from meat. Instead, the liver produces the B12 our body needs, and to do that, it needs elevated biotics. Elevated biotics come from organic, raw, unwashed (or lightly washed) produce like cucumbers and leafy greens straight from the garden.

An important point to mention for the vegan diet is that there are still vegan junk food and vegan processed foods, such as potato chips, French fries, and white bread. To stay healthy, vegans need to avoid processed and junk foods and eat more nutrient rich foods.