• tanellewestgard

popular nutritional lifestyles

Although most "diets" have been around for a long time, there has been a surge in healthy eating in the past decade. I like to refrain from using the term diet, because eating (especially healthy eating) should be thought of as a lifestyle and not as frequent dieting. With that being said, here is my new term : nutritional lifestyles.

Often these nutritional lifestyles are mentioned without much information. I remember I pretended to know what the ketogenic diet meant for months before finally deciding to educate myself on it... (we all have our lazy moments). This is why I have decided to do the research for you and write a crash course of a few of the nutritional lifestyles I hear about most:

  • Vegan

  • Plant Based

  • Mediterranean

  • Keto

  • Paleo

  • Atkin's

  • DASH

  • Whole 30

Let's begin:


  • No intake of animal products including meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs.

  • Not only are there health benefits but also environmental benefits. Vegan eating lowers greenhouse gas emissions = a huge positive for the environment.

  • Studies are showing vegan diets are associated with weight loss, increased cardiovascular health and better blood sugar control. This includes reducing the risk of diabetes (1), atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (2).

  • Vegan diet vs HEALTHY Vegan diet. This is often a tricky concept. A poor vegan diet: bread, pasta, potatoes and sugar... a whole lot of white foods. A HEALTHY Vegan diet: colourful vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds with all our required nutrients (further explained below).


If a vegan diet is not done properly, nutritional deficiencies can occurs. These include:

  • Protein

  • B12

  • Iron

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin K

  • Omega 3 Fatty acids

  • Iodine

Some people are really good at using apps such as Cronometer to track their daily intake (I am not one of them) but it would be very beneficial when trying a new nutritional lifestyle such as this one.

Vegan vs Vegetarian: While vegans eat no animal products whatsoever, vegetarians do not eat meat but may eat animal derived products.

Plant Based:

  • Unlike vegan which has strictly no animal product consumption, plant based diets aim to lower the frequency of animal food consumption. When done right they include high amounts of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits.

  • Plant based diets have been shown to improve cardiovascular health (3).

  • They can also be used to treat and slow the progression of Chronic Kidney Disease (4).

  • Plant based diets were associated with lower insulin resistance and therefore a lower chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes (5).


  • Sounds lavish right? Well this diet is about as good as it sounds. Lots of fish, vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and healthy fats from olive oil and other sources (nuts, fish, avocados)

  • Another benefit – moderate intake of wine! One to two glasses a day for men and one glass a day for women

  • I like the title of one article: "Mediterranean diet: from a healthy diet to a sustainable dietary pattern"(6). This includes other factors such as lifestyle, nutrition, culture, people, and environment, which all act together.

What has the Mediterranean diet been shown to treat or prevent? (7,8,9,10)

  • Cardiovascular disease: decreased blood pressure & lipid profiles

  • Breast cancer

  • Depression

  • Colorectal cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Asthma

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Cognitive decline: Mediterranean diets increased cognition including memory, language, attention and more

The mediterranean diet is HEAVILY researched, including the PREDIMED study. This was a study done on thousands of people with cardiovascular health risks or diabetes. So far, the study found that by following the Mediterranean diet, participants lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease and subsequent risks by up to 30% (11). In terms of diabetes, the study showed a 50% decrease in diabetes after a 4 year follow up (11). This is HUGE - nutrition as a form of medicine.


  • Low to no carbs, with an insanely high amount of fat.

  • Some people swear by this diet, I have yet to try it.

  • What is the idea behind it? By eating primarily fat, we put ourselves in something called a ketogenic state. What this means is instead of our body using carbohydrate sources for energy, we breakdown and use fats… which form ketones. Ketones are an alternative energy source, especially for the brain. However, ketogenesis is thought to be a system that our body uses when organs are in starvation (12).

  • Usual ratio is 3:1 or 4:1 or 10% carbs, 20% protein, 70% fats (12).

  • One of its first uses was to treat epileptic patients and prevent seizures (12).

  • This diet is controversial however as there are health risks associated with it, including higher cholesterol (13).

  • Although more and more research is coming out, there is still a lot more that can be done on the ketogenic diet.

Paleo (Paleolithic Diet):

  • This diet is based off of our ancestors and what they could “hunt and gather”. Back to when there was no food processing or meat and dairy industries. Back when what you could grab with your own fingertips was what you could eat : fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meat. This excludes foods such as grains, dairy, legumes, sugar or anything processed.

  • The main indication for this diet is that our bodies are not able to digest the highly processed foods that accompany a modern diet (14).

Here is some research:

  • One study found that after 10 days on this diet, blood pressure was reduced along with total cholesterol (15).

  • The paleo diet may improve insulin sensitivity in those with Type II Diabetes, a great benefit (16).

  • Weight loss: biochemical markers involved in weight loss improved with this diet as well as satiety levels meaning this diet kept people full for longer (17,18).

As with all diets, this one has to be done properly. More specifically, eating a variety of foods to ensure you are meeting the requirements of vitamins and minerals.

Atkins Diet:

  • Another diet that is very similar to both Keto and Paleo in which you limit your carbohydrate intake while eating much more protein and fat.

  • Dr. Robert C. Atkins wrote a book regarding this diet and it became a best-seller. This book came out in 1972 and was controversial due to the diet’s higher than most fat content. Now in 2020, the keto diet puts this one to shame in the fat category.

  • 4 different phases in which you begin by severely restricting carbs and end by reintroducing them to a level your body can handle (19).

  • The benefits of the Atkins diet can be seen as the same as any of the other low carb diets such as Paleo or Keto.

  • There is now a modified Atkins diet that is being researched for its ability to treat Epilepsy, just like Keto (20).

Other mentionable diets:

The Whole 30:

  • This is an elimination style diet that cuts out foods such as : Soy, dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes and sugar additives.

  • The 30 stands for the 30 straight days in which this diet takes place

Dash Diet:

  • Aimed to lower blood pressure.

  • Rich in vegetables, fruit and low fat dairy while low in total fat and cholesterol.

  • Studies have shown it is effective in reducing blood pressure, especially when followed alongside a low sodium diet as well (21).

I hope you learned a few new things about these nutritional lifestyles xo


1. Olfert, M. D., & Wattick, R. A. (2018). Vegetarian diets and the risk of diabetes. Current diabetes reports, 18(11), 101.

2. Kahleova, H., Levin, S., & Barnard, N. D. (2018). Vegetarian dietary patterns and cardiovascular disease. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 61(1), 54-61.

3. Satija, A., & Hu, F. B. (2018). Plant-based diets and cardiovascular health. Trends in cardiovascular medicine, 28(7), 437-441.

4. Rose, S. D., & Strombom, A. J. (2019). A plant-based diet prevents and treats chronic kidney disease. Urology & Nephrology, 6(3).

5. Chen, Z., Zuurmond, M. G., van der Schaft, N., Nano, J., Wijnhoven, H. A. H., Ikram, M. A., ... & Voortman, T. (2018). Plant versus animal based diets and insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes: the Rotterdam Study. European journal of epidemiology, 33(9), 883-893.

6. Widmer, R. J., Flammer, A. J., Lerman, L. O., & Lerman, A. (2015). The Mediterranean diet, its components, and cardiovascular disease. The American journal of medicine, 128(3), 229-238.

7. Dernini, S., & Berry, E. M. (2015). Mediterranean diet: from a healthy diet to a sustainable dietary pattern. Frontiers in nutrition, 2, 15.

8. Martínez-González, M. A., Salas-Salvadó, J., Estruch, R., Corella, D., Fitó, M., Ros, E., & Predimed Investigators. (2015). Benefits of the Mediterranean diet: insights from the PREDIMED study. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 58(1), 50-60.

9. Valls-Pedret, C., Sala-Vila, A., Serra-Mir, M., Corella, D., De la Torre, R., Martínez-González, M. Á., ... & Estruch, R. (2015). Mediterranean diet and age-related cognitive decline: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA internal medicine, 175(7), 1094-1103.

10. Schwingshackl, L., Schwedhelm, C., Galbete, C., & Hoffmann, G. (2017). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of cancer: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 9(10), 1063.

11. Ros, E., Martínez-González, M. A., Estruch, R., Salas-Salvadó, J., Fitó, M., Martínez, J. A., & Corella, D. (2014). Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular health: Teachings of the PREDIMED study. Advances in nutrition, 5(3), 330S-336S.

12. Hartman, A. L., & Vining, E. P. (2007). Clinical aspects of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia, 48(1), 31-42.

13. O'Neill, B., & Raggi, P. (2019). The ketogenic diet: Pros and cons. Atherosclerosis.

14. Spence, C. (2018). Paleo vs a Ketogenic Lifestyle. Differences.

15. Frassetto, L. A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris Jr, R. C., & Sebastian, A. (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European journal of clinical nutrition, 63(8), 947.

16. Pitt, C. E. (2016). Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Palaeolithic diet. Australian family physician, 45(1/2), 35.

17. Markofski, M. M., Dolan, C. T., Davies, N. A., Ryan, E. J., & Carrillo, A. E. (2017). BDNF decreases in response to an 8-week “Paleo” diet intervention. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 66, e38.

18. Jones, M. (2017). Post-Dinner Satiety with the Paleolithic Diet Compared to Usual Diet.

19. Healthline. 2020. The Atkins Diet: Everything You Need To Know. Accessed online:

20. Kossoff, E. H., & Dorward, J. L. (2008). The modified Atkins diet. Epilepsia, 49, 37-41.

21. Sacks, F. M., Svetkey, L. P., Vollmer, W. M., Appel, L. J., Bray, G. A., Harsha, D., ... & Karanja, N. (2001). Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. New England journal of medicine, 344(1), 3-10.

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