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Demystifying the diet

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

You emerge from the holidays with fresh resolve. It’s a new year and you want to eat healthier. Should you try one of the diets you keep hearing about? If so, which is right for you?

Here’s a rundown of the more popular approaches:


This plan encourages a high fat intake but limits carbohydrates to 50 grams (about half a bagel) a day. The premise is that reducing carbs will lower blood sugar and insulin levels. That forces the body to burn more fat.

What we know

Research is limited and the jury is still out.

Intermittent fasting

This plan doesn’t focus as much on what you eat, but when. The aim is to refrain from eating for certain periods. These patterns vary. Some fasters may not eat at all for a 24-hour period once or twice a week. Others may restrict eating to certain windows (such as noon to 8 p.m.). The idea is that fasting encourages the body to burn fat between widely spaced meals.

What we know

While intermittent fasting is gaining traction, there’s not enough research into the long-term effects, including the potential for nutritional deficiencies. It’s a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before you try this approach, especially if you take medications that might be affected.


Known as the “caveman” diet, the paleo plan is based on perceived ancestral eating principals. That means consuming only foods that can be hunted, fished or gathered. These include meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, veggies, roots, fruits and berries. It excludes grains, dairy and legumes (beans, lentils and peas), as well as sugar and salt.

What we know

While this plan encourages eating more fruits and vegetables, it may also exceed recommendations for daily fat and protein. Excluding whole grains, legumes and dairy and their nutrients can also be risky.


This is a strict 30-day elimination diet, allowing only whole, unprocessed foods. Anything processed is off limits, including grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, certain preservatives and artificial sweeteners. At the end of 30 days, the eliminated foods can be slowly reintroduced, depending on how the body responds.

What we know

This is more of a dietary reset than a long-term plan.

Vegetarian or Vegan

There are many types of vegetarians. Some eat eggs and dairy. Others don’t eat any food products that come from an animal.

What we know

Vegetarian eating is associated with improved health. This includes less obesity, a reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. Vegetarians tend to consume fewer calories from fat and less overall calories. They also tend to eat more fiber, potassium and vitamin C. However, vegetarians should consult with their healthcare provider to make sure they get enough protein, vitamins B12 and D, and minerals zinc and iron.

In general

Before starting any diet plan, you should check in with your healthcare provider. Our ParTNers Center nurse practitioners are available to help. They will discuss your goals and current health to make sure the eating pattern you choose will not put you at risk. Other things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on a balanced diet of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains. Limit processed foods. A balanced eating plan is healthier than any trendy diet.

  • Make sure you understand why you want to change your eating habits.

  • Exercise is important, but find something you like. You’ll stay motivated and feel good during and after.

  • Love yourself. Social media encourages unhealthy judgment. Honor and accept yourself for who you are.


In addition to nurse practitioners, the ParTNers Center has onsite ActiveHealth wellness coaches. They can help you set your health goals and work with you on a personalized nutrition and exercise plan. Call 615-741-1709 for an appointment.


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