Are you having some trouble losing weight? Do you have tough allergies? Do some kinds of foods tend to make you sick?
Alternative diets may solve some of these problems. Cut out meat, cut out processed foods, cut out gluten products, whichever alternative diet you choose, there will be advantages and disadvantages for you and your health with each and every one. Know how your diet is benefiting you, and know how to tell if it’s making you sick.
Maybe you grew up just hating the taste of meat, or maybe you’re looking for a radical diet change. Vegetarianism is the first option many people turn to when considering alternative diets. If you choose vegetarianism, you have 2 diet options:
- Pesco-Vegetarianism: This is believed to be the healthiest vegetarian diet there is. No meat products are consumed on this diet, but fish, dairy products, eggs and plant products are included.
- Lacto-Vegetarianism: These vegetarians include dairy products only in their diet (no meat, fish or eggs).
So what are the benefits of choosing one of these diets? Well for starters, meat and poultry contain high levels of bad saturated fats that affect our health. Most of the food in a vegetarian’s diet contain little to no saturated fats and are usually lower in cholesterol than the foods their meat-eating friends consume.
Vegetarians also tend to consume less total calories throughout the day, as fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains contain lower quantities in the calorie department than meat and poultry products. In the long run, vegetarians have less of a chance of colon, mouth, stomach, lung, and bladder cancers, among others. Since most of the food consumed by vegetarians is low in saturated fat and high in fiber, this group of dieters also have around 50% less instances of cardiovascular disease than meat eaters. Vegetarians also enjoy a lower chance of diabetes, better vision (on average), a leaner figure and they consume less pesticides than those who eat meat products.
With all of these great benefits to vegetarianism, it’s hard to imagine that there could ever be any disadvantages, but there are certainly some skeptics out there. Some believe that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein with their diets since they don’t eat any meat products. Others believe that vegetarians suffer from calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamins D and B-12 deficiencies. Depending on what kind of vegetarianism people follow, that determines how many nutrients the person’s body receives.
[box type=”note”]To err on the side of caution, if you do choose a vegetarian diet, closely monitor your intake of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If necessary, take a supplemental multivitamin to cover any deficiencies.[/box]
- Ethical Vegans: These dieters choose to abstain from the use of animal products not only in their diets, but in their everyday lives, as well. If animals were involved in any step of a process to create any product, from clothing to accessories to food, ethical vegans abstain from using it. They see veganism as a philosophy and a way of life rather than just a diet.
- Dietary Vegans or Strict Vegetarians: These vegans choose to eliminate all animal products from their diet only.
In the U.S., only between about 0.2%-1.3% of the population is vegan. Animal rights concerns are a major reason many vegans choose to adopt the lifestyle they do. They protest the use of animal products by boycotting them, essentially. Other reasons people choose veganism are similar to those who choose vegetarianism – vegans have lower risks of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension due to their choice of not consuming animal fats or proteins.
[box type=”note”]Similar concerns arise, though, with veganism as did with vegetarianism. Protein, calcium and vitamin and mineral deficiency are major concerns. Veganism is also a more difficult practice to follow, as the number of animal products out there is quite high, and finding non-animal products can prove to be a challenge.[/box]
If you choose to go vegan, make sure it’s a choice you’ll be able to stick with if you’re going to go through the efforts of converting.
A gluten-free diet can be helpful to people fighting Celiac disease. Going gluten-free means eliminating any foods that contain the protein gluten, found in wheat, oats, barley and rye products, from the diet.
Many people choose this diet because a gluten allergy is very common. It is also the only known treatment for Celiac disease, which is a digestive condition that’s triggered by consumption of gluten. A gluten-free diet can also be used to treat Dermatitis Herpetiformis, a skin condition that is marked by fluid-filled blisters, and can also help treat migraines and even autism (several studies have shown that autism is directly related to consumption of high-gluten products, and children suffering from autism are now being placed on gluten-free diets to counteract the process).
Anyone battling obesity may also benefit from a gluten-free diet because of the exclusion of wheat products, which are mostly complex carbohydrates. The best news for anyone choosing to go on a gluten-free diet is that there are now several products out there that are created to be gluten-free. Pastas, breads, even baked goods are now being made that don’t contain any gluten.
These benefits, though, of course may be outweighed by some of the glaring disadvantages. Going gluten-free means you won’t be eating some of the most naturally healthy foods on the planet, and several deficiencies may occur from this. Low iron, folate, calcium, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine levels are major concerns. It’s also difficult to find gluten-free products in some cases, so it’s a more difficult diet choice to stick to, despite its many benefits.
[box type=”note”]If you’re considering any type of alternative diet, be sure to consult a physician first to determine the levels of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Your doctor can recommend a good course of action for you in addition to weighing the pros and cons of each alternative diet. The three listed here are just a small selection of alternative diets, so be sure to go over all of your other options with your doctor before you begin a new diet program, as well. Happy eating![/box]
Amy Richards is a freelance writer who often contributes to many health and wellness publications. She owns and operates her own gluten-free bakery and sells gluten free gift baskets, baked goods and gourmet dishes, all made from the most natural ingredients on earth.