Which Diet is Best for Me?
Which Diet is Best for Me?
Which diet do I follow?
Before we discuss which diet is right for you, let’s revisit the basic building blocks. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy utilization in the body. Carbohydrates come in different forms, and each cause a different physiologic response within the body. Many plant based carbohydrates also serve as a great source of dietary fiber. Fats are essential for us to build and rebuild cells that make up our tissues. Fats can also serve as a backbone for the formation of natural antibodies and hormones. Proteins can be used as a physiologic signal in the body, in addition to providing a building block for muscle. Vitamins and minerals serve to assist many of the physiologic processes in the body, like maintaining calcium in our bones and helping to build new blood cells.
When we apply this to trying to choose a diet, this often times can lead to a great deal of confusion. There seem to be a million different diets out there, and a million different opinions differing about which to follow. While a comprehensive review would take time well beyond what we have here, let’s review some of the more common diets out there.
Plant-based diet – This is not the same as a vegetarian diet, although the core of this diet is based on eating foods that comes from plant sources. Lots of fruits and vegetables. Many people who follow a diet like this continue to add a meat based protein source, such as chicken, fish, pork, or even lean cuts of red meat. However, the vast majority of calories come from fruits, nuts, vegetables and legumes. The Mediterranean diet is an example of a plant-based diet, and there is quite a bit of science that supports this type of diet to treat and prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Vegetarian diets – a true vegetarian does not eat meat, but many still eat foods containing eggs and dairy (known as lacto-ovo vegetarians). The majority of the diet is plant-based, and some attention has to be taken to get good sources of protein. Vegan diets exclude any animal products, and therefore also have to add a source of vitamin B12 to their diet. For those of you in a mixed house, there are companies that make meat replacement products you can use in place of a meat when cooking.
Low Carb and Ketogenic diets – although not exactly the same, these diets are similar. They are limited the amount of carbohydrates in the diet and differ in the amount of proteins and fat. The idea here is these diets is by not having carbohydrates available, the physiology of your body shifts to using alternative energy sources. Without carbs the body can shift to making energy from proteins or to transform fats into ketones. While these diets have shown promise with weight loss, improvement in diabetes, and reduction in cholesterol, there is not much evidence for improvement in cardiovascular disease. Also, ‘restriction’ type diets can be hard to maintain long-term. ‘Paleo’ and ‘Atkins’ diets are derivatives of a low carb or ketogenic diets. With what we currently know, I would recommend working with a lifestyle physician or nutritionist if you want to follow a diet like this.
In the last several years, we are learning quite a bit about ‘food genomics’ or the idea that our genetics and the bacterial biome in our gut significantly impact the way our nutrition affects each of us. There are companies that can test the biome of the gut, the results of which have already led to advances in treating diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. There has been research in ‘inflammatory diets’ and ongoing research in applying nutritional changes to treatment for dementia. We are learning that diet is becoming an individualized prescription, much like some of us respond to medications and some of us don’t. While advances in science and research in this area will aid us in one day individualizing this method of treatment, right now your unique nutrition prescription is best accomplished with a personalized program like MDVIP, where your intake can be tracked, and changes can be made according to the repeat results of blood work and body composition.
By Dr. Ross Osborn