#WSSC15th: Paleo vs. Vegetarian vs. Mediterranean Diets

Another day, another informative post thanks to the World Spinning and Sports Conditioning Conference!  Today we’re talking DIET, that terrible four letter word. But not just any diet–

The trifecta of trendy diets: Paleo, vegetarian, and Mediterranean.

Dr. Marc Bubbs, N.D., walked us through all three. He first outlined the Standard American Diet, or SAD, and it’s just that–sad.

We Americans ingest entirely too much sugar and trans fats and it’s contributing greatly to our obesity epidemic. 35% of North Americans are obese, and 75% are classified as overweight or obese.

I had heard this somewhere before but it shocks me every time–Type II diabetes used to be affectionately called “adult-onset diabetes” but it had to be renamed because too many kids were developing it. That’s a terrible trend.

We as Americans are also not getting enough quality protein. Our breakfasts consist of doughnuts and cereal (the latter of which I am guilty). Our corn-fed meats are too pumped up with antibiotics and hormones; grain-fed red meat would be much better due to the high omega-6 content.

Basically, the general American eats like crap.

Enter the healthier diet trends!

First up, the Paleolithic diet, or “Paleo”:

Paleo is a diet that focuses on natural foods, such as animal proteins, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, etc.

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Pro’s:

  • high potassium
  • high omega-3
  • high fiber
  • gluten-free
  • nutrient dense
  • lowers risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.

Con’s:

  • increased cholesterol
  • low-carb may translate to increased cortisol, or stress hormone

As you can see, Paleo is great for its quality animal protein and plethora of fruits and veggies, but the no bread/legumes/dairy can make for a tough go at a normal social life.

Onto the vegetarian diet:

A vegetarian diet consists of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, etc. Animal meats are not included, and some vegetarians forgo fish as well. Dairy is permitted.

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  • lower blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of cardiovascular disease
  • low in saturated fat
  • lots of leafy greens!
  • high fiber
  • high antioxidants

Con’s:

  • this kind of diet can throw off your stomach acidity –> this can be why people say they “went back to eating meat” and felt totally ill. It’s not the meat, it’s your stomach.
  • low protein
  • lower intake of fat-soluble vitamins (A, etc.) –> this is important because you need fat-soluble vitamins to be stored in your body!
  • low intake of “healthy” saturated fats, like coconut oil
  • you can still be vegetarian but ingest TONS of processed foods
  • limited research on the true benefits of vegetarianism

Dr. Bubbs mentioned that 80% of vegans and 25% of vegetarians have an iodine deficiency. 90% of vegans and 73% of vegetarians are deficient in vitamin B12. Iron deficiencies are common as well. These kind of startled me because I know that all three of those nutrients are essential to a healthy pregnancy and developing baby. Anddddd a lot of women of childbearing age have become vegetarian. Am I worried for them? No, they just have to be cognizant of what they’re eating and if they’re supplementing.

And now, the Mediterranean diet:

A diet that consists of fruits, veggies, olive oil, cheeses, lean meats, fishes, red wine, etc.

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Pro’s:

  • rich in healthy fats
  • high antioxidants
  • high fiber

Con’s:

  • too many legumes–this can inhibit mineral absorption and possibly damage the stomach lining
  • excessive wine, perhaps?
  • too many carbs
  • high in omega-6, can add to the omega imbalance that is common

This diet isn’t particularly controversial–there’s meat, dairy, bread, etc., but all in moderate amounts. I do, however, love the wine debate: are those on the diet really monitoring how much wine they’re drinking?

Sure, it’s great that you kept it to one glass, but how BIG was that glass? Very often it equates to two servings…and there goes your wine health-benefit.

Okay, so I was expecting some sort of dramatic conclusion from the session, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to eating REAL food. I loved that Dr. Bubbs had the same advice that I love to give out: instead of aggressively cutting the crap foods, focus on adding the good foods. Eventually you’ll enjoy the good foods and want to toss the bad ones. It’s a simple strategy.

Any of you out there a devoted Paleo/vegetarian/Mediterranean dieter? Anyone want to debate these diets?