Best Diet Plan
Which diet or nutrition plan is the best for you?
This is the question I will try to answer for you in this article. The answer depends on what your particular health and fitness goals are and at what stage of life you are in. First, let me tell you my story:
When I was a teenager I ate terrible garbage food and had no concern for eating healthy whatsoever. Endless processed foods and fast food washed down with Coca-Cola and candy bars for dessert. I lived with my grandparents and my grandmother did her best to feed me what she believed was a healthy diet. We ate a variety of foods that most people would consider the Standard American Diet. She also tried to keep me from eating to much junk food and drinking sodas which I resisted, of course. I ate a lot of dairy foods and drank large amounts of whole milk because my family believed this to be healthy and I liked it. I later discovered this was the main cause of my acne problem when I was a teenager.
When I was in my Twenties, I eventually became interested in Fitness and going to the gym. I was interested in healthy eating but I wanted to be big and eat tons of protein to build my muscles and get huge. I started chugging down lots of whey protein shakes and mass gainers and eating tons of food so I could support muscle growth. The High Protein Diet worked. I got big.
When I was in my Thirties, my focus shifted a lot and I became more interested in what I thought was healthier eating. I was a bodybuilder but I wanted to be lean and ripped and have defined muscles. I decided that all processed foods, dairy products and sugars should be banished and that Organic was the answer. I still ate tons of meat all day long but was certain that focusing on natural and organic foods and products would keep me healthy and free from the chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes. I was a believer in the Paleo Diet and studied holistic health and natural cures.
Now in my Forties, my focus has shifted again. I still love strength training and coaching people in the gym but for my own workouts lately I prefer more functional training, bodyweight exercises and endurance activities like running and cycling. I am less concerned with the appearance of my physique and more concerned with disease prevention through healthier diet and lifestyle choices. Recently, I have been enjoying the energy levels from a Plant Based Diet with a focus on leafy greens, vegetables, fruits,nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.
What I found for myself is that I have held certain beliefs about what was the truth about healthy eating through my life. When I wanted to reinforce what I already believed I would go out and find books or watch documentaries that supported my beliefs. I have found this to be true for most people and health and nutrition is an incredibly complex and controversial topic.
This is largely due to the large amount of Big Agribusiness commercial interest that has entered into our mainstream nutrition education and trusted media sources. There are advantages and disadvantages to all the different popular diets or "nutrition belief systems". I would like to outline some of these advantages and disadvantages of what I consider to be the most respected popular diets today and let you decide which one suits you for your health and fitness goals and stage of your life.
Diet/Nutrition Belief System:
High Protein/Low Carb Diets- Probably the most popular Nutrition Belief System today in it's various forms.
Examples: Bodybuilder's/Fitness Diet, The Paleo Diet, South Beach, Atkins Diet.
Advantages- Easy for a lot of people to follow. Meat is delicious. Some people can achieve quick initial weight loss. Bodybuilder's or Fitness Diet can be very effective for body fat reduction when calories and macronutrients are measured and when combined with a strength training program.
Disadvantages- High Intake of Animal Products may raise the risk of cancer and heart disease over the long term. Some forms of the diet suggest that people avoid healthy foods like whole grains and fruits. Without counting calories most people will not reduce body fat or lose weight long term.
Low Fat Diet- Popular in the 80's this Diet has fallen out of favor today.
Advantages- Lowering dietary fat has been proven to reduce and even reverse heart disease, the original reason for the popularity of this diet.
Disadvantages- The original belief was that even healthy natural whole foods like avocados, nuts and seeds should be eliminated or reduced. Many people increase their consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates leading to weight gain.
Mediterranean Diet- This Nutrition Belief System, popularized in the 90's got people chugging down Olive Oil.
Advantages- Many people have good results with this diet which focuses on eating vegetables, olive oil and fish and modeling the traditional diet of Mediterranean Countries. This is most likely from eliminating the animal products and refined carbohydrates they were eating before.
Disadvantages- Many people have good results initially but then slip back into heavy consumption of animal products and alcohol which is part of the diet. Encourages consumption of large amounts of olive oil which can sabotage weight loss and despite many new flawed studies will not reverse heart disease. Only removing all oils and animal products can do that.
Organic and Natural Diet- Philosophy: Conventional Foods are loaded with toxins leading to weight gain and chronic health problems. Eat Organic, local and natural foods as much as possible, local grass-fed meats, free range eggs, etc.
Advantages- Eliminating GMO foods like GMO corn and soy from your diet is probably a good idea. Eliminating or Reducing pesticide residues, antibiotics and other chemicals and toxins from our food supply is a great idea for obvious reasons. This diet also encourages eliminating most processed foods and anything artificial.
Disadvantages- As troubling as pesticide residues, GMO foods and toxins in our food supply are, there is not a lot of evidence that this is making us fat or is causing health problems. The leading cause of the worst chronic diseases effecting North Americans- Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes and Obesity are clearly linked to consumption of animal products, refined carbohydrates and processed foods.
Vegetarian Diet- Most people who call themselves vegetarians still eat some animal products like dairy and eggs.
Advantages- A vegetarian diet is generally less expensive and could reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer by lowering consumption of animal products.
Disadvantages- Many people will end up eating a lot of calories from refined carbohydrates and dairy products and gain weight because they are only focused on avoiding meat.
Vegan Diet- No consumption of animal products at all. This can be for Health, Environmental , Animal Rights or all of the above.
Advantages- Avoiding all animal products could greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Veganism also has an underlying philosophy to reduce animal suffering and environmental harm to the planet. That's pretty cool in my opinion.
Disadvantages- B12 Vitamin supplementation may be necessary to avoid deficiency and many vegans still eat large amounts of plant fraction refined carbohydrate snack foods sabotaging health benefits. Veganism is controversial since you are aligning yourself with a movement that opposes Big Agribusiness and the status quo belief system of the Standard American Diet.
Plant Based, Whole Foods Diet- Avoid all animal products and processed foods even oils. Similar to Vegetarian and Vegan. This nutritional belief system comes from T. Colin Campbell author of The China Study.
Advantages- In the the words of T. Colin Campbell "The closer you get to a plant based whole foods diet the healthier you will be". As explained in the China Study and the film documentary Forks Over Knives avoiding all animal products, refined carbohydrates and processed foods could greatly reduce the risks of chronic diseases of affluence like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Disadvantages- Completely eliminating all animal products, refined carbohydrates and processed foods is a tall order for most people living in the real world. B12 supplementation will be necessary for most people.
So there you have it. My take on the the popular diets today. I hope you can take away something to help you pick the best diet plan for you that helps you to achieve your health and fitness goals.