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MindFirst / Nutrition  / Popular Diets: How Do They Stack Up?
popular diets

Popular Diets: How Do They Stack Up?

Are you curious about which diet is right for you? Which diet will fit best into your lifestyle? Or which diet may help reduce your health risks? Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of a few popular diets according to their nutrition and their convenience.The table below provides an at-a-glance look at which dietary components are encouraged/discouraged in each diet, along with some important characteristics of each diet.

Keto Diet

The Keto diet is an extremely low carbohydrate diet that promotes quick weight loss and improved insulin control through calorie restriction and entrance into a state of ketosis (increased ketones in body tissues). To achieve the low levels of carbohydrate in the Keto diet, diet followers eliminate grains, added sugars, legumes, and most fruits. Maintaining the level of carbohydrate restriction necessary to remain in ketosis can be difficult due to these strict limitations in food choices. This can be a particular challenge when dining out or visiting. It can also be challenging to achieve recommended levels of some nutrients such as fiber, B vitamins, and minerals that are present in food groups that are eliminated on the Keto diet. Thus, it is necessary to include a variety of foods through the preparation of some meals and snacks at home, as well as track nutrient intakes to help prevent the development of nutritional deficiencies. Most Keto-friendly foods are naturally gluten-free, so following a gluten-free Keto diet is simple. However, following a vegetarian or vegan Keto diet is more difficult; this makes it even more important to track your nutrients because eliminating animal products excludes another important source of essential B vitamins and minerals. Due to the various challenges involved in adhering to this diet, the long-term effects of following the Keto diet remain unknown.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is similar to the Keto diet with the additional exclusion of dairy products and the inclusion of fruits. Thus, the challenges associated with following the Paleo diet are similar to those in the Keto diet. One benefit of the Paleo diet compared to the Keto diet is that the carbohydrate restriction is not as extreme as the Keto diet. Thus, the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables can lead to more variety in meals and additional ways to achieve optimal nutrient intakes. However, the additional restriction of dairy products in the Paleo diet makes it important to monitor your potassium and calcium intake along with your B vitamin and mineral intakes to minimize risk for nutrient deficiencies.

5:2 Diet (Intermittent Fasting)

The 5:2 diet is a form of intermittent fasting that has gained momentum in recent years. This diet is solely focused on weight loss and involves five days of eating normally and two days of fasting each week. There are a few different variations to this diet, but the main premise is that reduced calorie intake on fasting days promotes fat-loss. This diet is simple to follow and requires no regular meetings or diet tracking. However, this diet may not be sustainable in the long-term. Days of fasting can result in poor work performance, headaches, irritability, sleeping problems and overeating on non-fasting days. This type of diet does not promote healthful diet choices that could help reduce chronic disease risk.


DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hence the name, it was developed to combat high blood pressure and heart disease. Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet emphasizes the inclusion of healthful dietary components and discourages the inclusion of unhealthful dietary components. It additionally employs a strict cap on sodium at 2,300 mg, which is eventually reduced further to 1,500 mg. This cap on sodium makes eating out a bit more challenging on the DASH diet compared to the Mediterranean diet. Although nutrition labels and low-sodium options in restaurants are emerging, the options remain limited. The DASH diet also requires tracking of daily consumption of foods within the DASH food groups, which can become burdensome. Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet can easily be adapted to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet preferences.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a time-tested, sustainable diet that reshapes your eating habits to provide a variety of health benefits through the inclusion of traditional foods in endless combinations. Based on the latest scientific research, this diet emphasizes the inclusion of healthful dietary components and discourages the inclusion of unhealthful dietary components. Through emphasis of high fiber foods, you will naturally eat fewer calories and lose weight at a steady pace. No strict diet tracking or meetings are required. Emphasis is placed on creating new eating habits that are simple and easy to sustain. The Mediterranean diet can easily be adapted to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet preferences.


Keto Paleo 5:2 DASH Mediterranean
Healthful Dietary Components
Whole Grains X X
Fresh Meats / Seafood
Legumes X X
Nuts / Seeds
Dairy X
Healthy Oils
Fruits X
Unhealthful Dietary Components
Refined Grains X X X X
Added Sugars X X X X
Processed Meats X X X
Diet Characteristics
Fasting X X X X
Daily Diet Tracking X X X X
Vegetarian-Friendly X X
Vegan-Friendly X X
Ease of Dining Out X X X
Simple X
Sustainable X X X X
Heart Healthy X X X


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