Which Diet Should I Follow Along with Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced inflammation. However, to maximize the benefits of intermittent fasting, it’s important to pair it with a healthy diet. In this article, we will explore the popular diets that can be paired with intermittent fasting to achieve potential health benefits.

1. Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that prioritizes plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fish and seafood are the preferred sources of animal protein, while poultry, eggs, and dairy products are consumed in smaller quantities. Olive oil is the primary added fat, and moderate amounts of wine are allowed with meals. The Mediterranean diet also emphasizes physical activity and social connections. [1]

This lifestyle approach has been shown to have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol levels. [2] It has been followed in Mediterranean countries for centuries and is more than just a diet but a way of life. 

2. Paleo Diet

The Paleolithic diet, also known as the caveman, Stone Age, or steak and bacon diet, is based on the belief that consuming the same foods as our prehistoric ancestors is beneficial to our health. 

The paleo diet focuses on foods that could be hunted, fished or gathered in prehistoric times, such as lean meats, fish, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs, and plant-based oils. It excludes grains, starchy vegetables, legumes or beans, dairy products, high-fat meats, sugars, processed foods or trans fats, and salty foods. They believe these meals may lead to a variety of chronic diseases and conditions, from obesity to allergies, which can be attributed to the agricultural revolution. [3]

3. Vegan Diet

It is a diet that is followed by vegans and is centered around consuming plant-based foods such as vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and fruits. Vegans avoid consuming foods that originate from animals such as meat, eggs and dairy products.

Eating a varied and balanced vegan diet, fortified foods, and supplements can provide all the necessary nutrients for a healthy vegan diet. Calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids can be sourced from plant-based diets. It is important to ensure that vegan diets are planned properly to avoid nutrient deficiencies. [4]

Harvard Healthy Eating Plate – Popular Visual Guide

Harvard Healthy Eating Plate is not a diet. It is a visual guide which helps you to follow the diet of your choice like the 3 above. Harvard Healthy Eating Plate is science-based, and it shows people what a generally healthy plate looks like.

The plate recommends eating a variety of vegetables and fruits daily (½ of the plate), consume whole grains (¼ of the plate) like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice, choose healthy proteins (¼ of the plate) like fish, poultry, beans or nuts, and limit red meat and processed meats. Use healthy oils like olive, canola, and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table, and avoid trans fats. Drink water, tea, or coffee with little or no sugar, limit milk and dairy to 1-2 servings per day, and juice to 1 small glass a day, and avoid sugary drinks. [5]

The sizes of the sections on a healthy plate give an idea of the relative proportions of each food group to eat, but they are not based on specific calorie amounts. They also do not intend to provide a fixed number of servings or calories per day, as these vary from person to person.

4. Low-Carbohydrate Diets

Low-carbohydrate diets restrict the consumption of carbohydrates to 20 to 60 grams per day and increase the intake of protein and fat to compensate for the calories. The Atkins Diet is an example of this type of diet. Other diets, such as the Zone Diet, Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet, and later phases of the South Beach Diet, restrict carbohydrates to 40% or less of calories and focus on the glycemic index of foods. [6]

Low-carbohydrate diets may help people lose weight more quickly than low-fat diets, and evidence suggests they can be beneficial for heart health, as long as protein and fat selections come from healthy sources. [7] However, some people may find it difficult to sustain a low-carbohydrate diet long-term and may miss out on essential nutrients if they don’t include enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  

5. Ketogenic Diet

This diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, leading the body to break down fat into molecules called ketones. Ketones are used as the primary source of energy for many cells in the body. The ketogenic diet is used to treat certain types of epilepsy and is being researched for its potential in treating some types of cancer. [8]

Ketogenic diets have advantages including weight loss, better blood sugar control, and reduced inflammation. However, they may also lead to side effects like constipation, headaches, and nutrient deficiencies, and are difficult to sustain long-term due to their restrictive nature. In the initial stages, they can cause “keto flu” symptoms. [9]

It’s important to weigh both the advantages and disadvantages before starting a ketogenic diet, and to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if it’s a safe and appropriate option for you.

PROS and CONS of The 5 Popular Diets

Mediterranean Diet

-Lower cholesterol levels

-Lower risk of cardiovascular diseases

-Prevent and control diabetes

-Help in weight loss

-Healthy aging – defined as living to 70 years or more, and having no chronic diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer) or major declines in mental health, cognition, and physical function [2]

-Risk of overeating and weight gain – does not emphasize specific portion sizes or amounts.
Possible solution:  Following the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate can provide better guidance on proper food proportions per meal.-Low levels of iron from not eating enough meat
Possible solution: consume plant-based foods that are rich in iron and pair it with food rich in vitamin C to aid in absorption.

-Calcium loss from eating fewer dairy products –
Possible solution: consume beans, grains, and vegetables which are great sources of calcium.

-May be more expensive to follow – in places that have limited supply of fish and fresh vegetables.
Possible solution: opt for frozen vegetables or fruits. Plant-based protein sources like beans and legumes can be consumed instead of fish.

Low-carb and Ketogenic Diet

Low-carb and ketogenic diets both restrict consumption of carbohydrates which makes their pros and cons the same. Thus, they are grouped together.

-Potential for weight loss due to the high-fat, low-carb nature of the diet

-May improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes

-Potential for reduced inflammation

-May be beneficial for certain neurological conditions such as epilepsy

-Can lead to increased satiety and reduced hunger

-Can cause side effects such as constipation, headaches, and nausea

-May increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in some people

-Can lead to nutrient deficiencies if not carefully planned

-Difficult to sustain long-term due to restrictive nature of the diet

-May lead to “keto flu” symptoms in the initial stages of the diet.

Paleo Diet

-Eating clean without additives, preservatives, or chemicals

-Anti-inflammatory benefits from plant nutrients in fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds

-Increased intake of iron from red meat

-Improved satiety due to higher intake of protein and fats

-Short-term weight loss due to limited food choices

-High in fiber, potassium, and antioxidants while low in simple carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar can be healthy

-Can be expensive

-Excludes grains and dairy that can be good for health and energy

-Difficult for vegetarians as it excludes beans

-Insufficient carbohydrate intake

-High saturated fats from animal protein intake may lead to increased cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease

-Low calcium intake increases the risk of osteoporosis, rickets, and bone fractures

-Restrictive nature of the diet makes it difficult to sustain weight loss over the long term

Vegan Diet

-Lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.

-Lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure.

-Lower risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and all-cause mortality.

-Higher intake of fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

-Risk of nutrient deficiencies, particularly for vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids.

-Potential for inadequate protein intake

-Potential for lower intake of certain nutrients found primarily in animal products, such as heme iron and zinc.

Possible general solution: Plan your meals well. Eat a variety of food. Eat fortified foods. Learn more about complementary proteins–combining two or more foods with incomplete proteins, to form complementary proteins, can provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. Some examples include: pairing legumes with grains, nuts, seeds.

-Potential for higher intake of antinutrients, such as phytates and tannins, which can interfere with nutrient absorption. [10]
Possible solution: soaking, cooking, fermentation and sprouting may disable this.


As with any dietary approach, there are both pros and cons to following a particular diet in combination with intermittent fasting. It is important to consider individual needs and preferences, as well as any underlying health conditions or medications that may impact dietary choices. Ultimately, the best approach is to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine the most appropriate and sustainable diet and fasting regimen for your unique needs and goals.

For recipe ideas for each diet, check out these articles:

Why Mediterranean Diet and Intermittent Fasting are the Perfect Pair for a Healthy Lifestyle

Plant-Based Intermittent Fasting: Delicious Vegan Recipes to Try

Fuel Your Body and Thrive: Delicious Paleo Recipes for Your Intermittent Fasting Plan

Exploring the Fusion: Tasty Low-Carb Recipes for your Intermittent Fasting Plan

Combining Keto and Intermittent Fasting: 3 Recipes to Try

  1. Penn Medicine. (2019, February 19). Mediterranean Diet 101: A Meal Plan and Beginner’s Guide. Link.
  2. Harvard School of Public Health. (n.d.). Diet Review: Mediterranean Diet. Link.
  3. University of California, Davis. (2022, April 28). Paleo diet: What it is and why it’s not for everyone. Good Food Blog. Link.
  4. Clem, J., & Barthel, B. (2021). A Look at Plant-Based Diets. Missouri medicine, 118(3), 233–238. Link.
  5. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Healthy Eating Plate. Link.
  6. Vernon, M. C. (2006). Low-carbohydrate diets. American Family Physician, 73(11), 1942-1948. Link.
  7. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2021). Low-carbohydrate diets. The Nutrition Source. Link.
  8. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Ketogenic diet. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Retrieved May 2, 2023. Link.
  9. Crosby, L., Davis, B., Joshi, S., Jardine, M., Paul, J., Neola, M., & Barnard, N. D. (2021). Ketogenic Diets and Chronic Disease: Weighing the Benefits Against the Risks. Frontiers in nutrition, 8, 702802. Link.
  10. Popova, A., & Mihaylova, D. (2019, July 29). Antinutrients in plant-based foods: A Review. The Open Biotechnology Journal. Link