Diets 101: Everything You Need to Know, From Atkins to Whole30

woman shrugging and unsure

You may have heard the latest alarming statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): 40 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are obese and 32 percent are overweight. Nearly 20 percent of kids age 5 to 19 are also obese. Those numbers are going up every year. Clearly, Americans have a weight problem. And, that’s a big problem.

Being overweight can cause myriad health issues: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, gout, kidney disease, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and reduced fertility. And, that’s just the shortlist.

Being overweight also affects your energy, stamina and mobility. It can affect your body image, employability and interpersonal relationships.

The internet is full of articles on dieting. Everyone has an opinion. You know you need to lose weight, but it’s confusing because there are so many diet options. We’ve narrowed the list down to help you get a handle on your choices.

Diets: The Big Picture

Designing a weight loss plan is best done with help from your healthcare provider or a dietician. Some diets aren’t safe for certain people. For example:

  • The ketogenic diet is high in fats, which may be dangerous if you have a family history of heart disease or stroke.
  • Don’t diet during pregnancy without consulting your Obstetrician.
  • Don’t put a child on a diet without consulting their Pediatrician.
  • If you have or are recovering from a major illness, you may have special nutritional needs that limit your dieting choices.

And consider your eating style. Are you an omnivore (you eat meat and vegetables), a vegetarian, or vegan? The Ketogenic diet may be great for meat-lovers, but nearly impossible for vegetarians and vegans because it doesn’t allow for beans. And beans are are a primary source of protein for people who don’t eat meat. If you can’t live without bread and pasta, you won’t stick to a low-carb diet.

You will also need to realistically consider other lifestyle issues. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have time to cook? If not, you will need a diet that provides prepared foods you can purchase at the grocery store. Or, you may need to hire a personal chef.
  • Do you travel a lot?
  • Do you usually eat out?
  • Do you have children whose dietary needs have to be accommodated? Do you keep kosher or halal?

These factors will influence which diet decision you make.

Popular Diets

Mediterranean Diet

This is the most respected diet, with numerous research studies showing its effectiveness and safety. You can almost think of this as eating like your grandmother did: lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, olive oil and nuts.

With the Mediterranean diet, processed foods and added sugar are avoided. Red meat is limited to once or twice a month.

Unlike many other diets, which value austerity, the Mediterranean Diet recognizes that it’s important to enjoy meals and even a good bottle of wine!

Atkins or the Ketogenic Diet

This diet allows almost no carbs and lots of fats. This will meet your needs if you eat gluten-free. You can fill up on red meat, fatty fish and eggs. But, bread, pasta, cereal, sweet, and beans are not allowed.

This is not a diet for vegetarians or vegans. It does not provide all of your nutrients and you will need to take vitamins and supplements. Additionally, many people find it hard to commit through the initial stages of overcoming cravings, brain fog, fatigue, and nausea.

Paleo Diet

In this extreme diet, you eat like our carnivore hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Processed foods aren’t allowed. Instead, you’ll eat high-quality meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and lots of vegetables and fruits. You also can’t eat any grains, legumes, processed sugar, or dairy.

As with the Atkins Diet, the extreme limitations on what you can and can’t eat can make this diet hard to follow.

Whole30 Diet

This diet was originally a 30-day cleansing diet to identify food sensitivities. You eliminate certain food groups (i.e. grains, dairy, beans) for 30 days and assess how you feel.

During the 30-day cleanse, you eat a lot of vegetables, meat, seafood, eggs, some fruit, herbs, and spices. You eat whole, unprocessed foods and avoid all processed foods, grains, sugar, dairy, legumes and alcohol. Then, you can continue to avoid those foods, or gradually add them back in.

Whole30 has a great online community, which may help you commit to this diet. If you slip up, you have to start all over again, which makes this diet very difficult to master.

Raw Food Diet

If you are not already a vegan, this is not a diet for you. The raw food diet is a vegan diet for people who believe that you should eat food in its most natural form, uncooked (raw) and unprocessed.

You will never eat meat or dairy in this diet. You will eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nut butters, seeds, raw grains, legumes and seaweed. Since raw food is uncooked, you can expect to do a lot of juicing, blending, dehydrating and sprouting legumes.

This diet is popular among cancer survivors but be careful to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

Help Getting Started With Weight Management

Dieting can seem confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Duke City Health can help you identify the best diet for you, considering your health goals and lifestyle.

If you are looking at significant weight loss, your healthcare provider can help you assess what weight loss program may be right for you.


References

CDC
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm

Medical Risks
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight

Diets
https://nutritiouslife.com/eat-empowered/whole30-healthy-benefits/
https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall

About Kristi Fury, CFNP

Kristi Fury is a certified family nurse practitioner and bio-identical hormone therapy provider. She chose Family Medicine as her specialty because it allows her to treat the whole person and to develop long-term, caring relationships with her patients.

“I have always had an interest in supporting people on their journey through health.”