Nutrition & Recipes

A Dietitian Breaks Down 4 Popular Diets


Many of you may be focused on healthy weight management at the end of the year. With the seemingly endless string of fad diets, differing “expert” opinions, and conflicting information out there, it can be hard to grasp why some styles of eating come highly recommended by dietitians. The following is a breakdown of four popular diets as explained by a dietitian.


What it is:

A true plant-based diet usually means vegan, which eliminates all animal products and focuses solely on food derived from plant sources. Vegetarianism is a less-exclusive alternative that includes some animal products such as honey, dairy, and eggs—but no meat.

There are others who take a more blended approach, combining mostly plant-based foods with some animal proteins. Flexitarians allow themselves a little meat either on an as-craved basis or for health reasons. Reducetarians take a conscious approach to mindfully reducing the amount of meat and animal products they consume. Chegans—vegans who cheat—mostly stay in the realm of strictly plant-based foods, but don’t beat themselves up if they stray once in awhile.

The health breakdown:

Some research shows that eating a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and assist in weight management. Diets rich in plant foods are generally packed with fiber, which can help you feel satiated longer, so you’re less inclined to snack between meals. They’re also rich in vitamins, minerals, and good fats. And if you’re well nourished, you’ll keep cravings at bay.


What it is:

A pescatarian diet is plant-based with the inclusion of some animal products, such as dairy and eggs, in addition to a healthy dose of seafood.

The health breakdown:

Fish is a great source of protein, which supports satiety. One of the key health-promoting components of a pescatarian diet is the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Studies have found that consuming foods rich in omega-3s can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory disorders.

In addition, data suggests that older adults whose diets include regular fish consumption live longer and have less chronic disease than populations that do not. Fish is also a great source of high-quality protein; a good source of B, A, and D vitamins; and a valuable source of calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, and selenium. Saltwater fish also provides iodine.


What it is:

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, fresh seafood, herbs and spices, dairy products, lean meats, heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, and, of course, wine in moderation.

The health breakdown:

This diet is full of foods that are ideal for weight management: protein-rich seafood, lean meats and legumes, fiber-packed produce and grains, and the occasional glass of wine makes minding your weight downright enjoyable.

The Mediterranean diet is linked with numerous health benefits. Researchers have found that those following this eating pattern not only experience reduced risk of heart disease and greater longevity, but also healthier weight and blood pressure. They also have a lower risk of diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, and cognitive diseases, including Alzheimer’s.


What it is:

The paleo diet focuses mostly on grass-fed meat, seafood, healthy fats, and organic vegetables and fruits. Eating paleo means no grains, no dairy, no starchy vegetables, and no refined sugar or other processed foods.

The health breakdown:

Rich in protein and good fats, the paleo diet helps you feel full throughout the day so you’re not reaching for unhealthy snacks between meal times. High intake of protein and fiber helps keep blood sugar stable. Many on the paleo diet find that their cravings for sugar and processed foods simply fade away the longer they avoid them, which means it’s easier to stick to. Although the Paleo diet has a lot of potential to yield healthy results, it does introduce a few potential risks, including an increased risk of kidney and heart disease, certain cancers, and deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, which are critical to bone health.

When considering healthy eating and weight management, there’s no one way. Consider what foods you like and listen to what your body craves. Of course, diet alone won’t make you lose weight; be sure to get plenty of exercise, too.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

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