Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and Vegan… What are they and how do I start?
We love that culture is starting to see the importance of what we put in our bodies. More and more people are choosing Chipotle over McDonalds and whole foods over junk food. However, it can be really hard to tell what each diet is actually for and what is the best for you.
We’re sure you’ve all at least heard of the Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and Vegan diets, but do you know exactly what they are, how to use them, and potential side effects? To help you start living a healthier lifestyle in the long term, we’ve given you an easy guide on what these infamous diets are, and help you start thinking about your food choices today.
Keto: This diet might sound like the opposite of eating healthy (+ losing weight)- but, there is science behind the keto diet, and it can work really well for different health conditions and body types.
What it is (science): Essentially, the ketogenic (full name) diet is a low-carb, high-fat intake, and is very similar to Atkins and low-carb diets. Drastically lowering your carbohydrate consumption and replacing it with fats puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis. After a while, your body becomes efficient at burning fat for energy, and in turn, supplies energy for the brain. This diet can massively reduce insulin and blood sugar levels.
What it is (application): 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Typical foods to eat are meats, fatty fish, butter and cream, cheese, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb veggies. A typical day could look like this:
Breakfast: Egg, tomato, basil and goat cheese omelet.
Lunch: Chicken salad with olive oil and feta cheese.
Dinner: Salmon and asparagus cooked in butter.
What it’s for: The keto diet is not just for people trying to lose weight, but for children or adults struggling with diseases. People with metabolic, neurological, or insulin related diseases such as epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer have seen positive results from using this diet. Studies have also shown that people lose 2-3x more weight on a keto diet vs calorie restriction.
Potential side effects: Avoid these foods on a keto diet: sugary foods, grains, fruits, beans, root vegetables, unhealthy fats, alcohol… any food high in carbs or sugar can give you poor energy and mental function. The “keto flu” is not uncommon and the effects are increased hunger, difficulty sleeping, low exercise performance, nausea, and digestive discomfort. This can happen if you suddenly eliminate or decrease carbohydrates. Try a low-carb diet for a few weeks before you start keto, and increase your intake in minerals. Make sure you are eating until you are full and not restricting calories!
Recipe: Check out the most yummy “crack chicken” if you’re looking to start your keto diet today!
Paleo: Also known as the caveman diet, the paleo diet is based on similar foods consumed during the Paleolithic era. The Paleo diet avoids processes and farm raised foods due to a belief that humans were not made to ingest these kinds of foods.
What it is (science): The diet claims that people are genetically mismatched for the ways that humans eat based on the introduction of farming. This idea is known as the discordance hypothesis. It is known to improve metabolic health because the quality in macronutrients is increased (not necessarily the amount).
What it is (application): This diet typically includes lean meats, vegetables, fish, fruits, seeds, and nuts--any food that could have been obtained by hunting and gathering. This limits any foods that became common with farming like dairy, legumes, and grains. A typical day looks like:
Breakfast: Tomato toast and fried egg.
Lunch: Broiled lean pork loin and romaine, carrot, cucumber, tomato, walnut, and lemon juice dressing.
Dinner: Lean beef sirloin tip roast, steamed broccoli, salad, and strawberries.
*It’s also important to drink lots of water and be physically active every day.*
What it’s for: Rather than primarily dieting to lose weight, the Paleo diet aims to return humans to a way of eating that their bodies were designed for. The Paleo diet then, is a much more holistic diet with the intention of overall improvement in health.
Potential side effects: Make sure you are avoiding processed foods, and foods like legumes, grains, refined sugar, potatoes, or salt. Because of the avoidance of legumes, whole grains, and dairy products it is important to find and consume foods high in fiber, vitamins, calcium, and proteins. You may be able to experience most of the benefits of eating Paleo through a more balanced diet and exercise.
Recipe: Try these yummy sheet pan chicken fajitas to see if the Paleo diet is for you!
Whole30: Even if you don’t technically know what it is, you’ve probably heard of the Whole30. This is different than your typical diet because it does not start out as a lifelong commitment. This diet is only for 30 days and is very similar to going Paleo. But. It’s only 30 days.
What it is (science): The Whole30 is essentially a science experiment on yourself where you eliminate “unnatural foods” (think Paleo), see how you respond, and slowly add the foods back into your diet. The point of it is to find the diet that best works with you.
What it is (application): During the Whole30, you eliminate many foods from your diet including grains, sugars, legumes, peanuts, dairy, alcohol, added sugar, carrageenan, sulfites, MSG, and junk foods. A typical day looks like:
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with salsa and avocado.
Lunch: Curried chicken salad.
Dinner: Chili (no beans).
What it’s for: If you have digestive issues, leaky gut syndrome, or think you have food allergies, this diet could be for you. The Whole30 helps you figure out what is difficult for your body to digest and what your body likes. While it’s not a long-term diet, it can help you figure out what long term diet is best for you.
Potential side effects: Not all experts agree that this diet is healthy because of its extreme nature, and it’s not uncommon for people who follow this diet to end up with nutritional deficiencies. Also, because the Whole30 is heavy on eating meat, it can damage your microbiome--the lining in your stomach the helps gut health and burns fat.
Recipe: Try this chili without beans to make it Whole30 friendly.
Vegan: Veganism is different than most diets, because it doesn’t only have to do with losing weight + being healthy. Oftentimes, people go vegan for a third reason… compassion for animals. The idea of killing an animal + using its products sounds self-serving and cruel. Veganism, therefore, is eating nothing derived from animal products.
What it is (science): One other big reason that people go vegan is because of environmental concerns. Agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all of transportation. Raising livestock also requires much more land, water, and energy then producing grain. Vegans believe that, for a variety of reasons, humans do not have sufficient genetics to digest and process animal products.
What it is (application): Veganism is a plant-based diet that avoids eating all animal products. This not only includes meat, but also things like eggs, cheese, yogurt, and milk. A typical day looks like:
Breakfast: Green monster smoothie and blueberry oatmeal waffles.
Lunch: Lemon-garlic cauliflower rice bowl.
Dinner: Grilled bean burger and homemade fries.
What it’s for: Going vegan can help reduce the risk of several major diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Many people also choose to veganism because they believe in the ethical treatment of animals; and, they recognize the environmental impacts of agriculture.
Potential side effects: Research shows that many people who practice veganism have deficiencies in nutrition such as iodine, iron, zinc, taurine, vitamins A, D and B12, selenium, protein, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Some studies have shown the pescatarians (vegetarians who eat meat) tend to be the healthiest of the three groups. If you decide to go vegan, make sure that you focus on eating these things: soy & rice beverages for B-12, soy milk, tofu, and tahini for calcium, orange juice and a supplement for vitamin D, flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts, and soy for fatty acids, and whole grains + legumes for zinc. If you do decide to go vegan, it is very important that you know what your body needs so you are eating a sufficient diet.
Changing your diet is not an easy step. It doesn’t only affect what you eat, but how you socialize, sleep, feel, look… changing your diet changes your lifestyle.
Have you gone Keto, Paleo, or Vegan? Have you tried the Whole30? Let us know your experiences, thoughts, and questions in the comments below!