Popular Diets Reviewed: Features, Who May Benefit and Drawbacks


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Exploring all fad/popular diets would be impossible as there are hundreds of them. When assessing a potential diet for yourself, be sure to consider some basic information:

  • Does the diet omit major food groups? If so, how will accommodate for the nutritional deficit?
  • Is it sustainable? Success is higher for meal programs that are realistic and take a lifestyle approach to the program.
  • Is it affordable? Are you required to purchase pricey supplements or pre-packaged foods?

In addition, keep in mind that although we each have unique dietary needs, we share the same core nutrient needs. We need macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat) to provide us with calories. We all need micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to maintain cellular and hormonal functions. And we all need a rich variety of phytonutrients (resveratrol, lycopene…) to support our detoxification systems and protect us from chronic disease. Extreme eating programs that disrupt this nutrient balance pose risk and should be considered carefully with a Registered Dietitian or your Doctor.

The table below explores some of the most well-known diet programs.

Diet Features Who May Benefit Drawbacks
Atkins Eat as much protein and fat as you would like as long as you avoid carbohydrates.


Those looking to lose weight fast. Hard to follow. May cause headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue and constipation.



Salt-restricted diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Includes low-fat or nonfat dairy. Sweets are allowed in moderation.


Heavy in minerals linked to blood pressure regulation:

Potassium, magnesium and calcium. Improves blood flow protecting against vascular damage which is linked to decrease risk for chronic disease.

No real drawbacks but may be tedious to some due to tracking.
Flexitarian Allows animal products occasionally.

5 main food groups: non-meal protein sources, fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, sugar and spice.

Weight loss likely.

Research shows vegetarians eat fewer calories and generally weigh less.

No real drawbacks. Highly flexible.
Intermittent Fasting 5:2 plan – You eat normally 5 days per week, limit intake to about 500 calories on the other 2 days.

Another plan – Eating during a smaller window each day (ex. 9am-6pm)’


Those with multiple metabolic symptoms or metabolic syndrome. Giving organs and digestion a break may help to reset metabolism. Hunger pangs may make it hard to stick to.
Ketogenic Diet




70% to 90% of calories come from fat.

A metabolic state in which you use fat for energy once glucose – the fuel derived from carbs is depleted.


Evidence to support use for:

Seizure control and reducing cognitive decline for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or those at high risk for these diseases.


Increased risk of dehydration due to water and electrolyte loss. Increases risk of certain chronic diseases. Dramatic surge in appetite once “typical eating” pattern resumes.
Diet Features Who May Benefit Drawbacks
Mediterranean Diet:



Healthy fats such as nuts, olives, plant-based oils

Seafood at least two times each week

Beans, legumes, fruit, leafy greens, and whole grains every day

Red wine is included on the program.

Leads to longer, heathier lives. High in fiber which controls blood glucose and allows for sustained energy. You may lose weight.

Improved cholesterol and lower risk for heart disease.

Consistently ranked best for overall health.
Ornish Plan Restricts your consumption of fat to under 10% of daily calories. Diet is plant-based.

It is high carb and lower in protein. It also emphasizes exercise, stress management and relationships.

Clinically proven to reverse heart disease. Stresses a holistic plan addressing more than just diet.


May be hard to follow for some as many foods are eliminated.
Paleo Diet Meat allowed– preferably wild game, fish, eggs, nuts and wild plants. No processed foods, sugar, salt, dairy, grains or legumes and limited starchy vegetables. A plus is it omits processed foods which lends itself to stabilizing blood sugar.

Blood pressure is usually lowered  because it is lower in sodium.

Supports weight loss and lowers chronic disease risk.

May lower waist circumference.

Omits major food groups (legumes and grains) which provide essential nutrients.

Lower in calcium due to the omission of dairy.

Expensive when buying wild game and grass-fed beef.

Whole 30 Meal Plan You eliminate sugars, grains, dairy, alcohol, baked goods and legumes and add them back one at a time.


Promotes weight loss & Improved energy.

People with chronic GI symptoms, allergies and chronic pain may benefit.


Since it is very restrictive, it can be difficult to follow even just for 30 days.

With regards to weight loss, many gain back what they lose.


The Zone Diet A low-glycemic load diet:

35-45% daily calories carbohydrates

30% each of calories from protein and fat


Reduced risk for heart disease appears to be the biggest benefit.

May reduce risk for metabolic syndrome.


Limits consumption of some healthy carb sources such as bananas and potatoes.


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