Great Diet Debate
We’ve all been there. Perhaps you’ve put on a few pounds, or you’re starting to feel some weight-related aches and pains. Maybe you just want to turn over a new leaf and take better care of yourself. Whatever led you to this moment, you know you’re ready to try a new diet. Now when we say “diet,” we don’t mean a lose-weight-quick scheme; we’re talking about a long-term, health-minded solution.
Trendy nutrition advice is always floating around the internet, and it’s hard to know which diet (Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free?) may be right for you. Let’s look at the trends behind these four specific diet plans and see how more than 2,500 people weigh in.
Gendered Food Choices
Research and marketing suggest that making healthy food choices is usually associated with being a woman – men supposedly embrace their inner carnivores and women stick to salads. But stereotypes don’t always translate into real life. Or do they?
Yes, and no.
Unsurprisingly, the women surveyed were more inclined to have tried all four diets than men – including the meat-based regimens. Women outpaced men in all categories except for Paleo, which has a slightly higher percentage of men currently following.
That said, most of our participants eventually forfeited all four diets for a more sustainable approach to healthy eating.
Which Are the Healthiest Diets?
More often than not, it isn’t the number on the scale that means the most. It is your BMI, or body mass index. Weight may be easier to calculate quickly, but dividing it by your height gives you a better sense of your overall health, or measure of body fat. This rough estimate can come in handy when managing your health; however, it’s important to keep in mind that it does have its flaws. (BMI does not account for muscle mass or changes in weight due to a person’s water volume.)
People belonging to all BMI categories found gluten-free diets to be largely neutral, according to our survey. And less than half of people from each BMI bracket felt that it was healthy. While vegetarian and omnivorous diets were found to be healthiest by more than half of people from each BMI bracket. At the same time, people from all BMI categories felt that vegan diets were more unhealthy than any other diet.
Paleo diets, on the other hand, had mixed responses. While people with an overweight and obese BMI categories felt it was mostly a healthy diet, people with a healthy and underweight BMI weren’t as convinced. Half of those with an underweight BMI felt it was either neutral or unhealthy, and about the same percentage in the healthy BMI category felt that way too.
Sticking With It
It can take something as simple as an unflattering photograph to nudge men and women into dieting – sometimes the outcome is a 20-pound weight loss, while other instances end in defeat.
Still, many of our respondents at least attempted one or all of the diets, and about 16% continued each diet for one to two months. When it came to making a major lifestyle change, gluten-free dieters were the least likely to continue the diet for more than six months (12.6%), while vegetarians were the most likely to continue for the same length of time (almost 23%).
Except going meatless, sticking to a vegetarian diet is not as limiting as the other options. In fact, some vegetarians will tell you their diets have become much more adventurous and interesting since they stopped eating meat for any number of reasons, including religion, health, or concerns about animal welfare.
Admirable or Annoying?
We’ve all been on one side of this scenario: A dinner party guest comes over with a weird, healthy casserole and won’t eat the less nutritious (but delicious) options you’ve prepared. Or maybe you’re the one in that position, and you’ve gotten the eye-rolling, snide comments at another party.
Yes, some diets are less convenient than others (especially when it comes to socializing), and some people have different perspectives on those who commit to one diet or another. But which diet is more or less favorable to those on the outside?
We asked our respondents to rate each of the four diets according to how they perceived those who partook in them. Were they annoying? Admirable? Healthy? Or just completely self-righteous? Overwhelmingly, the Paleo Diet was perceived as the most “healthy” (30%), with vegetarian coming in at a close second (28.6%). When it came to being viewed as “annoying,” those who ate gluten-free took first place at almost 20%, with vegan following closely behind at almost 18%.
BMI and Diet Choices
Along with healthy eating goals usually comes healthy weight goals. Some of us start a healthy diet because we want to lose weight, or we want to maintain a desired weight as we age. The Body Mass Index (BMI) helps us see where we stand with healthy weight for our height and size.
A rating of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a healthy weight range for men and women. Knowing your BMI is useful because it helps you understand what your weight in pounds actually means for your body type, so you can make weight-loss choices based on knowing if you are possibly overweight.
We asked survey respondents about their BMI numbers and the diets they are currently on to see if there was a correlation between certain BMI rates and specific diets. The most common BMI numbers were within the healthy range for all four diets, which is great news.
The Paleo Diet had the highest percentage of followers who had BMI rates in the overweight and obese ranges, while the vegan diets had the largest percentage of diet followers with healthy BMI numbers. Perhaps people who try nontraditional diets do so because they are more health conscious, whether they’re just starting their journey or nearing the end (a healthy BMI)?
Reasons for Diet Choices
We come to different diet choices for various reasons. Some of us want to lose weight or gain muscle. Others want to be more environmentally friendly or avoid harming animals. Still, others just want to find something that makes them feel better. The common thread between us all is that we just want to make better food choices.
We were curious about why our survey participants had chosen the particular diets that they were following. Some of the results might seem logical, and others might surprise you. While you might not think of vegetarians as frequent weight-lifters, a large percentage of our respondents selected “muscle gain” as their motivation for eating a vegetarian diet.
The majority of Paleo eaters began their diets to become healthier. For those who just wanted to try out a diet, the percentages were a little less skewed, but vegetarian still led at more than 44%. Vegans and vegetarians selected “moral reasons” for their food choices, and more than 70% of vegetarians also chose that diet to save money on food. Finally, the Paleo and vegetarian diets were popular for respondents who wanted to lose weight.
Our respondents answered questions about how satisfied they were with their diet choices. All four types of diet followers expressed that they thought their diet was worth it at a rate of nearly 60%, with Paleo dieters feeling the best about their diet at more than 61%. About a quarter of all respondents felt their diet wasn’t worth it, and a fair percentage of each weren’t sure.
Diets can be hard to stick to, but the long-term rewards are worth it if you choose one that works well within your lifestyle. Healthy eating choices add years to our lives, prevent chronic health problems, and create a greater sense of well-being. Adding more fresh foods to our diets helps us feel better, regardless of whether we choose to eat gluten- or meat-free. In fact, a good place to start would be with bone broth. Using only organic ingredients and marrow bones from 100% certified grass-fed, grass-finished cattle, you’ll never have to worry about what’s in your food.
Whether you’re choosing a new diet to lose weight, get healthy, or to increase your sense of well-being, it’s always a good idea to research various dietary options. Some people find success with Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options. Others give them a try and then have to move on to something else.
Through a commitment to your own health, longevity, and happiness, you will figure out what works best for your own body and lifestyle. Whatever your motivations, research proves that we reap enormous benefits when we stick with a healthier diet. Increase the chance of enjoying long-lasting health by focusing on improving your overall eating patterns, not simply by choosing a diet plan. After all, you only get one body.
We surveyed 2,570 people on their opinions, habits, and experiences with the following four diets: Paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan. The BMI calculations were taken from our respondents’ height and weight using the following formula: BMI = (weight in pounds * 703)/height in inches².
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