Six Alternative Diets You Need to Know About

alternative diets
Alexandra Grablewski/Stone/Getty Images

Here's a look at several diets commonly used in alternative medicine. If you're thinking of adopting an alternative diet, consult your physician for help in determining whether the diet is right for you.

1) The Metabolic Typing Diet

This alternative diet is based on the theory that your optimal approach to eating depends on your geographical ancestry. According to proponents of the diet, an individual's metabolism varies due to factors said to be strongly influenced by heredity.

The concept of metabolic typing was first introduced by a dentist named William Donald Kelley in the 1960s. Further developed by researcher William L. Wolcott, the diet hinges on the theory that most people fall into three categories of general metabolic types. Eating according to your metabolic type is purported to promote weight loss, increase energy, and protect against disease.

Here's a breakdown of those three types and their recommended dietary strategies:

  • Protein types. Frequently hungry and prone to anxiety and fatigue, protein types are said to thrive on diets rich in protein, fats and oils, and high-purine proteins such as beef liver and chicken liver.
  • Carbo types. Carbo types tend to struggle with weight management but have relatively weak appetites. The metabolic typing diet suggests that carbo types opt for high-carbohydrate meal plans low in protein, fats, and oils.
  • Mixed types. Characterized by average appetites and cravings for sweet and starchy foods, mixed types are encouraged to follow a diet containing a mixture of high-fat, high-purine proteins and low-fat, low-purine proteins (such as cheese, eggs, yogurt, and nuts).

    You can learn more about the metabolic typing diet.

    2) The Macrobiotic Diet

    With the word "macrobiotic" translating as "long life," this alternative diet is a predominantly vegetarian eating plan low in fat and high in fiber. The macrobiotic diet emphasizes choosing plant foods over animal products and processed foods; more than half of each meal is made up of whole grains such as brown rice, barley, and buckwheat.

    Adopting a macrobiotic diet is thought to improve physical health and slow up the aging process as well as enhance spiritual health. It's also said to fight disease. In fact, some preliminary research shows that following a macrobiotic diet may be beneficial to people with certain chronic health conditions, including diabetes.

    To that end, there's some evidence that sticking to a macrobiotic diet may help treat insulin resistance and reduce inflammation (two factors closely associated with diabetes). However, more research is needed before the macrobiotic diet can be recommended for diabetes control.

    You can learn more about the macrobiotic diet.

    3) Detox Diets

    Although this alternative diet can take many forms, detox diets generally involve consuming foods said to draw out and eliminate toxins from your body. These foods are often high-fiber and rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and other compounds said to stimulate your body's innate detoxification system.

    You can get guidelines on a one-week detox diet, learn how to prepare for detox, and find out which detox foods to incorporate into your eating plan.

    4) Juice Cleanses

    Increasingly popular in recent years, juice cleansing typically involves forgoing solid foods and consuming only fruits and vegetables in juice form.

    It's often used to support weight loss, boost digestive health, increase energy levels, and stave off disease. Sometimes referred to as a "juice fast," this alternative diet is also said to enhance mood.

    Related: 5 Tips to Improve Your Digestion

    While scientific support for such claims is very limited, some preliminary research (including a small study published in the Swiss journal Research in Complementary and Natural Classical Medicine in 2003) indicates that juice cleansing may temporarily lower cholesterol levels.

    Here are my responses to 10 frequently asked questions about juice fasting.

    5) The Zone Diet

    A popular weight loss plan, this alternative diet advocates cutting your consumption of grains and starches.

    Adherents to the Zone diet follow an eating plan that is 40 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. It's said that the Zone diet can maximize health by stabilizing blood sugar and curbing chronic inflammation.

    Often said to boost endurance, the Zone diet is frequently adopted by athletes. However, claims that the Zone diet can improve athletic performance are largely unfounded, according to a research review published in Sports Medicine in 1999.

    6) The Alkaline Diet

    This alternative diet is based on the idea that almost all foods release either an acid or an alkaline base into the blood after being digested, absorbed, and metabolized. Proponents of alkaline diets focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, roots and tubers, nuts, and legumes while limiting intake of so-called "acid-producing foods" like grains, fish, meat, poultry, shellfish, cheese, milk, and sugar.

    Taking on an alkaline diet is said to improve energy, stimulate the immune system, and protect against common health problems like headache. So far there's little scientific support for these claims, although some preliminary research shows that alkaline diets may help preserve muscle mass in older adults.

    Related: More information on the alkaline diet.


    Cheuvront SN. "The Zone Diet phenomenon: a closer look at the science behind the claims." J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Feb;22(1):9-17.

    Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Ceglia L. "Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults." Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):662-5.

    Fallucca F, Fontana L, Fallucca S, Pianesi M. "Gut microbiota and Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes." World J Diabetes. 2015 Apr 15;6(3):403-11.

    Huber R, Nauck M, Lüdtke R, Scharnagl H. "Effects of one week juice fasting on lipid metabolism: a cohort study in healthy subjects." Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2003 Feb;10(1):7-10.

    Lerman RH. "The macrobiotic diet in chronic disease." Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):621-6.

    Porrata C, Sánchez J, Correa V, Abuín A, Hernández-Triana M, Dacosta-Calheiros RV, Díaz ME, Mirabal M, Cabrera E, Campa C, Pianesi M. "Ma-pi 2 macrobiotic diet intervention in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus." MEDICC Rev. 2009 Oct;11(4):29-35.

    Porrata-Maury C, Hernández-Triana M, Ruiz-Álvarez V, Díaz-Sánchez ME, Fallucca F, Bin W, Baba-Abubakari B, Pianesi M. "Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic diet and type 2 diabetes mellitus: pooled analysis of short-term intervention studies." Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2014 Mar;30 Suppl 1:55-66.

    Soare A, Del Toro R, Roncella E, Khazrai YM, Angeletti S, Dugo L, Fallucca S, Fontana L, Altomare M, Formisano V, Capata F, Gesuita R, Manfrini S, Fallucca F, Pianesi M, Pozzilli P; MADIAB Group. "The effect of macrobiotic Ma-Pi 2 diet on systemic inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes: a post hoc analysis of the MADIAB trial." BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. 2015 Mar 26;3(1):e000079.

    Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

    Continue Reading