Having a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself. The foods we consume have a big effect on our physical, mental, and emotional health as well as the quality of life.
Although healthy eating is fairly simple in practice – eat fresh food, avoid processed items –  the rise of “fad” diets has caused a lot of grief for people and nutritionists alike.

The word “diet” has become associated with disordered eating, strict meal plans, weight loss when in fact, nutritionally speaking, diet is only concerned with the type of food consumed by an individual. The type of food we eat is also informed by our culture and personal dietary choices.

There’s no lack of information out there regarding diets and their uses when it comes to selecting one that works for you.
But here’s a quick look at some of the popular diets around the world, with their pros and cons. This might help you get a better idea of the risks and benefits of what each diet entails.

The Paleo Diet

Accurately called the “throwback diet”, this type of diet encourages eating the way our ancestors did during the Stone Age.
Mark Hyman, MD says in his book  that the regimen is essentially based on the idea that our bodies function best when consuming foods that existed in the Paleolithic era before modern agriculture came along, some 10,000 years ago.

This diet consists of fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs and meat.

Pros:
-You are more likely to eat a clean diet free from additives, food substitutes, and preservatives.
-Since this a high protein diet, you’ll see improvement in your muscle mass and strength
-There are anti-inflammatory benefits in the nutrients present in fruits and vegetables.

Cons:
-The food portions allowed by the diet exceed the recommended daily intake of those foods.
-The elimination of whole grains may mean a decreased intake of fiber, which is beneficial to gut health.
-The diet does not allow the consumption of legumes, which are highly beneficial to gut health and rich in magnesium

The Mediterranean Diet

This is a vegetable heavy diet that avoids meat but does not eliminate it altogether. This diet is usually recommended for people with a history of heart disease. In addition to  regulating blood sugar, it also helps in weight loss.

Pros:
-Since the diet does not promote eliminating any food groups, it makes it easy to meet your nutritional needs. 
-It promotes heart health. Many researchers believe that this nutrient dense diet is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack, and overall mortality.
-The diet helps with weight management. The many fiber rich fruits and vegetables recommended can help you feel full for longer, and thus help control your food intake.

Cons:
-Food intake may end up being low on protein especially if not enough nuts and seeds are consumed.
-Blood sugar levels may fluctuate if the incorrect carbohydrates are chosen.

The Vegan Diet

Veganism- both as a diet and a lifestyle- has grown a lot in popularity in the past decade. It’s a step above vegetarianism as it eliminates all animal and animal-based products such as meat and dairy. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has linked the adoption of a vegan diet to the decrease of almost 8.1 million animal deaths.

Pros:
-Since a vegan diet is plant-based, it’s easier to add a lot of whole foods, which are nutrient rich, to your diet such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
-It encourages mindful eating. As vegan eaters need to be conscious of their food choices, certain mindful eating habits become ingrained in their dietary lifestyle.-Many people consciously choose veganism because they feel it is better for the environment and is a more ethical way of living. A study published in 2015 in the journal Appetite found that people who chose veganism for ethical reasons tended to stick to the diet for longer than others.

Cons:
-The vegan food diet is the most restrictive of all plant-based diets. If your current diet plan is that of an average citizen, and if you were to adopt a vegan diet, then you may certainly have to eliminate a few food groups altogether. For some, this level of restriction may be too severe.
-Vegan diets are definitely healthy but researchers have found that vegan diets tend to lack calcium- required for bone formation, muscle contraction, and other essential functions. Vitamin B-12 may be another deficiency as it is primarily found in animal-based foods.

Gluten-free Diet

Gluten-free diets are recommended to people who typically suffer from gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, a condition that causes a negative reaction to gluten and results in intestinal damage. Since gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, these foods are completely eliminated from the diet.

Pros:
-If you have gluten intolerance of sensitivity, there are chances you will have inflammation of the digestive tract. Having a gluten-free diet will help reverse this inflammation.
-Since gluten is a protein found in most processed foods, they will not be a part of your daily food intake. This will lead to a healthier diet.
-This diet introduces a lot of high quality grains, such as quinoa, into your everyday diet.

Cons:
-Adopting this diet may lead to a reduced intake of carbohydrates.
-There could be a fluctuation in weight as many gluten-free foods possess higher levels of sugar and fat.
-As bread cannot be consumed on this diet, the lack of fiber from traditional sources can lead to additional digestive problems.

There is no perfect diet that everyone can follow. As you can see, all the diet plans have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages.
The important thing here is to pick a diet that suits your needs and lifestyle. The best diet for you is the one that you can stick to long term without it affecting your mental and physical well-being.

If you’re considering altering your dietary habits, it is best to get information first-hand from a doctor. You can use TABIIB to book an appointment online with the right doctor, and get instant confirmations.

I am a writer, covering the sprawling expanse of healthcare, among many other things that I love writing on. I write on healthcare because I want to do my part in informing people about the health industry, When I am not blogging about research and medicine, I enjoy reading, playing squash and backpacking around the world.