Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, professor of medical and physiological chemistry at Lund University, is searching for an understanding of what diets are best for whom. In her book Eat for Life (Äta för livet, not available in English), Erlanson-Albertsson explains the pros and cons of the most popular diets and how they affect the environment, how they aid weight loss, and how they promote overall health.
A variety of diets are discussed that give readers a chance to make sense of the often conflicting reports of how to maintain optimal health as an individual. Which diet is right for you depends on what's relevant for you and your lifestyle, while at the same time, there is a common ground for all of us. We are complex organisms and should eat a varied diet and the basis for good health is daily exercise.

Defining pros and cons
VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN foods have many positive effects on health, including reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity. The diet is rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Disadvantages? Risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, and you risk a lack of iron, vitamin D and protein if you don’t vary your food. Erlanson-Albertsson is also skeptical about soy products and mushrooms. Soy is usually not fermented, which can cause inflammation and potentially Alzheimer's disease. Mushrooms often contain impurities, such as heavy metals.


PALEO diet foods, which consist of unprocessed raw materials, no sugar, milk or gluten and only a little salt. have major health benefits and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. The author favors that the foods are rich in minerals, fibers, antioxidants and omega-3 fats but she is critical of the high intake of protein and red meat. Meat is inflammatory and difficult to break down, which can cause cancer.

A GI DIET is about foods that manage blood sugar. The diet contains a lot of fibers and antioxidants, good fats and no sugar or white flour, which reduce blood lipids and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. On the minus side, according to Erlanson-Albertsson, the allowed meat and fruit and sweeteners are often consumed in such a way that doesn’t give the intestines time to rest. In addition, there is no danger of boiling root vegetables as advocates of the diet claim. Boiled root vegetables have low GI values and are also healthy.

LCHF is a low carbohydrate diet focusing on fat and protein. On the plus side there is rapid weight loss, which in turn produces lower blood sugar and blood fats. But the author also sees several disadvantages: The low fiber content can cause constipation, and the high proportion of fat and protein can cause colon inflammation. She also warns that studies show a link between LCHF and higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and higher LDL cholesterol levels.

5:2 DIET: Eat for five days a week then fast for two. On the fast days, a quarter of the normal calories can be consumed. The purpose of the diet is to lose weight, which involves several health benefits but the method is still under scientific review. Erlanson-Albertsson lists benefits like freedom in a versatile diet that’s easy to follow, but disadvantages include calorie counting, sometimes uncontrollable hunger and difficulties concentrating during the fasting periods.

The MEDITERRANEAN diet gets high grades for primarily plant-based foods, replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil, using herbs and spices instead of salt and picking fish and poultry instead of red meat. A number of studies have shown it protects against type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, aging and atherosclerosis. It’s also rich in fibers and antioxidants and uses meat, saturated fat and sugar sparingly. The only downside is too much pasta, bread and processed meat comes with a high carbohydrate count.

Dietary advice
Depending on a person’s biology, Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson suggests each person “Begin by charting eating behavior. Is it unchecked, so that, for example, you can not stop eating when you start? Or do you on the contrary have total control and count calories to keep weight?”
Her best dietary advice is to consider the food pyramid when choosing what to eat: At the base of the food pyramid there are vegetables of all kinds, followed by fiber-rich cereals and oatmeal. The next level up contains moderate amounts of fish and seafood, potatoes and whole grains, coffee, nuts and olive oil. Then comes cheese and yogurt, and on top dessert.

And last but not least, a traditional NORDIC DIET is just as healthy as a Mediterranean diet, concludes Nordic nutritional experts, according to a study that the Nordiska ministerrådet (the Nordic Council of Ministers) conducted in 2013. The study, in which 200 people participated, shows that the diet as a whole is important, just like the well-known Mediterranean diet, rather than individual foods.
The Nordic diet is about locally produced food and a higher intake of plant foods, fish, eggs and vegetable fats, and a lower intake of meat products, dairy products, sweets, desserts and alcoholic beverages. (Photo: Ann-Catrin Thor, Riksförbundet Svensk Trädgård.)

Äta för livet
By Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson
208 pages
ISBN: 9789187905711
Available at