Which Dietary Strategy is Best for You?
It can feel overwhelming to choose which dietary strategy is best for you. There are many different types of diets and eating strategies, so how do you pick the one that’s best for you and what are the differences?
Let’s break down 3 common dietary strategies, 1. The Standard American Diet (SAD), 2. The Low Carb Diet (LC) and 3. The Ketogenic Diet (KD).
Each of these dietary strategies contain differences in the macronutrient and micronutrient composition. For example, take the Low Carb Diet, this dietary strategy controls for the amount of macronutrients in one’s diet by reducing carbohydrate intake. Compare that to the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet is still considered low carb but it is more focused on what micronutrients are consumed. Let’s discuss this in greater detail below.
There are four macronutrients, these include carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. These make up the energy or calories that we consume within our diet. Let’s compare the macronutrient ranges between the Standard American, Low Carb and Ketogenic Diet.
Standard American Diet
45 - 65% of energy from carbohydrates
10 - 35% of energy from protein
20 - 35% of energy from fat
Low Carb Diet
15-30% of energy from carbohydrates
30% of energy from protein
40-55% of energy from fat
*Only carbohydrate reference has been established. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/
5-10% of energy from carbohydrates
30-35% of energy from protein
55-60% of energy from fat
Micronutrients consist of the vitamins and minerals that make up the macronutrients that provide us energy. Micronutrient intake is critical to energy production, immunity, hormone signaling and much more. Although there are no pre-determined micronutrient recommendations for each of these three dietary strategies, there are patterns that we can gather from each. The Standard American Diet is generally higher in refined carbohydrates, dairy products and vegetable oils. These foods contain synthetic vitamins like folic acid, as well as larger quantities of calcium and omega 6 fatty acids. Whereas a low carb and ketogenic diet contain less total carbohydrates. Because of this, the LD and KD are generally lower in synthetic vitamins and higher in nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and retinol (vitamin A).
It’s important to note that these three dietary strategies are simply labels to classify broad eating patterns. It is up to the individual to decide how to interpret these guidelines. For example, you can follow the macronutrient guidelines of the low carb diet and eat all of the carbohydrates from refined carbohydrates and fried meats, or you can choose to make the diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and heart-healthy fat sources. At the end of the day, the most important aspect isn’t which diet you classify with but what nutrients you eat within your day.