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If you’re looking to improve your health, lose weight and boost your mood, a diet without processed foods could be the solution. But how do you know which one is best for you?
Processed foods are anything that has been altered from its natural state. This can include adding unhealthy ingredients or removing nutrients.
1. The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is a healthy eating plan that has been shown to be effective at improving a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. The diet is based on foods that are naturally rich in healthy fats, like olive oil and fish. It also encourages eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
The key to this diet is reducing your dietary cholesterol intake, which is found in fatty meats, cheese and egg yolks. Having too much cholesterol in your diet can cause your arteries to become clogged and narrowed, which puts you at higher risk for heart disease.
By replacing these animal-based dietary fats with healthier sources, like extra virgin olive oil and monounsaturated vegetable oils, you can lower your cholesterol level and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, a study published in April 2020 showed that substituting a half-tablespoon of olive oil a day for an equivalent amount of butter significantly reduced heart disease risk among Americans.
In addition, a growing body of research shows that people who consume more omega-3s and fatty fish can lower their blood pressure and decrease their risk of heart disease by up to 19 percent. This is especially true for women, who tend to have lower levels of these fatty acids than men.
As with any diet, it is important to talk to your doctor about any supplements you may need to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. This includes vitamin D, which is essential for bone health.
Many cultures around the world have similar diets, relying on plant-based foods and limiting their meat consumption. For instance, Indian cuisine features vegetable curries and stir-fries, while Southeast Asian food relies on curry dishes made with fresh veggies.
You should also limit your salty packaged snacks and processed meats as these contain high amounts of sodium. The same is true for prepared sweets and candy, which are typically loaded with added sugar.
One major disadvantage of the Mediterranean diet is that it requires a lot of work, as you must prepare your own meals and avoid processed foods. This can be overwhelming for some people, depending on their cooking skills and kitchen comfort level.
2. The Nordic Diet
The Nordic diet is a health-promoting eating plan based on local, fresh, in-season foods. It is a type of diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and low-fat dairy.
The diet has many benefits, including a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as an increase in fiber intake. In addition, it may help manage diabetes and inflammation.
One study found that people who eat the Nordic diet are more likely to stick with it and experience greater weight loss than those who don’t. Another study showed that the diet helps lower blood sugar surges and improves insulin sensitivity.
But before you jump on the Nordic diet bandwagon, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian to make sure it’s right for you. You also need to consider your health history and how you feel about food.
For example, if you’re used to eating a lot of processed food or prepared foods, the Nordic diet might be a little too difficult for you. It may require you to learn to cook new recipes, which can be a challenge if you don’t have the skills or time.
You’ll also need to eat more healthy fats, such as salmon and walnuts. You’ll also want to avoid processed meats and other high-salt foods like lunch meat, dried pasta and bread.
In terms of taste, the Nordic diet encourages you to eat a variety of foods and use spices and herbs. Ideally, you’ll also be buying locally grown foods, which will help reduce your environmental impact.
The Nordic diet also emphasizes consuming large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent inflammation and reduce your risk of heart disease. This diet also focuses on fatty fish, such as herring, salmon and mackerel.
The Nordic diet has a few minor disadvantages, however, such as the fact that you might not be able to find all of the foods that are recommended in the diet. In particular, you might have a hard time getting your hands on produce like lingonberries and cloudberries in the U.S. If you don’t live in a region where these fruits are available, you’ll need to modify your diet accordingly.
3. The Flexitarian Diet
The flexitarian diet is a popular eating plan that involves reducing the amount of meat a person consumes while also including plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. It is considered to be an alternative to vegetarianism.
The main benefits of the flexitarian diet are weight loss, a reduction in cholesterol, a decrease in the risk of diabetes and overall better health. It is also said to improve bowel function, support immunizations, and reduce inflammation in the body.
Some individuals may find the flexitarian diet to be a bit restrictive and challenging, but it can be a healthy eating plan that allows for small changes over time. This diet is based on the principles of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends a variety of nutrient-dense foods and a reduced intake of fat, saturated fat, added sugars and sodium.
To get started on the flexitarian diet, start with two days a week where you forgo all meat and replace it with plant-based alternatives like lentils, beans, tofu, edamame, or avocado. After a few months, you can increase your intake to three to four days a week and gradually cut back your consumption of meat as you gain experience with this eating plan.
During this period, make sure you are getting enough calcium by adding broccoli, soybeans, spinach, and other greens to your diet. You can also add a source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, to your meals to help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.
You can still eat your favorite meaty dishes and enjoy them in smaller portions, so it won’t feel like you are missing out on your favorites. However, you will likely be more conscious of the calorie count and will probably need to cook and prepare meals in advance.
If you are concerned about nutrient deficiencies, it is best to seek out supplements that can help fill the void. For example, if you cut out dairy products from your diet, it is possible to develop a calcium deficiency, so you might want to supplement with fortified yogurt, milk, or cereal. Other potential nutrients to consider include vitamin B12 and phosphorus.
4. The Vegetarian Diet
The Vegetarian Diet is a popular choice for people who want to improve their health and reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. It excludes all foods containing meat, fish and poultry as well as products made from these ingredients, such as cheese or eggs.
The diet is an excellent way to get more vegetables in your daily meals, and it can help you lose weight without feeling hungry or deprived. It’s also good for your mental health, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It can even help you feel more energized and boost your immune system. Moreover, it can help you live longer and avoid serious illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Many studies have shown that vegetarians consume fewer calories and are less likely to be overweight than those who eat meat. This is probably due to a lower intake of saturated fats and high-calorie, high-fat foods.
A vegetarian diet can be a good option for individuals who are struggling with weight loss, especially when combined with regular exercise. It can also be helpful for those who are looking to control inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Those who are concerned about the environment should also consider a vegetarian diet. It has been shown that a vegetarian diet can have a positive impact on the health of the environment, as it is more sustainable than an animal-based one. It can also improve the diversity of the microbiota, which is important for human health.
Some people may choose to be vegetarian for spiritual reasons, such as a belief in a higher power or a connection with nature. Others may do so for religious reasons, such as their religion’s call to abstain from eating animal products.
Another reason why some people might decide to go vegetarian is to save money on food. The cost of meat is significantly higher than that of vegetables, so cutting down on meat can be a good way to save money.
In addition to the financial benefits, it can be a great choice for those who are concerned about their social life. Vegetarians are often more accepted in social situations than those who eat meat, and they’re more likely to be invited to parties and dinners.