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The good, the bad and the ugly of the world’s most popular diets

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It’s easy to look at a diet and label it to be either good or bad. But each diet has its own set of pros, cons and serious challenges — so it’s important to know about them all thoroughly before deciding to take one on.

Desiree Nielsen, dietitian and host of The Urban Vegetarian (Fridays at 6:30 a.m. ET on Gusto), gave us the general breakdown of the world’s most popular diets. And while you’re probably familiar with each of them, there are some pros and cons that’ll definitely catch you off guard.

Vegan

Avoid eating slaughtered animals, fish and animal by-products.

“‘Pro: Good for the planet, good for the wallet, and good for your health when it’s whole food-based,” said Nielsen. “We know that vegans weigh less than people with omnivore diets, they have lower risk of certain chronic diseases, and for people who like to eat and be full, eating plant food is great, because you’re eating tons of fibre.”

But Nielsen was sure to help us realize that it wasn’t necessarily an ideal diet: “If you’re using it as a method of restricting foods, it’s not a healthy place to be. It can be easy to be a junk food vegan — heck, Oreos are vegan.”

If you’re going to be a vegan, go for whole foods, or else you’ll fall into the trap of not getting enough protein and nutrients.

Vegetarian

Avoid eating slaughtered animals or fish. A vegetarian may or may not choose to eat dairy and eggs too.

“Pro: It’s easier and more flexible than a vegan diet,” Nielsen noted.

It can, however, be a bit of a struggle for your body to adjust to cutting meat out of your diet — especially considering it’ll take some time to stabilize your blood sugars.

And yet, there’s still an even greater setback to vegetarianism.

“As someone who started her vegetarian diet thinking raisins and mac and cheese were the height of vegetarian health, it can be really easy to eat nothing but cheesy carbs,” said Nielsen.

Ketogenic (aka Keto)

High fat, low carbs.

“I would say a pro is that, if you have a [medical] condition like epilepsy, it is actually therapeutic,” Nielsen explained.

But the ketogenic diet is extremely limiting, and offers practically zero room for carbs, which people really do need to be healthy.

“It’s not for everybody. It’s very difficult to maintain a well-balanced, nutritious diet because it’s mostly fat — 70 per cent fat.”

And that means, you won’t be getting enough grains or other important food groups to keep you healthy.

Paleo

Stick to whole foods (just like how our ancestors ate), excluding diary, grains and all processed foods.

“Pro: It’s all about real food. We all need to eat more real food… I have some autoimmune and digestive health clients for whom it can be very healing, but it’s not for everybody,” said Nielsen.

She also brought up a major setback to the diet: “The internet is filled with pseudo-science that’s all garbage. It can be a healthy way to eat, but you’ve got to forget all the stuff online.”

“[According to the diet,] man was never supposed to eat grain, when we actually were. There’s tons of scientific proof saying we did.” Nielsen reminded us. Which means the paleo diet is misguiding people everywhere.

Tune into The Urban Vegetarian on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. ET to learn how to make some healthy  meals.

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