If you ever want to find a ton of contradictory information and self-proclaimed experts acting like there’s a one-size-fits-all solution, just bring up the topic of diet and nutrition. This is one area where people are so wildly misinformed, yet so willing to share their opinions as fact.
You can’t really blame them, though. The information out there about what’s healthy to eat and what’s bad has changed so much over the years.
We’re Being Fed a lot of Lies When it Comes to Nutrition
We’ve got the media reporting salacious headlines on any new research studies that come out, who often fail to understand or accurately report about what the studies mean. On top of that, the studies aren’t always all that concrete to begin with, so when you have outlets extrapolating on them to create bitesize headlines designed to capture our short attention spans, that’s the first ingredient.
We’ve also got questionable studies over the years that are mixed in, and huge corporations who don’t necessarily want us to always know the truth about what we’re eating. We’ve got lobbies for sugar companies who convinced us that fat is the worst thing you could eat.
Don’t forget, Doctors used to tell us that smoking cigarettes was healthy. That’s not a call to be skeptical of the medical community as a whole, nor of your doctor. It’s just a reminder there are some bad apples out there who have more influence than they should have, and they use it to confuse and mislead the public.
On top of that, there are snake-oil salesmen and people looking to further twist the data and numbers in order to try to sell you on the latest, greatest miracle diet.
Mix all of that together, and it’s not a recipe for a healthy, happy lifestyle; it’s a recipe for corporate profits at the cost of an informed public.
As we look over some of the controversial diets that have come and gone over the years, and some that have been around forever and are still here, there’s one key thing we want you to keep in mind. Everybody reacts differently to putting different things into their body. Some people have allergies or sensitivities to certain foods. Some people will feel their best on a diet that makes someone else feel their worst.
What to do With all of That Information…
What’s the take away from that? You’ve got to listen to your body. If you aren’t happy with your body, and you’re looking to make some changes, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting and seeing how you react. Food is a good place to start.
It’s still good to read and understand studies (and to know how to spot the bad ones), but nutrition is such a complex topic that even the so-called experts only have so much research and data to work with.
The Ketogenic Diet
Keto has gotten a lot of traction, and it’s very controversial. People who were brought up believing that fat is the worst thing you can eat are absolutely disgusted at the idea of a high-fat diet where you can eat as much meat and cheese as you want and still lose weight at a rapid rate.
The Keto Diet aims to have you eating protein and fat, and avoiding nearly all carbohydrates, including sugars. People usually aim to stay under 20-30 grams of carbs per day. There is an adjustment period known as “keto flu” where some people feel a little under the weather for the first few days, but staying well hydrated and taking extra electrolytes can help mitigate that a great deal.
The goal here is to enter into a state of ketosis, where your body stops burning sugars and carbs for quick fuel, and starts to draw from your fat reserves.
The Paleo Diet
This diet is based on ways of eating that have been around forever, but it started to gain notoriety as The Paleo Diet sometime in the 1970’s. There are a lot of incredible health benefits that have been claimed, and while there has been some research, more is needed. Having said that, it comes back to our golden rule: If you try it out, and you feel great, and your health numbers are all in check, then you’ve found something that works for you.
There is some initial research that shows benefits for weight loss and correction of metabolic dysfunction, and many people who eat this way swear by it.
The Paleo Diet involves cutting out parts of the “modern” diet, in an effort to eat more like our ancestors. It involves eating a lot of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit and avoiding processed foods. The idea is that the current rates of obesity, people feeling lethargic, and diet-based illnesses come from refined sugars, processed foods, and other modern dietary phenomena.
The Atkins Diet
The Atkins Diet is similar to keto at the beginning, but as you continue with Atkins you end up adding more carbs into the diet, making it a little easier for some people to maintain (but more difficult for others.) If you’re addicted to carbs and have a hard time cutting them out, then having none (or next to none) can actually be easier than having a moderate amount.
The Atkins Diet has been around for a long time, and it has always been controversial. There has been research that suggests the high-protein aspect of the diet can be damaging for our kidneys, but proponents of Keto and Atkins would say that ultra high-protein intake isn’t a necessary aspect of the diet to begin with.
Vegetarian & Vegan Diets
One of the common misconceptions here is that you can’t get enough protein to perform athletically if you don’t eat meat. There are numerous world-class athletes who have disproven that. For the regular person, who isn’t a performance athlete, you can easily get your day’s worth of protein from plants.
Even the most dedicated of carnivores can understand that the way our factory farming systems are setup is not very sustainable, it’s not ideal for the animals, and it doesn’t result in the highest quality meat. The amount of water that’s wasted to produce meat products is worrying, and the pollution sent into the atmosphere from the animals.
Whether it has to do with health reasons, moral and ethical reasons, or just a personal preference because you feel better not eating meat, this is generally regarded as a healthy way of eating as long as you’re getting enough of the essentials.
The Mediterranean Diet
Here’s another diet based on the way people ate many, many years ago. This way of eating was discussed by Hippocrates, who is the Father of Western Medicine, and has been quoted as saying: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” (source).
This way of eating involves eating greens, grains, and nuts while limiting red meat and sweet treats, and eating a moderate amount of fish. It differs from the Keto and Paleo ways of eating by bringing in grains, and placing greater limits on meat.
Caloric Restriction Diets
Proponents of these diets recommend varying degrees of caloric restriction and perhaps the most controversial of all is the hCG Diet. Not only do you have the extreme restriction of just 500 calories per day, add to that the use of a hormone primarily recognized for its role in pregnancy.
To further compound this controversy, although the diet was the brain child of respected Dr Albert T. Simeons in the 1950’s, it was made popular in recent years by convicted conman Kevin Trudeau. The hCG Diet is now offered online and in clinics all over America, despite limited scientific support.
There are a number of more controversial diets too that don’t even warrant being discussed in-depth, like the cotton ball diet that involves eating cotton balls in an attempt to curb hunger, or the lemonade diet. With the most controversial examples such as those, you’re going to be missing out on essential nutrients and starving your body of things that it needs to survive, and they aren’t viable options for anybody.
We’re looking more into the grey areas, where it can be hit or miss. One person might excel and feel amazing on any of these diets, lose a ton of weight, and hit energy levels they’ve never experienced before – whereas someone else may not feel well on it at all.
That’s why it always comes back to having an open mind, experimenting, and paying close attention to how your body reacts and ensuring that you’re hitting the correct nutritional macros.