Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free Diet: Which Diet is Best?

Diets…The craze that just never goes out of fashion.

Have you noticed that as so called weight loss miracles come and go, the one constant that remains is the term “diet”?

So where to start…and which diet is best?

It seems that there are the “diets” that get shut down automatically, you know, ones like the “cake diet” or “cookie diet” or even the “omg diet” (I don’t actually think I have the brain space to recall, or the time in my day to type every “diet” that has ever been created!)..but you get my drift.


Eggs, salad, caveman – paleo diet …(just on a nice plate)

But then you have the “diets” that at least get a chance of people believing them without being completely slammed from the word go, like the “I should eat like a caveman” diet, or the “fruit is the greatest evil on earth” diet, or how could we forget the latest “don’t touch a nut, they have way too much omega 6 for anyone” diet..(sorry, couldn’t help myself there).

Please don’t get me wrong, I am completely open to new ideas, and constantly educating myself on the range of different perspectives and science people are using to back the different types of diets and recommendations that are being made; and I certainly have never been one to recommend anyone consume 12 serves of grains or so a day ever in my life simply because that was ‘common practice’.

Fish and salad..pretty much always classified as “healthy” by any “diet” (well except vegan I suppose!)

But I have picked up along the way, that there are some common trends that are almost ALWAYS included in these “diets”:

1. Cut out: Processed foods, refined sugars, and salt (all makes relative sense), and

2. Consume more vegetables, and some form of protein source (what that may be is still open for debate i.e plant based, animal based, lean, organic etc.).

But then you have the bits in the middle that get chopped and changed all the time; These include:

1. The type of fat we can or should consume.

2. The type, if any, of grain, we should consume.

3. The type of protein source we should be eating i.e vegetarian, lean animal based, organic, or regular fat (as mentioned above); and finally,

4. How much fruit we should consume.

Now I think by now we can tell I am no extremist (unfortunately for me, maybe that means my voice won’t get heard; but here is to hoping that those of you reading this will help me prove that theory wrong!).

Greek probiotic rich yoghurt, fruit and nuts..sometimes healthy, sometimes not apparently!

It seems that the extreme approaches that are being pushed around grains, different types of fats, how much protein should be consumed, or whether sugar is the worlds greatest problem, still seem to sit a little uncomfortably with me.

If I ate this every day..this would be a problem for my insides (but I would enjoy the taste!)

If I ate this every day..this would be a problem for my insides (but I would enjoy the taste!)

Lets put it this way, we will work with the paleo man as an example given that it seems to be pretty topical (and because clearly we all still live in caves and hunt for our food daily);

If someone was selecting to eat meat or animal based products with a high biological value protein at almost every meal (egg whites, meat, fish etc.), this has been shown time and time again to promote raised levels of IGF1, which is an indicator for inflammation in our bodies. This “insulin like growth factor” has been found to be connected to the signs of ageing, and as the name suggests, is connected to insulin..I am pretty sure everyone is clear and can agree by now, that anything connected to insulin is not supportive of good health or keeping your weight down.

Then we have the compounding effect of saturated fat and potentially some trans fats too (it seems people like to read “increase your grass fed meat” to somehow mean “eat as much processed bacon as you would like”), and then because these are all animal based sources, you get haeme iron (the well absorbed type of iron) coming into you body in large amounts.

paleo diet approved

paleo diet approved

Now typically I would not say this iron is a cause for concern; however, if we look a little closer, diets high in saturated and trans fats, together with a lot of iron (plus a couple other minerals that one would obtain in this diet), can together be very telling for someones chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease (sorry, had to throw a curve ball in there..didn’t see that one coming did you?).

Don’t get me wrong, I completely get that for a young adult, or however old the person who is following this diet may be, Alzheimers is probably the last thing on their mind (and having a toned physique is most likely the key driving factor to the dietary restrictions). However, really, the evidence is actually there (and this in a world of nutrition which doesnt usually have such concrete connections built). I don’t know about you, but I would like to do anything in my power to be able to be mentally and physically around for my loved ones as I get older, if not for me, for them!

Veggies can be gourmet!

Veggies can be gourmet! Vegan diet approved, paleo diet approved, gluten free diet approved..

On the other hand, there are countless studies, as well as real life testimonials (which is what people seem to like to see these days), that show the benefits of consuming more plant based produce.

Time and time again, it is shown that the nutrient density and the beneficial antioxidants and phytochemicals found within these plant based foods are beneficial for disease prevention or even reversal, to prevent the signs of ageing..and guess what..I’m going to take a punt and say that they might even be beneficial for weight management…

paleo diet food plan, paleo diet, gluten free diet

Paleo diet and gluten free diet approved meal.

So with all that in mind, could we not just enjoy the tender wagyu beef at a Japanese restaurant, the poached eggs when out for brunch, the grilled squid at a greek restaurant; whilst equally enjoy the hummus and felafel in a middle eastern dish, or the sautéed eggplant in tomato at a restaurant…

Something tells me the variety will please both our insides and also satisfy our taste buds (cuisines can be switched obviously to fit your taste preferences re. spice varieties!).

Delicious and healthy middle eastern food in Israel.

Delicious and healthy middle eastern food in Israel.

So with one final note, that I always try to share with those who are confused about what to eat:

Eat something for the good that it provides i.e if you are scared of the 1 piece of fruit because of the few grams of fructose it contains, just remember, you are eating the fruit for the vitamins, the fibre, the antioxidants, not the fructose. Same goes with your nuts..okay, so we are not eating them in copious amounts for their omega 6, but maybe, just maybe, you can eat them for their monounsaturated heart protecting fats, their Vitamin E, their phytosterols, and an array of other vitamins and minerals that they also provide.

Once you start to look at the good, rather than what to be scared of, and keep an open mind to including variety in your diet, you may have just unlocked the secret to having a good relationship with your food again…now thats something worth smiling about!

I’ll have to leave it there for today,

For now,

The Travelling Dietitian x

ps – If you are interested in learning how to eat having a positive relationship with your food, and to learn what your body needs and which food groups to include, I would recommend checking out my book The Clean Separation which covers this in a lot more depth.

About The Author

Kara Landau aka "Travelling Dietitian" is an Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian based in New York City. She is a world explorer, healthy foodie, social butterfly, and barre class lover. When she isn't trying new cuisines, researching new product innovations in the health food space, or speaking to the media on behalf of her food industry clients, she can be found quietly conjuring up her next idea in how to make this world a healthier and better place.

4 Responses

  1. Wendy

    Thank god for sensible dietitians =) Obviously sound, practical, logical advice is never as exciting as some fad diets for most! Love your last few paragraphs on focusing on the good parts of foods

    • Travelling Dietitian

      Thanks Wendy! So true. Have to find a way of making the logical sound exciting I suppose! (I would think reaping the benefits both physically and socially would be at least one driving force in its favour!).

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