Different Diet Programs Explained: Find Out Which One is Best For You

Different Diet Programs Explained: Find Out Which One is Best For You

Diet programs are now the talk of the town.  You have people talking about how well Keto or Paleo worked for them. Some people recommend diets to others, to look into, and many fall willingly into the trap of fad diets with misinformation and misconceptions.

How well does one really know these diets that they delve into?  Apart from the weight loss effect that work to their advantage, are there other benefits or consequences disclosed to them? With the amount of information or lack thereof going around, it is wise to learn a few facts that were missed out, or deliberately omitted, when these diets were first brought to your attention

Ketogenic Diet

A lot of people are talking about the incredible ‘keto’ diet with excitement in their eyes.  And why not? They were told that the keto diet does not restrict fat intake and, in fact, encourages more of it in your meals.  While the majority of that statement is true, the devil in the detail had been conveniently left out.

Believe it or not, ketogenic diet was not developed for weight loss.  It was designed in the 1920s to treat epilepsy.   Later on, it was used together with chemotherapy to treat aggressive forms of cancer. Still today it’s used in conjunction with medical treatment for Alzheimer’s, Cancer and Diabetes.   The weight loss effect was purely incidental.

Presently, because of this welcome side effect, it is being peddled as a quick fix weight loss program. People need to understand fully how it works before they devour a plate of lechon or binge on a pack of chicharon.

Going Keto
Photo Credit to www.bodybuilding.com

A well-structured ketogenic diet is indeed high fat (80% of total calories), but it also contains moderate protein (15% of total calories) and low carbohydrates (5% of calories).  It works on the fact that the human body has the ability to run on 2 types of fuel namely glucose and ketones bodies.  Glucose you can find in all kinds of sugars, complex carbs (grains), and starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, banana) and is the body’s main source of fuel.  Ketone bodies on the other hand are byproducts of broken down fats for energy, which occur when carbohydrates are very low.

Given the above food percentage required for keto, you will see that glucose is drastically lessened.  And with glucose reserves stored in the muscles and liver lasting only a couple of days, the body has no choice but to seek an alternative source.  With high levels of fat, the system goes through ketosis (the metabolic state at which ketone bodies are increased in the body tissues).  The body then switches to burning ketone bodies.

Be mindful though that the body’s adaptation to these ketone bodies may be a long process for some people especially those who grew up eating a high carb diet.  To suddenly switch to low carb may affect queasiness, weakness, sluggishness, crankiness and a foggy brain, which can last for several weeks.  There are a few cases wherein people despite their high carb diet orientation still adapt easily.  The quickness of adaptation varies per person.

What people doing keto don’t realize is that eating a lot of animal proteins, in spite of a low carb and high fat intake, is not keto.  The excess protein contained in animals will be broken down into glucose; hence ketone bodies are not burned but rather a combination of glucose and ketone.  In other words, contrary to popular belief, if you are attempting to go keto, do not gorge on foods high in animal fat like lechon, pork sisig, chicken skin, pork belly, bacon, and processed meats, as these definitely do NOT comprise a ketogenic diet.  These are also in the group 1 carcinogens and are one of the culprits to cancer cell build up.

To make the whole keto package work, focus on healthy fats like coconuts, coconut oil, avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oil, nuts (macadamia) and seeds (chia or flax).  For protein, go for moderate amounts of fatty fish, poultry, eggs and a small amount of meat.  Carbohydrates should just be leafy greens and cruciferous (cauliflower, broccoli) vegetables. Remember, one cannot exceed the required amountof 5% per day otherwise you will be kicked out of ketosis very quickly then go back to using glucose because it is easier for the body.

Caveat:  Some people use butter and cream as a fat source but unfortunately dairy fat raises small dense LDL (referred to as the lousy cholesterol) particles, which tends to oxidize within the body.  The effect can be increased risk in heart diseases.

Again, weight loss is only the side effect although the whole hype is based on that.  It cannot be a long-term strategy because there are cells that rely on glucose like those that line the gut. If the gut is starved from glucose, there can be many repercussions, one of which is an effect on women’s thyroid. It is best regarded as a treatment and like all treatments; it should only last for a certain period.

Atkins Diet

Atkins is high in both fat and protein while low on carbs but is not to be confused with Keto.  The Atkin’s diet is not going to produce the same beneficial results for people with cancer and epilepsy. In fact, Atkins recommends eating the likes of bacon, cheese, cream and processed meats, which as mentioned above are carcinogenic making them cancer promoters.

Atkin’s is definitely not a lifestyle nutrition plan.  A high protein diet regulates IGF 1 hormone (insulin-like growth factor), which promotes muscle cell growth but at the same time regulates – it cannot be emphasized enough – cancer cell growth.  It seems to have more cons than pros making it quite unhealthy overall.

The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid
Photo credit to www.drjockers.com

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting was designed NOT for weight loss but for autophagy.  Autophagy is a mode where the body chooses not to discard damaged cells.  As the body perceives itself to have limited resources, it decides not to discard everything right away.   Instead, it repairs those damaged cells rather than letting them die to generate new ones. This not only minimizes waste products, it also boosts longevity. One of the proven benefits includes lowered cancer risk.

As the term ‘intermittent’ implies, one will have to restrict one’s mealtime within a certain window during the day.  The most common window is 16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating.

Only water and tea are allowed during fasting since they contain no calories.  It is not as hard as it seems.  With a last meal taken at 7pm, 16 hours later allows brunch to be taken at 11am, a smoothie at 3pm, and dinner again at 7pm.

This is exactly what our ancestors were doing 100 or 200 years ago when there were no chillers to store food.  They go out to hunt or fish or harvest food for the day.  They were probably fasting longer than 16 hours, possibly 24 hours and they all stayed lean and healthy.  It is very natural for people to fast for a whole day once in a while.  From an evolutionary perspective, this is what people have been doing from the beginning of time.  Cases of obesity did not exist back then.

Intermittent Fasting Timetable
Photo credit to www.hookedupon.com

Bear in mind that the 16/8 hour window is just a template.  One can do 24 hours (once in a while), 20/4 hours or 14/10 hours with the latter likely the most doable for many.  Give alloptions a try and listen to your body.  Make sure that on those days of fasting, your food intake belongs to a healthy category.  It is pointless if you break your fast with brunch consisting of bacon and mayo sandwich, snack on a bag of chips, then end the day with pork sisig.  No amount of fasting before or after can result to weight loss.  Opt for real healthy foods!

Intermittent fasting is not for everybody.  Also, it is not a fad regardless of all the buzz.  It is a way to assist the liver by giving it more time to detoxify itself.  It also disciplines one to not consume meals outside the eating window hours, like midnight snacks and nightcap drinks.  It is a lifestyle that can be done especially by people who are very busy and can afford to reduce their meal intake to 2 instead of 3 (or more) by observing the eating window alongside well portioned meals.

Alkaline Diet

Cancer patients who do not wish to undergo chemotherapy choose other alternative treatments, which essentially boosts the immune system. These treatments keep the cancer cells from invading the body and eventually kill them.  The treatments are non-invasive and not at all a hindrance.  One such treatment requires a complete change in diet.

The alkaline diet is best explained via a chart comprising of foods that had an alkaline effect vs. foods that had an acidic effect in the body.  As explained in alternative medicine, cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment and feed on carcinogens and sugar.  Cancer cells however, will not survive an alkaline and highly oxygenated body.  Simply put, cancer patients had to elect to eat more foods from the alkaline group and eliminate foods under the acid group.

Alkaline Diet Comparison Chart

A reputable certified nutritionist and wellness expert has noted however, that although the principle is effective, the explanation on how the diet succeeded to being anti-cancer is FLAWED.

Looking at the food chart, one will notice that the foods under alkaline consist mostly of leafy greens, fruits, healthy oils, and certain nuts.  While the foods under acid consist of processed meat, processed carbs, red meat, seafood, grain, processed sugar, dairy and processed fats.  In hindsight, the diet recommends to avoid all foods classified as cancer cell promoters and stick to foods high in fiber, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all deterrents 9 of cancer cell proliferation. By adhering to this, cancer cell promoters like IGF-1 and insulin are down regulated.

In other words, it is not because one is alkaline or acidic.  The body doesn’t deviate much from the base to acidic, meaning a Ph blood reading of 7.35 to 7.45.  The blood is always slightly alkaline no matter what.

It is actually similar toketogenic diet, since it down regulates insulin by eliminating all foods inciting the rise of blood sugar (grains, sugar, bread, noodles, pasta), greatly reduces the amount of animal protein (down regulation of IGF-1) and consumes quality oils and healthy fats from nuts and seeds.

Paleo Diet

The principle here is going back to when our ancestors only consumed what they can find in nature:  anything hunted, or caught,picked, plucked from plants or trees, pulled out from the ground, can be eaten.  And that just simply removes dairy, grains, and legumes, sugars, processed beans, and everything packaged, from the equation.  Except for restriction of legumes, which are proven to be beneficial to health, the principle of Paleo is well supported not only by history but by the simple truths of wild life existence.  None of the animals in the wild are overweight (unlike domestic overfed pets).  Again, obesity among our ancestors seems to be non-existent then.

The Paleo Diet at a Glance
Photo credit to www.pinterest.co.uk

It is sad to find so called health stores bastardizing the principle by selling Paleo bars and Paleo Chewey’s, which all go against what Paleo stands for. Commercialism has turned it into a fad and lost all essence along with the truth.  Some nutritionists in fact have ventured into the one-shop business offering the prescription of food intake, the preparation, and the delivery to your doorstep.  This is great for peeps that can’t cook or are too busy to prepare foods themselves however, be wary of the sources of the food products and ingredients.  Case in point would be fish, which posts problems due to polluted waters and mercury poisoning.  Best to insist on fish that are small in size or whose life span is short (tawilis, sardines), or those high in selenium.  Selenium is known to combat the negative effects of mercury and help detoxify the body.

Vegan Diet

The Vegan Society in England in 1951 defined veganism as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”.  In 2010, veganism spiked and more vegan stores opened while an array of vegan options were made available in supermarkets and restaurants.  Respectfully, the cause is very noble and profound.

A vegan diet excludes all foods of animal origin.  This includes eggs, milk, and anything made from them. It is highly recommended for cleansing.  To go vegan for a week will surely reboot the palate from all the consumed junk that have strong habit forming flavors.  They stick to the taste buds and take a long time to reset hence making naturally seasoned food like steamed spinach taste bland.

Plant based diet
Photo credit to www.ordinaryvegan.net

Caveat:  Since humans aren’t herbivores, sooner or later development of some nutritional deficiencies only found in animal products and bacteria may take place(B12, EPA/DHA, and vitamin A). If vegans do not supplement EPA/DHA, there may be negative consequences on their cognitive functions as they get older.  The brain needs DHA and the heart needs EPA.  B12 deficiency can lead to cognitive decline like dementia, which is irreversible.

Still, supplements can work but not all the time and not with everyone.  ALA (an essential fatty acid) is necessary for health and cannot be produced by the human body.   ALA’s found in chia, flax and hemp can be taken as supplements but due to genetic polymorphism, some people convert poorly ALA supplements into EPA/DHA (the only true omega3 found in animal fats).  Some people also poorly convert beta-carotene from plants into vitamin A (found only in animal flesh). Zinc & Iron are less bio-available in plants than in animals and could potentially be problematic.


There is no way to prescribe a correct portioning of meals in general.  It would depend on more factors than just height and weight because there are tremendous differences in terms of metabolic rate, build, and even ancestry.The most sensible way to do it is to take a plate and divide it in 3 parts.  The first part is to consist of low carb vegetables like leafy greens and cruciferous.  The second part is the starchy vegetable like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and plantains.  The last third is the proteins and fats from animals, fatty fruit (avocado), nuts, seeds and oils.  And then from there, listen to your body and see how it responds.  Increase intake of whichever third plays well with your body then reduce the others.

Before you engage in any of the above, ask yourself what your able to commit for your body transformation or eating habits.  Setting goals for a bikini body this summer or to fit a wedding dress may opt for the programs that are temporary but temporary measures garner temporary results.  A lifestyle change is more long term and will require a strong will and a consistent mindset.  It will also entail a change in belief systems.  If you are uncertain, look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘you are what you eat’.  Translation:  if you eat junk, you are junk.  Then take it from there.

Interview was conducted with Ales Svoboda, a certified nutritionist and wellness expert.  Ales practices what he preaches as seen in his physique and lifestyle choices. 

What do you think?

Written by Abi Galano

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