Last Update: October 6, 2023
According to members of the Thrive Market Merchandising team—who spend a lot of time studying trends in healthy living in order to curate the best products for members—strict adherence to a specific diet may be waning in popularity. Taking its place is a more flexible approach to nutrition that focuses less on rules and rigidity, and more on doing what’s best for your physical and mental health.
“We’re seeing fewer diet-prescribed items and more flexible eating habits,” says Caleb Hulsey, a Senior Category Manager on Thrive Market’s Merchandising team, adding that while diets like keto can be polarizing, some their attributes—like eating less sugar—have broader appeal. “Instead of all-or-nothing, we’re starting to see a mix [of healthy eating habits],” adds Category Manager Heather Brand.
If you want to eat healthier without the rules and restrictions of a strict diet, read on for the best advice from several popular eating plans and easy ways to incorporate them into your lifestyle.
The Paleo diet emphasizes eating whole, unprocessed foods. That’s pretty much always regarded as good advice, even if you don’t choose to commit fully to all of the Paleo diet’s parameters, which include cutting out all dairy, grains, and sugar.
While not all processed foods are bad, some have very low nutritional value relative to their saturated fat, sodium, and sugar—ingredients that are linked to obesity and chronic illness.
If you’re sticking strictly to Paleo (or any diet), you may find it challenging to eat at restaurants, since it’s almost impossible to know exactly how your meal was prepared. The upside of that is cooking more—a habit that can benefit your health and your budget.
The bottom line: Make whole foods the majority of your diet, and cook more meals yourself. (Here’s a whole week’s worth of healthy recipes to get you started!)
Think the plant-based or vegan diet is restrictive? Here’s a fun fact: there are an estimated 20,000 edible plant species on Earth. Even though humans only consume a small percentage of them, that’s still a lot of options to choose from.
Not only does variety help keep things interesting on a plant-based diet, but it serves a nutritional purpose: many important nutrients, including gut-healthy fiber and phytonutrients, can only be found in plants. Research into the benefits of a plant-heavy diet finds that phytonutrients like lycopene (in berries and red peppers) and sulforaphane (in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables) may help prevent chronic diseases.
The bottom line: Whether or not you incorporate animal products into your diet, try to eat as many different plant-based foods as possible (i.e., go ahead and put a fried egg or piece of chicken on your veggie-packed grain bowl).
The high-fat, low-carb keto diet has developed a reputation as a weight loss solution; followers aim to achieve a state of ketosis through their diet in order to burn fat. But not everyone is focused on weight loss. Two key tenets of the keto diet are cutting sugar and eating fat, both of which offer health benefits on their own.
More than a million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year, and the condition is on the rise in the United States among young people. Research shows that there is a strong association between sugar consumption and diabetes risk. Beyond potentially raising your risk of developing diabetes, excess sugar consumption can cause your blood sugar to skyrocket, then crash—a cycle that can lead to mood swings and dips in energy.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like the kind found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds, are thought to be beneficial for heart and brain health. These foods also provide nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory, gut-healthy compounds.
The bottom line: You don’t need to achieve a state of ketosis to reap the health benefits of reducing sugar and consuming healthy fats.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before changing your diet or healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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