Which diet is best? Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, WAPF, Low-Carb….?

Which diet is best? Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, WAPF, Low-Carb….?

Which diet is best? Wow. Is that a loaded question, or what? But let’s be honest… who hasn’t wondered this very question? Who hasn’t felt like they were drowning in a sea of research with so many conflicting answers. What diet is best!? No, really?

Of course, I should be clear from the beginning that when I use the word “diet” that I am not talking about Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, South Beach, or any other “diet to lose weight” type fads. We’re talking life-commitment diets, here. And while I can’t cover every diet out there, the most popular (and most contentious) include things like:

  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Paleo
  • Low-Carb
  • Weston A. Price (WAPF)
  • Raw Food
  • Clean Eating….

You get the point. There are a lot of different approaches to food these days, and unfortunately there is also a LOT of bickering going on in the health world about which diet is best.

So which diet is best? What do I think?

Which diet is best? Vegan, Paleo, Raw, WAPF?

Here’s the thing… I don’t know. At least, I don’t know what diet is best FOR YOU. Sure, I can give you some major tips on what to look for based on human physiology and historical research, but ultimately we are each so different. From our genetic makeup, to our environment, to our upbringing, to our tastes… there is no one diet that is perfect for everyone. With maybe one exception: The REAL FOOD diet.

The term “Real Food” is used pretty across the board in most of these popular diets. And with good reason: History has taught us that people have thrived on a variety diets. And anytime researchers “discover” another healthy culture, the headlines are full of what-to-eat and what-not-to-eat based on what we found from those living in China, Greece, or some small tribe living thousands of miles away during some specific period of time. Not only are these theories often incomplete, but they don’t take into account that we live in a very different time and culture… and that does make a difference.

Just to confuse you even more:

Want to disease proof your life? Maybe you should check out the China Study to learn why animal products will kill you. Just make sure not to check out this article that shows why Campbell’s numbers really aren’t that accurate, or this list of Vegans who have died prematurely of… yup, disease.

Want to lose weight? Feel better than you’ve ever felt? And show the world what real health is? Maybe you should go Paleo. Because, after all, it’s grains, not fat, that will kill you. Of course, there are plenty of people who have had their thyroids messed up and other “issues” from such a restrictive diet, and it may not be how our ancestors actually ate… so…. you know.

And don’t forget that cooked food will kill you, according to the raw foodies. The cooking process destroys the beneficial enzymes that allow our bodies to really digest and “take in” the nutrition found in food.

But then again…. that raw green smoothie may just do you in, too. Turns out cooking some foods is essential for good health and some raw food is equal to death.

And… and… and…

Which diet is best? Vegan, Paleo, Raw, WAPF?

How can everyone be right when all the “research” says that everyone else is wrong?

My diet of choice

I will always be grateful for the principles and research of Weston A. Price because it resonated with me and got me to finally let go of my processed food-like junk and embrace real food. I changed my diet substantially and lost weight, cleared my skin, and felt better.

But truth be told, I’m not a strict WAPFer either. Sure, I try to eat properly prepared grains and all things in moderation. And I sure love my butter, but after years of researching, feeling lost and confused, and scared to eat almost everything I finally let go of the labels.

I just try to eat real food. Period.

Which diet is best? Vegan, Paleo, Raw, WAPF?

To be clear: I understand that for many people embracing a particular diet has saved your life, helped you lose unhealthy weight, or feel better. And I do think that these particular diets can serve us to get us on track. They provide clear “do’s” and “don’t” that help guide us in a world where garbage has been parading as real food for too long.

In that sense, I think “sticking to a diet” can be a good thing. And in reality, I think that all the various diets have many things going for them:

The Vegans are right: Plant foods are critical to good health. They provide important nutrients and are very detoxing. This is essential in a world that is so overrun with toxins.

The Paleo Peeps are right: Fat is good. Even saturated fat. And cholesterol. They are critical to life, no matter what “nutritionists” tell you.

The Raw Foodists are right: It is essential to have raw foods in our diet, as they do provide essential enzymes and nutrients that help us digest and absorb our food.

The Chefs are right: Cooking not only makes some food easier to digest, but it’s also a long held tradition that helps enliven our senses. It brings families together to the table, defines cultures, and delights.

The WAPFers are right: Cultured foods, good fats, and properly prepared foods provide essential elements to our living digestive systems.

The Anti-Dieters are right: Food should be enjoyed. Food is about celebration. Food shouldn’t be about guilt or denial. And indulging every now and then is a good thing.

Which diet is best? Vegan, Paleo, Raw, WAPF?

So how should you approach your food?

1. Keep it real.

Did it exist a thousand years ago? Eat it. Did it come out of a package with several (or MANY) ingredients on it… many of which you can’t pronounce? Don’t eat it.

2. Listen to your body.

Once you’ve adjusted to real food, you can really begin to trust your body and its cravings. Feeling heavy and “weighed down”? Try something light and cooling like some greens or a carrot. Feeling light headed or “fuzzy”? Try eating something with some quality fat and protein.

3. Enjoy your food.

Despite the fact that we supposedly know more about food than any other period in time, we are still dealing with more illness and disease than ever before. On top of that, our relationship with food is pretty disfunctional.

For centuries people thrived on a variety of diets without knowing anything about fats, carbs, proteins, calories, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, insulin, or the like. Food was food. It wasn’t complicated. It was something that kept them alive in the worse of times and something that brought people together in celebration in the best of times.

Don’t let food become your enemy or your burden.

Simply eat real food.

If you still want to continue categorizing yourself into some sort of “diet,” that’s fine… as long as it really makes you happy and really makes you feel better. But be open to change if those two things ever change.

And can we please stop with the diet bashing? While I doubt the Paleo circles and the Vegans will ever decide to have a picnic together, we ultimately are all on the side of real food. And our biodiversity plays a huge role in what our body needs for nourishment at any given time. So instead of pointing fingers or shoving research down each other’s throat, let’s combine our forces against the real problems like pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, CAFOs, processed junk, and the real threats to our food systems.

Don’t let food consume your life.

As for me and my family, we have better things to worry about than restrictive diets that keep us from enjoying real food, and more importantly LIFE.

Now somebody pass the butter, please.

processed-free-tablet

 

Have you checked out my newest ebook, Processed Free? Learn the tips and secrets to eating well without stressing out. Full of useful and practical guides and information this is the book to get you on track for good. Learn more here.

 

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

81 comments

    1. Ole

      She wrote: “and it MAY not be how our ancestors actually ate”.

      Our Ancestors did eat like that, DNA proves it, our teeths proves it, as well as we humans, Omnivores, just like Carnivores, needs B12-Vitamin, which by the amount needed, is something you’ll only find in proteins from meat!

  1. Lori

    I always just go back to “Eat food the way God intended us to eat it!” It seems to clear a lot of things up. Great post.

  2. Ellen

    This is an excellent perspective, thank you so much for sharing. I approach food for our family in a similar way, taking aspects of information from various areas and always aiming for real food.

    I have found that, of all of these, vegan can be most misleading about real foods. For a while my daughter couldn’t eat eggs or dairy, which meant that (aside from actual meat) all my recipes had to be vegan. Most vegan cookbooks I saw (and i read and researched quite a bit) called for and promoted food substitutes which were anything but real… often highly processed products made from GMO soy or corn, etc. I was hard pressed to find ‘real’ vegan food. That includes the vegan/vegetarian restaurants I have been to.

    There is a danger with any highly specified diet, I think, to be so focused on one set of rules that it lets other problematic things slip through, thus “throwing out the baby with the bath water”. That is why I have come to the conclusion that you point to here… is it real? Is it whole? Is it prepared in a way that preserves nutrients?


    1. Post author
      robin

      So true, Ellen! While I know several vegans who are super diligent about eating real food, it’s a lot harder (and takes a lot of work). It doesn’t help that “health food” stores are loaded with fake “health” food. So many good intentioned people buy blindly at these stores thinking they are doing a good thing.

  3. Karen

    This is seriously exactly what I needed today. You seem to do that a lot. Like an answer to prayers. You rock. Thanks Robin!

  4. Audrey

    This was well said and much needed. Thank you. We eat very healthy in my opinion even though I am always learning new healthy options. Recently I have started to go a bit crazy, though. Dairy or no dairy? Grains or no grains? Join the Paleo fad or not? Which sweeteners, if any….yada yada…I needed the breathing reminder you posted on FB today and took a deep good breath to clear my head. I will continue to take one step at a time to make our family as healthy as possible in a very unhealthy society. : )

    1. silvia alvarez

      you wrote exactly what i wanted to say..i read a few blogs and trying to do the best for my family..but a few days ago i felt a bit overwhelming when i read that grains causes cavities..and sprouted bread can be toxic. ugh!!
      and THANK YOU Robin for writing this today..it has help me to realize that iam doing my best giving my family whole, clean, nutritios and unprocessed foods.


      1. Post author
        robin

        That sounds familiar. The more I read that more I felt like I couldn’t eat anything… definitely not the solution. It’s all about balance. :)

  5. Briana

    First off, Amen to this post!!

    Second off, I think you are the Robin that taught my modern dance class at BYU back in 2005?! Dance 240 in the Knight Magnum Building, I think it was? Yes??! I loved that class and all of us LOVED you! That was one of my favorite (and possibly the one that had the biggest impact on me) dance classes ever! And here you are doing more fabulous things.

    So fun to “find” you this way. :) This is a fantastic blog that I will definitely be adding to my blog roll!


    1. Post author
      robin

      What a small world! I am definitely that Robin. :) That was such a great class… I will always have fond memories of that semester and all of you. Hope you are doing well!!! :)

  6. Jane

    How true this is!! I’m totally with you on this Robin. I’ve been through the maze of eating regimes and how confusing! I’ve pretty much taken what rings true from some of those plans and just doing my own thing. With the emphasis on REAL food, as unadulterated as possible. And taking serious delight in the fact that real butter, real whole milk, pastured eggs etc are NOT are enemy but our friend – yummo!! So I say ‘pfffttt’ to egg white omelets and yay for the whole food :)

  7. Rebecca Jo

    This is the best article I’ve read… I eat vegetarian & try to go more Vegan & it freaks everyone out… like I’m a freak… but I like this – I’m just going to say “I’m real” :) Simple enough.
    I love the idea that if its been around eat it – a label that you cant pronounce names? dont… simple enough again :)
    Glad to have found your web spot here :)

  8. Rosemeri

    You stated the problem extremely well. After spending months researching all these different and conflicting “diets” I pretty much came to the same conclusion…just eat REAL FOOD. That seems to be the common denominator in all these diets. Just eliminating processed, refined, and adulterated (fake)foods makes a huge difference in your health. It’s good to know that others thinks so too. I also get the feeling that many who champion these diets are using them to promote the selling of their books and materials and for me, that’s a real red flag.

  9. Megan Hardy

    This is a great blog post, a question we’ve all wondered about. I like how you mention each group has something right, there’s lots of truth out there. I personally gravitate to the idea of “moderation in all things” and getting a good balance of all those good things: a good dose of raw foods, a good dose of healthy meats and fat, a good dose of everything good—and generally avoiding those things that are unarguably bad. If I didn’t have all my allergies I would definitely take a more moderate stance with food, just a good old fashioned real/clean food diet with a little bit of everything good that God made for us. I hope to maybe one day be able to just RELAX and enjoy good clean foods from all the food groups.


    1. Post author
      robin

      Thanks, Megan. I think you bring up a good point that some people have to be more careful because they are truly allergic to certain foods. But for most of us we could all use a little more “relaxing” when it comes to our food. :)

  10. Leah H

    Thank you so much for this! It is ABSOLUTELY what I have felt for awhile now. Get back to REAL FOOD and then determine what makes your body feel best and function best. I read this and shook my head in agreement over and over! Gotta share!

  11. Vanessa Query

    Greetings from a fellow Village-Greener. This is beautiful, Robin, thank you so much for posting it!

    I’m always thinking a lot about the trappings of food dogma, trying to get myself untangled from them.

    I’ve always had a lot of health problems, and once I figured out how much my diet affected them, I felt a whole lot better physically, and uncluttered mentally. Looking back, I admit I got a little dogmatic–benevolently dogmatic, if there is such a thing, because it felt like I’d found the cure for everything!

    Then things in my body changed (I had a baby, that’ll throw ya!), and a lot of my old problems crept back despite my diet (along with new ones). I feel like I’m back at square one in a lot of ways–my old tricks aren’t working, and I’m struggling to figure out how to “fix” myself… learning to embrace this change, however challenging and obnoxious and painful (literally and figuratively) that may be! I hate to use the word “journey” but it is. :)

    Anyway, posts like yours really help me gain some perspective.

    Sharing this on my Facebook page…


    1. Post author
      robin

      Thanks so much, Vanessa! I think it’s so easy to fall into the dogma traps. I know I did. And, like you, once I had a baby I just felt like things started to fall apart a bit. I think making sure food didn’t become my enemy was key.

      1. hilary

        this topic and everyone’s responses to it are resonating with me so much. i was always a relatively healthy eater, but having children has kind of tipped my scales over into the land of manic food research detective and i have been making myself a little crazy! all of the reading articles about this diet vs. that one, this will kill you, no that will, was definitely making me feel lost as to what i should be feeding my family to keep us optimally healthy. i read an article recently about how organic apples are dosed with antibiotics and i about lost my mind. i’ve decided that i have got to step back and chill out a little, because i’m thinking the stress i feel about food choices is way worse for my health than anything we are eating. we eat real food, i make our yogurt and kombucha and i want to start making bread — i want to be able to enjoy these things like a sane person, instead of worrying over every single detail of our digestion. so thank you – this was just what i needed to read today. :)

  12. Chelsey

    I rarely comment on blogs, but I just found your blog today looking for a natural shampoo for hard water which I will be trying your recipe soon. I added your blog to my google reader then saw this post. I put off “dieting” or like I rather call it changing my eating style for so long because every diet plan out there contradicted each other and didnt make sense. The only thing they seemed to agree on is vegetables. I didn’t want to give any types of food up. I gave up fast food and pop and all the frozen dinners I lived off of and now prepare my own food. Well anyway I just wanted to thank you for making this post for any body else who are confused about how to eat better because of all the contradicting info out there.

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  14. Jacki

    Thank you for this post. I have read so much about each of the above, and tried about all of them. They all have science behind them, and against the, and as you said, your eating habits are individual and you have to find what works best for you. And real food, whatever food it is, is always best for everyone.

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  16. Alissa

    This is so well said! I have had exactly the same thoughts (though not quite as eloquently put) bouncing around my head lately. Like you said, the common thread in every major reasonable dietary theory is to eat more real food, and I believe that’s the big takeaway. Beyond that, each person needs to find what works for them! Thank you for posting this!

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  21. Lisa R.

    BEST. ARTICLE. EVERRRRRRR.
    Over the last several years I have tried diet after diet after diet. Somehow, I was overall successful-ish in losing a lot of my weight, but (and there are lots of buts) I still had lots to lose. In those several years of diet-bouncing, I would have mental melt downs due to frustration and all the fail-safe, guaranteed, perfect diets.
    ALL CONTRADICTING EACH OTHER.
    Prepared foods, processed foods, no carbs, no meat, no fat, low-fat, omg-work-out-20-hours-a-day, count points, count calories, count sit ups, count the number of nervous breakdowns… I’m sure that was the master plan…. to scare and intimidate us all into the not-able-to-eat anything diet.
    Finally. FINALLY I stopped with the madness. I added more leafy veggies and other fruits and veggies, chose lean meats AND realized I didn’t need it every day, added limited healthy fats, knocked out all the processed and refined sugar foods, and drink more water than ever before. I walk every day, I try different workouts (but I hate… exercise, so I never stick to any single thing), and do – things.
    The weight is coming off & my numbers (cholesterol, glucose) are pleasing my doctor. I don’t feel forced, or restricted or hungry. I have more energy, and I feel… incredible.
    And I am loving all the cool food.
    No labels. Just SMART!
    No labels.. just common sense, and smart choices and

  22. ValC

    I in awe of this article. It articulates such the same place I am with my business, my family, and my own eating.

    I operate a small local sort of “real food” store. It’s difficult navigating the waters of what to allow and not to allow in my store for my customers to buy… where to draw the line in the way of foods and even books. I try to give credit and grace to all those “diets” you mention because they all really do have their “place” but at the same time, none of them has all the answers.

    Thank you for this wisdom. It’s an encouragement to me.

  23. Cecilia

    Well. “Me Too”. I am so tired of all the contradicting ‘evidence’ and stories. My own body is being contradictory, and I KNOW my husband is tired of hearing about it! Thank you for putting it so simply.


    1. Post author
      robin

      Thanks, Cecilia. It can be really frustrating trying follow all the latest “proof” of what to eat. I hope we all can relax and listen to our bodies more.

  24. Jennifer

    It’s naive of us to ever think that we will understand all of the intricacies that make our bodies tick. Not only are our bodies going to utilize foods based on heritage and the things you stated above, there are probably other influences that are immeasurable. I keep telling my husband that local/seasonal eating probably helps our body utilize food better. I am certain our bodies are more able to assimilate foods/nutrients that thrive in the climate, elevation, daylight hours available, etc that those very bodies live in. It just makes sense.

  25. valerie

    Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you!

    I have SO reached this point (and just wrote about it too!). I give up with the mental see-sawing, already. I give up the intellectual nutritional masturbation. I allow my body to tell me what it needs! And yep…it’s a process. My digestion is definitely NOT healed or anything miraculous like that yet, but I have to say, before when I was majorly stressed out about food my digestion still wasn’t perfect. I’d rather be less stressed as I learn to prepare more whole foods JOYFULLY instead of fearfully. To trace the emotional and spiritual roots of some of these symptoms. Trust that everything will come together as it needs to. SO thankful for your blog and your intuitive eating :-)

  26. Teresa

    This is so right! I am tired of the seesaw effect. One day I say “I should not eat any grains, the next day ” I should eat grains” I just want to eat healthy non processed foods and not more than my body needs. It really is so simple if we will just do it. Thanks for this,great article. Loved your talk today on healthy summit and I have been following you for a while. Love your healthy DIY natural products. I have used lots of ideas from you!

  27. Janira B.

    Thank you for this post!! I real needed thi today. I just started my real food lifestyle (2 months ago). First I started with eating sauerkraut, cod liver oil, removed every single soy product from my life. Now, we only eat organic & grass-fed beef, etc. My sinus issues have almost disappeared. No more antiacids, pain pills. My periods are no longer debilitating – and my husband doesn’t have to walk on egg shells once a month. I know I feel 100 times better than before. And it can only get better. Unfortunately, I have about 40 lbs to lose, none of it has come off so my family & friends look at me like I’m killing myself because I’m eating real butter from grass-fed cows. Real milk, not non-fat, bone broth, etc. Somedays it’s very discouraging because I feel like I spend more time explaining my food. I have never been a closet eater, but now I feel like one. Sorry, this is off topic but I needed to vent.

  28. Kristin | Living the Rustic Life

    You know, I eat a real foods diet and I stick mostly to the WAPF principles. But I STILL struggle with an extra 30 pounds that I just can’t seem to get rid of. I try to consistently go to the gym and I try not to calorie count (but also try to stick to portion size) and these 30 pounds just won’t budge! Any suggestions???

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  30. Teresa

    Enough said!
    Loved this article and need to read it often when I get mind boggled with all the info out there. Think I will mark it :) thank you!

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