The Scoop on the Latest Fad Diets
Each year, new diet plans pop up in the media -- all of which claim weight loss or better health. But do these diets work and are they healthy for you? We take a look at five of the trendiest diets and delve into what the hype is all about.
Ketogenic Diet A diet that has shown positive outcomes for pediatric epilepsy has recently been in the spotlight for its promise of fast weight loss. The ketogenic diet consists of high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrates. With only five percent of calories coming from carbohydrates, the body is forced to go into a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat instead of stored glucose for energy. With a diet low in carbohydrates, it is possible to have nutrient deficiencies from fiber, vitamins and minerals. The diet does not have enough scientific research to back up its claims, and long-term effects from following the ketogenic diet are definitely a disadvantage.
Macros Diet Gaining popularity among body builders and those who work out at CrossFit, the purpose of this diet is to incorporate flexible eating and hit macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein and fat) goals with an all-foods-fit approach. While this diet may seem appealing to many, it glorifies the ‘eat anything’ philosophy as long as you’re hitting your numbers. This diet can be misunderstood, resulting in some eating only unhealthy food as long as they meet their macronutrient goals. Although counting numbers and weighing food can help with weight loss, dieters will eventually get tired of it, which makes it an unsustainable solution to losing weight. Take a look at our article on healthy versus unhealthy plant-based foods.
Whole 30 Diet This diet promotes fresh foods and the elimination of anything processed. It also eliminates certain foods including grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar and some preservatives and artificial sweeteners. The premise behind the 30-day challenge is to improve gut issues, skin health, metabolism and overall well-being. The diet consists of eating three meals a day with moderate portions of protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fats from oils, butter, coconut and olives. After 30 days, the dieter slowly reintroduces the foods that were considered off-limits back into their diet to see how their body responds. While this diet does a good job of promoting healthy and unprocessed foods, it also restricts healthy foods such as grains, legumes and dairy, which can be included in a balanced diet. Additionally, it categorizes food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods and this can lead to behavioral issues with food.
Paleo Diet A diet revolved around mimicking our ancestors is trending and promises a more healthful and disease-free life. Similar to the Whole 30 diet, it consists of cage-free eggs and grass-fed meats as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthful oils, seafood and poultry. It eliminates grains, dairy, legumes, potatoes, refined sugars and oils because these foods appeared after the agricultural revolution and are associated with inflammation and conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Any diet that restricts certain food groups is one to steer clear from as it may lead to nutrient deficiencies. For more, read our article about the Paleo diet.
Gluten-Free Diet A diet that is meant for those who suffer from Celiac disease or who have a gluten sensitivity is trending as a way to lower calories and lose weight. Those who have Celiac disease have a hard time digesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and some oats. When a person with the disease eats gluten, the small intestine is damaged causing them to have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food. For everybody else, a gluten-free diet is not necessary. Many nutrients are found in gluten products such as fiber, iron and B vitamins. Those who do not have Celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten may become deficient in these nutrients when following the diet. For more information read our recent article that explains more about the dangers of the gluten-free diet trend.
Before starting any diet, ask yourself if it is safe and right for you. Understand your needs and set realistic goals. Any diet that omits a food group is probably not the best. Try eating a balanced diet to get all of the nutrients your body needs. Two recommended, evidence-based healthy diets to try are the DASH diet and the Mind diet. If you need professional assistance, reach out to your medical provider and registered dietitian to ensure you are starting your lifestyle change on the right foot.
Written by: Michelle Tran, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.