A nutritionist has given his verdict on five of the most popular diets to reveal which ones really keep you healthy.
Kate Llewellyn-Waters, award-winning London-based nutritionist and author of The Immunity Cookbook, broke down the strengths and weaknesses of vegan, keto, paleo, alkaline and Mediterranean diets.
They are all among the most ‘hash-labeled’ diets on Instagram, according to cake company Jack and Beyond, giving an indication of how popular they are.
In a talk with FEMAIL, Kate explained why Mediterranean diets live up to the hype – and why keto is best avoided …
The keto – or ketogenic – diet is a diet low in carbohydrates, sufficient in protein and high in fat. Due to the limited carbohydrate intake, the diet causes the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates, via a process called ‘ketosis’.
The keto diet, which had the most Instagram hashtags, is a high-fat diet where followers risk eating too much red meat and processed foods, the nutritionist said.
Kate Llewellyn-Waters told FEMAIL: ‘The keto diet is a high-fat diet that is very low in carbohydrates and avoids numerous nutritious foods such as whole grains, legumes and certain fruits.’
Kate Llewellyn-Waters is an award-winning nutritionist and author of The Immunity Cookbook
She said there is some positive research that highlights the benefits of adopting a ketogenic diet to help manage diabetes and reduce insulin resistance.
However, it is not universally popular and some find it too restrictive.
She explained: ‘One of the biggest concerns regarding this diet is that many people who follow this plan tend to eat too much red meat and processed foods while limiting healthy vegetables and fruits.
“While the diet is very restrictive and can be difficult to maintain in the long run for most individuals, the keto diet works for some people.
‘But a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition showed that the keto diet was particularly unsafe for those with kidney disease, women who could become pregnant or pregnant.
‘The researchers also found that diet could lead to long-term health conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s or cancer for most individuals.’
Also known as the ‘caveman diet’, the basic premise of paleo is that if a food was not eaten by cavemen, then you should not eat it either. Supporters ditch food like cereals, beans, legumes and dairy products.
Instead, they focus on eating large amounts of unprocessed meat, fish, eggs and limited amounts of fruits and vegetables and seeds and nuts.
The Paleo diet, often referred to as the ‘caveman’ diet, is. based on the premise that if a food was not eaten by cavemen, then you should not eat it either
According to Kate: ‘Since this is a high protein diet with lots of fiber from vegetables and fruits, you should feel quite full and satiated, but due to the exclusion of certain foods such as dairy products and whole grains, it can be too restrictive . and difficult to maintain in the long run for many individuals.
Due to the lack of dairy products, you also need to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet – canned sardines or salmon (any canned fish with bones), dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens are good alternatives to dairy products when looking to increase your calcium intake.
In addition, keep an eye on your intake of protein and saturated fat, as these can often be consumed well above the recommended levels when you follow this diet, which can increase the risk of heart disease, kidney problems and certain cancers.
“But,” she concluded, “several studies suggest that this diet may lead to significant weight loss and improvements in health.”
Veganism is a philosophy that rejects the use of animals. Vegans do not eat animals or their secretions (including milk, eggs and honey), and do not use animal products such as wool.
Those who only follow the diet component are considered ‘plant-based’ rather than vegans. However, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
The vegan diet (or plant-based diet) excludes all animal products, according to Kate it can be ‘healthy, nutritionally adequate and sustainable’
Kate said: ‘The vegan diet eliminates all animal foods including eggs and dairy products and the focus is on plant-based eating.
‘As it is a high fiber diet due to the high intake of whole grains and vegetables, it can be very filling and filling as well as low calorie which can help people to lose weight.
‘In addition to fiber, vegetables are also loaded with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (powerful plant compounds), which can be very beneficial to health.
“As long as a vegan diet is well-planned and adequate protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids included, the vegan diet can be healthy, nutritionally adequate and sustainable.”
The alkaline diet is based on the premise that your diet affects the pH level (acidity or alkalinity) of your body – an idea that is disputed by some.
The diet groups foods into three categories; acidic (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains, alcohol), neutral: natural (fat, starch and sugar) and alkaline (fruits, nuts, legumes and vegetables). Supporters are supposed to focus the majority of their intake on alkaline foods.
The alkaline diet focuses on eating a high intake of vegetables, fruits and healthy plant foods while avoiding processed foods
Kate said: ‘This diet is quite healthy as the focus is on eating a high intake of vegetables, fruits and healthy plant foods while avoiding processed foods. Most people when consuming these healthy types of foods, compared to highly processed foods, will lose weight as you will most likely consume fewer calories.
But the belief that diet promotes the health of the general population because of its alkalizing effect has not been confirmed by any reliable, large-scale human studies.
‘The alkaline diet can benefit health and help with weight loss because it is based on whole foods and avoids processed foods but there is no reliable data indicating that it has anything to do with pH levels.
“This is basically a type of plant-based diet that contains limited processed foods, and plant-based diets with low-refined sugar intake have been shown to have many health benefits, including weight loss.”
While the Mediterranean diet may vary by region, it is generally considered to be high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It is usually low in meat and dairy products.
Kate described the Mediterranean diet as ‘very balanced’, with a good amount of fiber and a low amount of processed foods
According to Kate: ‘The Mediterranean diet is very balanced nutritionally and includes lots of different foods, which is key, as diversity is very important for intestinal health and overall health.
‘It’s an eating style and not a regimented, rule-oriented’ diet ‘, which means there are no exact guidelines for portion sizes or recommendations for daily energy intake.
‘However, weight loss can occur after this diet as you reduce your intake of processed foods, which are often very high in sugar, fat, chemical additives as well as calories, and increase your intake of highly nutritious wholefoods that are packed with nutrients such as vitamins , minerals and fibers.
‘Fiber is often overlooked but is very important as it helps us feel full, making us less likely to reach out for sugary snacks between meals.
“It also benefits our gut health significantly, which has been linked to improved weight loss results.”