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7 Popular Diets Explained

Strategies for optimizing yourself!

At some point in their life, most people will have been on a diet for one reason or another. Though hardly a new concept, as the spread of information, becomes easier, so too does the spread of various diets and the buzz around them. When you see a friend at the gym, and they just seem to have fat melting off their bodies, chances are good they'll be hip to explain their new way of eating.

Despite the drudgery associated with dieting, the thrill of starting a new way of eating coupled with the solid science behind these modern diets can really make adherence exciting and straightforward. The best part of all of this is that these diets seem to work and work well, which can explain their popularity.

With that said, however, there's often some confusion about what sets each of these diets apart from one another. Where does paleo stop and the hCG diet begin? What foods are "keto" and what requires you to steer clear? Here are seven popular diets, laid out plainly so you can choose what makes the most sense for you and your lifestyle.

The Paleo Diet

Stripping out the all the highly processed foods that have popped up since the 1950s, paleo brings eating back to our paleolithic ancestors' way of eating. This means lots of meat, eggs, fibrous vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit. Gone are grains, processed food of all kinds, and most dairy.

Paleo works because you don't really lose variety, just a minor amount of convenience that packaged food provides. In exchange, you get easy weight loss and better health, which is a pretty fair trade.

The Keto Diet

Ketosis is the metabolic state in which your body burns fat for fuel, transforming stored adipose tissue into ketones in the liver. Ketosis itself occurs when blood glucose is low for a prolonged period and is an adaptive mechanism for when food is scarce. While any diet sufficiently low in carbs will trigger ketosis, the keto diet is a specific way of eating that completely eschews most carbs to trigger ketosis intentionally. Keto adherents eat a lot of fat from healthy sources: things like coconut oil, butter, and red meat which are traditionally avoided on other diets are staples of the keto diet. Typically keto dieters keep their carbs between 20-50 grams a day at maximum.

Keto works because when your body is in ketosis, it breaks down stored body fat for energy. It also helps improve insulin resistance, a key hallmark of metabolic disease and diabetes. Just improving insulin resistance slightly can make weight loss significantly easier, and keto is a fantastic way to do that.

The HCG diet

One of the newer diets on this list is the hCG diet. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone secreted during pregnancy, and studies indicate that it can aid weight loss if taken as a supplement. The adherent follows a rigorous, very low-calorie diet for eight weeks. During that time, HCG can be taken in injections or diet drops, curbing appetite and boosting fat loss, sometimes as much as a pound a day. The diet itself has a limited list of foods that can be eaten, and it also restricts your eating time to 2 meals per day. Each of the two meals must include a protein, a bread, a fruit, and one vegetable.

Though calorie intake is low, nutrition density is high on the hCG diet, and this is why it works. The hCG supplementation, combined with the intermittent fasting aspect of the diet helps keep hunger at bay and makes adherence easier.

The Vegan Diet

Vegetarianism is the restriction of dietary intake to non-meat products. Veganism takes that restriction to the next level, entirely omitting all animal products, including honey, eggs, and dairy products of all kinds. People follow a vegan diet for many reasons ranging from religious to health to animal welfare, but it is a healthy way of eating.

Veganism works because, well, it really does drastically improve the health of most people who adhere to its restrictions. In addition, most people following a vegan diet have secondary beliefs that can be stronger than even the health or weight loss aspects of the diet.

Intermittent Fasting

Gaining popularity in almost all circles recently is the consideration of fasting as a therapeutic treatment for metabolic and weight problems. Fasting has been shown to help reduce insulin resistance and fasted blood sugar. In addition, as insulin goes down, so does hunger, which further helps fat loss. A typical intermittent faster might stop eating at 8 p.m. and not eat again until noon the next day, creating a 16-hour fasting window.

Fasting is easy to stick with because it down-regulates your hunger and provides exceptional mental clarity during the fasted period. It also induces a mild state of ketosis in most individuals, which also aids in fat loss.

The Atkins Diet

Dr. Atkins' book came out in the 1970s, and it was successful, but with its re-release in the late 1990s, it launched the Atkins diet into the mainstream. Essentially a low carb, high protein diet, Atkins is similar to keto, though the latter is low carb, high fat, moderate protein. Atkins focuses on keeping your carbs around 20g or less a day, but not worrying about calories, instead of eating until you're sated.

Atkins is so successful simply because it's straightforward to stick with and still lose weight. Imagine being told you can have steak and salads every day and still lose weight!

Anti-Inflammatory Diets

These diets started out as something exclusively for those who have illnesses or complications that cause inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and others, but has recently become more and more popular with those who just want to feel better in general. The basis of the diet is that there are many foods our society tends to eat that cause inflammation and discomfort within our bodies. Some of those inflammations are minor, and some people react less to them, but those who have gone on the diet swear by it and say that it makes them feel better in general. Foods to eat are generally raw fruits and vegetables (particularly spinach, kale, broccoli, cherries, raspberries and blackberries), whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, and herbs like turmeric, and garlic. Foods not to eat are sweet things (in particular, sugar even in small doses can be highly inflammatory), anything highly processed or overly greasy. Even things like whole milk or other high fat dairy products can cause inflammation, so using low fat options will help. Doctors often say that you should cut out all added sugars, including agave and honey for a proper anti-inflammatory diet.

Many ways of eating out there can help you lose weight (when supplemented with a good exercise program), and there's definitely a right diet for everyone. Finding the one that works for you might take trial and error, but going in with some upfront knowledge can be a key to success!

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