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A Breakdown of Different Diet Types

As we jump into 2021—and work to shed the extra pounds that the stresses of 2020 left us with—so many of us are aiming to create healthy, sustainable nutritional habits. But, with tons of diet options—and some not-so-healthy diet fads—being shouted from the social media rooftops, how, exactly, do you know which diet type is right for you? Not to worry, aspiring health gurus—today, we’re breaking down all you need to know about a handful of popular diet types. Read on to find one that suits you and your New Year’s nutritional goals!

Heart Healthy Diet

A heart-healthy or “cardiac diet” is a diet type that’s centered on consuming heart-healthy nutrition, making it a great option for nearly anyone who wants to ward off the risk of future heart disease or cholesterol problems. The healthier food choices associated with this diet are great for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar—and a heart-healthy diet can even help you achieve higher, more sustained energy levels throughout the day, rather than having sugar highs and crashes.

  • This is the diet for you if: You have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, a history of heart disease, a high risk of heart disease, or a family history of heart disease. Even if you don’t have a current cholesterol problem or a history of heart disease, however, a heart-healthy diet is a great option—as heart disease is the number-one cause of death for both men and women in the United States, with diet playing a large role in this unsettling statistic.
  • What you should eat:
    • Plenty of fruits and vegetables (particularly dark, leafy greens—like spinach and kale)
    • Lots of soluble fiber (which you’ll find in oatmeal, legumes, beans, flaxseed, and berries)
    • Omega-3 fatty acids (which you’ll find in mackerel, salmon, oysters, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed, hemp hearts, and chia seeds) 
    • Heart-healthy protein (unsalted nuts, legumes, beans, poultry without the skin, unsweetened yogurt, egg whites)
  • What you should avoid:
    • Trans fats (like those you’ll find in fried foods and fatty cuts of red meat)
    • Saturated fats (butter, cheese, whole-fat dairy, fatty beef, lamb, and pork)
    • High-sodium foods (condiments, sauces, smoked meats, canned food, salted nuts, french fries, most fast-food options, etc.)
    • High-sugar foods (soda and sweetened drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, ice-cream, sweetened yogurt)
  • Keep in mind: While a heart-healthy diet can feel like a major change if you’re someone who loves fried and fast foods, there are plenty of do-able workarounds for staying heart-healthy without giving up the flavors you love. Replace pork and ground beef in meatball or hamburger recipes with lean ground turkey; broil your meats to get that desired crisp instead of pan-frying; replace white breads with whole-grain options, etc.

Ketogenic or “Keto” Diet

When it comes to diet types, the Keto diet definitely had quite a moment in 2019 and 2020—and its popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down as we enter 2021. A ketogenic diet is designed to help your body burn fat by depriving it of sugars and carbohydrates. The science behind this diet is fairly straightforward: your body normally burns carbohydrates for energy. When it doesn’t have carbs or sugars to burn, it moves on to fat sources (this is referred to as entering “ketosis”—the process that happens when your body burns fat and produces “ketones”, which it uses for fuel).  By not feeding your body sugar or carbs—and loading it up with healthy fats instead—its only source for fuel is fat, ultimately helping it burn extra body fat quickly and efficiently.

  • This is the diet for you if: You’re looking to burn fat and gain muscle definition 
  • What you should eat: Low-carbohydrate, high-in-healthy-fat foods. Things like:
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Unsweetened Greek yogurt
    • Cottage cheese
    • Eggs
    • Seafood and shellfish
    • Low-carb vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, kale, and spinach are all great options)
    • Olive oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Berries and dark chocolate when your sweet tooth is aching
  • What you should avoid: Foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugars. This includes:
    • Candies and sweets
    • Breads and pastries
    • Fruits (aside from berries)
    • Pasta
    • Rice
    • Soda and sweetened beverages
    • Juice
  • Keep in mind: Watch the types of fat you’re consuming. While it’s tempting to want to load up on bacon and bunless burgers, that’s a surefire recipe for sending your cholesterol through the roof and creating a whole new slew of health problems that are far more dangerous than those few extra pounds you’re working to shed. Aim for healthy foods that are high in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, as opposed to saturated fats: this means options like seafood, avocados, eggs, and nuts instead of fatty, processed meats (like sausage and bacon) and tons of butter and cream.

Paleo Diet

Also referred to as the “caveman” diet, Paleo (from “Paleolithic”—the era dating from 2.5 million-10,000 years ago) is a diet type based on the types of foods we believe our ancestors ate. The idea is that, by eating what we presume early humans ate—and avoiding processed foods and nutrition that comes from modern farming practices—we’re consuming nutrition that’s more in line with our genetics and therefore easier to digest and better for us overall.

  • This is the diet for you if: You’re looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight; you’re environmentally, ethically, and nutritionally comfortable with consuming a higher amount of animal proteins than the typical diet calls for; you have plenty of access to wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, and local, organic produce.
  • What you should eat: Foods that could be obtained from hunting and gathering in the past. 
    • Fish
    • Wild game
    • Grass-fed meats
    • Nuts
    • Seeds
    • Locally-sourced, organic produce
    • Oils from fruits and nuts—like coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and walnut oil 
  • What you should avoid:
    • Legumes and beans
    • Grains
    • Potatoes
    • Dairy
    • Refined sugar
    • Salt
    • Artificial dyes
    • Processed foods
  • Keep in mind: Because of its deprivation of dairy, there is some concern that a Paleo diet can lead to calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies, both of which are critical nutrients for bone health; along with the concern that those following a Paleo diet type may end up consuming a high amount of unhealthy, saturated fats. If you have bone disease or are pregnant, this likely isn’t a great choice of diet for you. If you’re concerned about consuming too many saturated fats, aim for more fish, nuts, and seeds in place of fatty cuts of red meat. 

Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet is a diet type that consists mainly of nutrition from plant-based foods, with very little animal-source foods. Unlike a vegan diet (which is characterized by eating no animal products at all), or a vegetarian diet (which is characterized by eating no animal meat, but likely eating products that come from animals, like eggs or cheese)—the plant-based diet type is all about getting your primary nutrition from plants, but not ruling out meat or dairy entirely. With this diet type, it’s all about proportions—the large majority of your nutrition on a plant-based diet will come from plants, while a very small portion of your nutrition will come from animal products.

  • This is the diet for you if: You have heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes—or are looking for a nutritional support to help you battle cancer, obesity, or brain disease. It’s also great for those who are looking to reduce their intake of meat out of a concern for the environment. Like a heart-healthy diet, a plant-based diet is generally a solid option for nearly anyone looking to simply “get healthier” and consume cleaner, more sustainable nutrition.
  • What you should eat: Plant-based protein and plant-based foods, including: 
    • Vegetables
    • Fruits
    • Legumes and beans
    • Whole grains
    • Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil
    • Olives
    • Nuts 
    • Seeds
    • Nut butters—like almond butter
    • Avocados
  • What you should avoid:
    • Refined grains (the kind you’ll find in “white” foods—like white rice, white pasta, and white breads)
    • Processed animal meats (like bacon and sausage)
    • Refined sugars (cookies, cakes, desserts, pastries)
    • Potatoes and french fries
    • High amounts of dairy and animal products
  • Keep in mind: You don’t need to avoid meat or animal products entirely with this diet type—especially as you’re first switching and getting the hang of cutting back on animal protein. Instead, reframe the way you think about meat: rather than it being a main entree, treat it as a small side dish, with sauteed or grilled vegetables and whole-grains becoming your main source of nutrition.

Overall, your best bet for finding a diet type that’s most beneficial for you is always to speak with your doctor or a trusted nutritionist before making any major changes. With the go-ahead from a professional, a clear idea of what you’re getting into, and the willpower to see your new nutritional habits through, your 2021 can be full of renewed confidence, sustained energy, and nutrition that fuels your goals, rather than fighting against them.

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Ready for more goodness? Browse the rest of the CF Nutrition blog for empowering health, wellness, and lifestyle tips. And don’t forget to give your body the best chance at a healthy New Year by hydrating with the clean, clinical replenishment of CF(Rehyrdate)® and nourishing with the powerful plant-based protein in CF(protein)®, our fan-favorite immunonutrition drink.

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