Paleo? Low-Carb? High Fiber? Low Glycemic Index? Vegan? Mediterranean? Ketogenic? Like most Americans, we find commitment hard. But, on any given day, for any given meal, we might dabble with any of the choices above. And when focusing on optimal diets for prevention or treatment of diabetes, we have to ask what is truly sustainable when it comes to food preparation on a daily basis. The American Diabetes Association traditionally suggests a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in ‘good’ monounsaturated fats with carbs from whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, and dairy if you are not vegan. However, each of the diets mentioned above can be tailored to help live a healthy lifestyle. But which one do you choose? Each diet is unique in how they value types of foods, servings, and portion sizes. Here are some of the basics with each diet:
- Paleo – Grass-fed animals for meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils (such as avocado, coconut, olive, walnut, macadamia, and flaxseed).
- Low-Carb – Natural fats (butter and olive oil), meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and vegetables that grow above ground (such as peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, etc.)
- High Fiber – Fruits (raspberries, pears, apples, etc.), vegetables (artichokes, green peas, and broccoli), whole grains (spaghetti, barley, and oatmeal), legumes (split peas, lentils, and black beans), and nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios, and pecans).
- Low Glycemic Index — Soy products (soy milk, tofu, and miso), beans, fruits, milk, pasta, grainy bread, and lentils.
- Vegan – Plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. The vegan diet involves cutting out animal-based products, which not only includes meats, but also eggs, milk, etc.
- Mediterranean – Primarily plant-based foods, healthy fats (olive and canola oil), herbs and spices (instead of salt), decreasing intake of red meat, fish and poultry, and the occasional glass of red wine.
- Ketogenic – Meats (fish, beef, lamb, poultry), eggs, leafy greens, above ground vegetables, high fat dairy, nuts and seeds, avocado and berries, low-carb sweeteners, and healthy fats.
Now that we have the basics down, again we must ask: Which one do we choose? Over the years, dietary guidelines constantly change as new research surfaces. Some diets emphasize calorie count while others urge quality food intake. Current research shows that a mixture of both quality and quantity control is optimal for achieving better health and goal weight. Additionally, a support system is key when trying to lose weight. People who will support you or join your journey will motivate you to stay on the healthy path. As mentioned above, the American Diabetes Association suggests a Mediterranean-style diet, which is, thankfully, not as restricting as other diets. But, whichever diet you choose, just remember to balance out calories, quality of food, as well as exercise. Those three pillars will assist your journey to better health and help smooth out some of the bumps along the way.