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Four Popular Diets: Exploring the Benefits of Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, & Plant-Based

Four Popular Diets: Exploring the Benefits of Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, & Plant-Based

Jan 2, 2024 | Healthful Eating

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that I may earn a small commission from, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I use or have used myself. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Which Diet is the Best Diet for Health?

As we enter into the new year after a season of holiday indulgence, you may be seeking the best diet for slimming down, boosting cardiovascular health, regulating blood sugar, fighting cancer, enhancing cognitive function, or reducing inflammation. Don’t worry — I have you covered! In this post, we will explore four of the most popular diets over the last few years — keto, paleo, Mediterranean, and plant-based. You may be surprised by the findings!

tray of ketogenic foods


Famously known as a low-carb, high-fat diet, keto has been used for decades to treat children with epilepsy who do not respond to medication. However, adults have also benefited from adhering to a ketogenic diet for weight loss (particularly in the abdominal region), cardiovascular health, improved cognitive function, reducing blood sugar and insulin levels, and metabolic syndrome.13,14,15,16,17

The basic idea behind a ketogenic diet is to shift your body from burning glucose to fat for its primary fuel, which leads to a state of ketosis. Calories largely come from foods such as butter, oil, and nuts, along with moderate levels of meat, full-fat cheese, fish, and eggs. Aim to keep carbohydrate consumption under 20-50 grams per day.

I often use an Autoimmune Keto Diet, which is neuroprotective and helps to calm inflammation. You can learn more about it in this post. Next up is the paleo diet.

Paleolithic diet meal


Based on the idea of how prehistoric humans ate before the advent of modern agriculture, a Paleolithic diet excludes dairy products, legumes, white potatoes, and grains. It also steers clear of refined sugars, artificial additives, and excessive salt. Instead, it focuses on a whole food diet rich in:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Lean meat (preferably grass-fed and organic)
  • Fish (wild-caught)
  • Eggs
  • Herbs
  • Spices
  • Oils (olive, coconut, avocado, lard, tallow, almond, and Malaysian palm)

Proponents of the diet believe it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes — and scientific research supports this, at least in the short-term.

Several studies have confirmed that a paleo diet promotes weight loss — with one caveat: after two years, there was no difference between Paleolithic eating and other healthful diets as far as weight reduction.1,2 One 2017 review found that that this was due to the caloric restriction of the diet, not because it excluded certain foods.3

For those who have type II diabetes, a paleo diet shows promise. Two small studies found that the diet increased metabolic health, insulin resistance, and blood sugar control. Cardiovascular health also improved, according to several studies that demonstrated it lowered blood pressure and blood lipid profiles.6,7

Similar to the success I have had with a ketogenic diet, a modified version of a Paleolithic diet is outstanding for managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, as demonstrated by Dr. Terry Wahls.18

Keep in mind that in some circles a Paleolithic diet is, strictly speaking, plant-based because 65% of the diet should come from plant sources with the remaining 35% consisting of animal foods such as meats, eggs, fish, and animal fat (tallow, lard).

Which leads us to our next diet: plant-based.

plant based meal prep and plated foods


Seemingly synonymous with veganism, plant-based by definition is actually a diet where a large portion consists of plants, but also incorporates animal products. In comparison, veganism is classified as a way of living that avoids all animal products — including leather and honey. It relies on grains, vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, seeds, and plant-sourced oils as the mainstays of diet. It is important to recognize the difference between these two terms.

Jonny Bowen, PhD, CNS is well-known as “The Nutrition Myth Buster” who has a PhD in holistic nutrition and is board-certified by the American College of Nutrition. He has written extensively on popular nutrition trends, including plant-based diets. I encourage you to seek out his work to learn more.

For our purposes here, we will adhere to the classical definition of plant-based, which encompasses the same foods as a Paleolithic diet, but also includes dairy, grains, white potatoes, and legumes. A Mediterranean diet is also considered plant-based. More on this in the next section.

It is important to note that these are whole food diets that include very little processed food, if at all — even those that are considered “healthy” or “plant-based”.

Similar to the findings of Paleolithic diets, studies show that a plant-based diet also supports cardiovascular and metabolic health, weight loss, and a reduction in type II diabetes.8,9

This brings us to the Mediterranean diet, beloved by nutritionists and physicians alike.

friends toasting over a Mediterranean diet meal


One of the more popular diets that has been embraced by many for its cardiovascular and blood sugar support, as well as promoting a trim waistline, is the Mediterranean diet. This too is considered plant-based as a large portion of the diet is derived from whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, seeds, and nuts. It also includes dairy products, moderate amounts of red wine and fish, while minimizing red meat.

Dietitians and physicians have prescribed a Mediterranean diet for decades to improve cardiovascular health and blood sugar regulation. It typically comprises 55-60% carbohydrates where 80% are complex carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, and rice; 10-15% proteins with 60% from animal sources; and 25-30% fat, largely from olive oil.10

Research has shown that this diet addresses cardiovascular disease and may help to boost cognitive function. It also decreases the risk of diabetes and some cancers. It can help to ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis as well.11,12

Nicole Apelian and her The Holistic Guide to Wellness book

Don’t Wait for Illness to Strike, Invest in Your Wellness Today

In addition to finding a diet that promotes health and reduces the risk of disease, my Holistic Guide to Wellness is an outstanding resource that includes 45 science-backed daily protocols for a range of health conditions — including weight loss, cardiovascular health, diabetes, cognitive issues, autoimmunity, and much more.

This guide is the result of years of research and collaboration with MDs, NDs, and scientists who are experts in natural medicine. Each protocol includes specific foods, exercises, stress-relief techniques, vitamins, minerals, herbs, massages, stretches, detoxes, natural remedies, and other holistic practices that can help you heal your body and mind naturally.

Whether you want to improve your current health condition or prevent future illness, this guide will show you how to take charge of your wellness at home with natural medicine. You don’t need expensive drugs or invasive procedures to feel better. You just need the right knowledge and tools.

Don’t let chronic illness rob you of your happiness and vitality. Order The Holistic Guide to Wellness: Herbal Protocols for Common Ailments today and discover the power of natural healing for yourself. Tap here to learn more and get ready to transform your life!

Nicole Apelian

  1. Osterdahl, M., Kocturk, T., Koochek, A., & Wändell, P. E. (2008). Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European journal of clinical nutrition, 62(5), 682–685. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602790
  2. Mellberg, C., Sandberg, S., Ryberg, M., Eriksson, M., Brage, S., Larsson, C., Olsson, T., & Lindahl, B. (2014). Long-term effects of a Palaeolithic-type diet in obese postmenopausal women: a 2-year randomized trial. European journal of clinical nutrition, 68(3), 350–357. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2013.290

  3. Obert, J., Pearlman, M., Obert, L., & Chapin, S. (2017). Popular Weight Loss Strategies: a Review of Four Weight Loss Techniques. Current gastroenterology reports, 19(12), 61. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11894-017-0603-8

  4. Masharani, U., Sherchan, P., Schloetter, M., Stratford, S., Xiao, A., Sebastian, A., Nolte Kennedy, M., & Frassetto, L. (2015). Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes. European journal of clinical nutrition, 69(8), 944–948. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2015.39

  5. Frassetto, L. A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris, R. C., Jr, & Sebastian, A. (2009). Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European journal of clinical nutrition, 63(8), 947–955. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2009.4

  6. Osterdahl, M., Kocturk, T., Koochek, A., & Wändell, P. E. (2008). Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European journal of clinical nutrition, 62(5), 682–685. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602790

  7. Boers, I., Muskiet, F. A., Berkelaar, E., Schut, E., Penders, R., Hoenderdos, K., Wichers, H. J., & Jong, M. C. (2014). Favourable effects of consuming a Palaeolithic-type diet on characteristics of the metabolic syndrome: a randomized controlled pilot-study. Lipids in health and disease, 13, 160. https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-511X-13-160

  8. Olfert, M. D., & Wattick, R. A. (2018). Vegetarian Diets and the Risk of Diabetes. Current diabetes reports, 18(11), 101. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11892-018-1070-9

  9. Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. The Permanente journal, 17(2), 61–66. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-085

  10. Altomare, R., Cacciabaudo, F., Damiano, G., Palumbo, V. D., Gioviale, M. C., Bellavia, M., Tomasello, G., & Lo Monte, A. I. (2013). The mediterranean diet: a history of health. Iranian journal of public health, 42(5), 449–457.

  11. “Can a Mediterranean diet help keep heart disease, dementia, and cancer at bay?” Katharine Lange – Fact checked by Ferdinand Lali, PhD. Medical News Today, March 18, 2023. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/can-a-mediterranean-diet-help-keep-heart-disease-dementia-and-cancer-at-bay

  12. Katz Sand, I., Levy, S., Fitzgerald, K., Sorets, T., & Sumowski, J. F. (2023). Mediterranean diet is linked to less objective disability in multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis (Houndmills, Basingstoke, England), 29(2), 248–260. https://doi.org/10.1177/13524585221127414

  13. Feinman, R. D., & Makowske, M. (2003). Metabolic syndrome and low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets in the medical school biochemistry curriculum. Metabolic syndrome and related disorders, 1(3), 189–197. https://doi.org/10.1089/154041903322716660

  14. Volek, J., Sharman, M., Gómez, A., Judelson, D., Rubin, M., Watson, G., Sokmen, B., Silvestre, R., French, D., & Kraemer, W. (2004). Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutrition & metabolism, 1(1), 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-1-13

  15. Wood, R. J., Volek, J. S., Liu, Y., Shachter, N. S., Contois, J. H., & Fernandez, M. L. (2006). Carbohydrate restriction alters lipoprotein metabolism by modifying VLDL, LDL, and HDL subfraction distribution and size in overweight men. The Journal of nutrition, 136(2), 384–389. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.2.384

  16. Noakes, M., Foster, P. R., Keogh, J. B., James, A. P., Mamo, J. C., & Clifton, P. M. (2006). Comparison of isocaloric very low carbohydrate/high saturated fat and high carbohydrate/low saturated fat diets on body composition and cardiovascular risk. Nutrition & metabolism, 3, 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-3-7

  17. Davidson, T. L., Hargrave, S. L., Swithers, S. E., Sample, C. H., Fu, X., Kinzig, K. P., & Zheng, W. (2013). Inter-relationships among diet, obesity and hippocampal-dependent cognitive function. Neuroscience, 253, 110–122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.08.044

  18. “The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles” Terry Wahls M.D. Avery Publishing, December 30, 2014

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