5 Types of Diets: Characteristics and Benefits

We're going to teach you several types of diets that are beneficial for health in the medium and long term due to their nutrient content.
5 Types of Diets: Characteristics and Benefits
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 23 January, 2024

There are several different types of diets. Many of these variants manage to exert beneficial effects on a person’s health and body composition. However, not all of them are suitable for all people. It is convenient to know the characteristics to know when to apply each one.

At the same time, it’s important to take into account that healthy diets are characterized by two fundamental pillars: Variety and energy balance. Therefore, in the following article, we’re going to comment on the most frequent types of diets that can be established.

1. The Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean is one of the types of diets that are recommended most by nutrition specialists. It’s characterized by its content of fresh foods, prioritizing the intake of vegetables and sources of healthy fats. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, it’s a type of diet that’s capable of helping to prevent various types of cancer.

In addition, it has the advantage of having a high adherence. It allows for many different preparations, although using a skillet, oven, steamer, and cooking with water are recommended as the preferred thermal methods.

However, despite its benefits, there are also aspects that can be improved. First of all, until recently, it allowed regular consumption of alcohol in moderate amounts: It recommended the intake of a glass of wine with meals. However, at present, this substance is known to be toxic regardless of the dose consumed.

At the same time, it places high-carbohydrate foods at the base of the dietary pyramid. Some of these products are of very high quality, such as tubers and legumes. However, the same doesn’t ring true with most flours and their derivatives.

Due to their high degree of processing, flours generate a significant increase in glucose in the blood, which in the medium term can impair pancreatic function. For this reason, it’s best to reduce the presence of bread, pasta, and bakery items.

Also, the Mediterranean diet can be slightly low in protein. It allows for the consumption of food from animals but doesn’t include them as central elements of meals. Increasing protein intake a little more could bring health benefits, especially when it comes to avoiding the development of sarcopenia. This is evidenced by a study published in Nutrition Research.

Foods that are included in the Mediterranean diet, including olive oil, olive, nuts, legumes, seeds, vegetables, avocado, chicken, shrimp, salmon and milk.
The Mediterranean diet is a classic of nutrition, although it has aspects that can be improved.

2. The Atlantic diet

The Atlantic diet also prioritizes the consumption of fresh food over that of industrial ultra-processed foods. It has the advantage of restricting alcoholic beverages and promoting the presence of fish on a regular basis, especially oily fish.

This is good news for cardiovascular health. Fatty fish tend to contain lipids from the omega-3 series, which improve the functioning of the heart system. According to research published in the journal International Immunology , these nutrients are capable of modulating inflammatory processes.

In addition, it suggests that sources of carbohydrates must be fundamentally tubers, this being a preferred option over other products, such as grains or pasta. In the context of the Atlantic diet, bread isn’t a central element.

However, this type of diet places less importance on the use of high-quality vegetable oils for cooking, as well as consuming them in their raw form. It allows for the use of butter on a regular basis. Although this product isn’t harmful to health when consumed raw, its properties vary when subjected to heat treatment.

Due to the absence of simple bonds, the saturated lipids that are present in butter and its derivatives are more easily transformed into trans fats. These trans lipids are associated with poorer health. They’ve been shown to have inflammatory properties, and their regular consumption is harmful.

3. Vegan diet

The vegan diet removes one of the pillars of a healthy diet, as it’s restrictive in regard to certain food groups. In this regard, variety is lost. However, this doesn’t mean that a vegan diet is bad for your health. It can generate benefits if it’s raised properly and supplemented correctly.

This type of diet is characterized by avoiding the consumption of any product of animal origin and derivatives of the same. For this reason, the risk of nutritional deficiency increases. It’s a plan that can be lacking in protein.

To overcome the limitations in essential amino acids, it’s advisable to combine several foods with a high concentration of proteins in the vegan diet. An example would be legumes with grains. Likewise, it’s important to increase the daily protein intake to avoid problems related to digestibility.

It’s crucial to consider that the lack of proteins impairs the function of lean mass, which can lead those who adhere to a vegan diet to experience sarcopenia or catabolism of the tissue. Supplementing with vegan-friendly protein products can even be helpful.

Supplements in the vegan diet

There are other typical shortcomings in the context of different types of vegan diets. The most common is vitamin B12, as this water-soluble nutrient isn’t found in plants. Supplementation with B12 is mandatory in order to avoid megaloblastic anemia, according to research published in the journal American Family Physician.

At the same time, it may also be common to experience an inadequate supply of iron, as this nutrient isn’t properly absorbed when it’s of plant origin. To avoid such a situation, it’s best to administer the mineral with a certain dose of vitamin C, which enhances its availability.

However, if properly planned and supplemented, the vegan diet is positive for health in many contexts. The high consumption of vegetables and phytonutrients leads to adequate management of the inflammatory and oxidative levels of the body.

4. The vegetarian diet

The vegetarian diet is a variant of the vegan diet but is more flexible. In this case, the consumption of foods derived from animals, such as dairy products and eggs, is allowed. It’s a much more sustainable model in terms of adherence that continues to generate positive health effects thanks to its high phytonutrient content.

In this case, the deficit of protein and essential nutrients becomes less likely. However, significant amounts of dairy and eggs must be introduced into the daily diet to achieve an optimal balance.

Also, different types of vegetarian diets tend to have lower supplementation needs. A vitamin D booster can be included if exposure to sunlight isn’t sufficient. However, it’s no longer necessary to consume a product with vitamin B12 to ensure a regular supply of the nutrient.

Vegan and vegetarian diets.
Vegan and vegetarian diets are similar, but they’re not the same. Protein intake is different in each one.

4. The ketogenic diet

The ketogenic or “keto” diet became popular decades ago for the treatment of epilepsy and neurological disorders. According to research published in the journal Arquivos de Neuro Psiquiatria, this low-carbohydrate diet model contributes to reducing the incidence of seizures, as well as their intensity. In addition, it makes the use of medication less necessary.

At the same time, the elimination of carbohydrates from the diet achieves a benefit in terms of body composition. It not only stimulates the mobilization and oxidation of lipids but also achieves the optimal management of blood glucose. In fact, it’s suggested as a way to prevent diabetes.

The ketogenic diet approach is straightforward. It simply involves restricting the consumption of carbohydrates to 20 or 50 grams a day, depending on how strict you want to be. Proteins and fats are allowed in the desired amounts.

It’s a model that generates a lot of adherence among people who tend to eat a lot of food, as there are no limitations in this regard. However, it’s not valid for everyone. For example, strength athletes don’t benefit from a protocol of this style, as they need sugars to produce energy.

Likewise, in the case of diabetics, the implementation of the ketogenic diet needs to be accompanied by the help of a professional. If you start from a situation of uncontrolled blood glucose, you could run the risk of suffering from hypoglycemia.

At the same time, it’s important to note that the ketogenic diet can generate a series of transient side effects at first. These include constipation, nausea, bad breath, fatigue, and mood swings. These are produced by the reduction of fiber intake and by the physiological state of ketosis.

It’s important to consider healthy types of diets to prevent diseases

All the types of diet that we’ve mentioned are healthy as long as they’re planned correctly. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s key to analyze each person’s habits to decide which one best fits their lifestyle.

In any case, and as a general rule, it’s always recommended to opt first for diets that are less restrictive. Variety is usually a fundamental pillar when we talk about health. The greater the spectrum of foods consumed, the lower the risk of experiencing deficits.

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