Looking for a way to “battle the bulge” after the holidays?
Just do one Google search and you’ll find there’s a seemingly
endless list of diets that will claim to help you lose weight, cure an
illness, prevent a disease, etc. But with varying recommendations, how
do we know which diets are worth following and if they even work? Here's
a look at a few of the popular diets from 2017, highlighting the positive
and negative of each ending with an overall summary of the truth of fad
diets and strategies for a healthy lifestyle.
This diet is very low in carbohydrates with low-to-adequate protein and
high fat. This ratio of macronutrients forces the body to burn fat rather
than carbs for energy, even though glucose (the smallest component of
carbs) is the preferred fuel for the body. In ketosis, the liver converts
fats into fatty acids and ketone bodies. These are used as energy for
the brain after glycogen stores are used up. Essentially, when you eliminate
carbs as a source for energy, the body goes into “starvation mode”
and uses back-up energy sources (aka: fats) to survive.
Positive: The ketogenic diet usually produces quick weight loss results, but keep
in mind this may be mostly water weight loss. This diet can also be used
to treat epilepsy. If treating epilepsy, it is prescribed by a physician
and carefully monitored by a dietitian.
Negative: A low carb diet may be low in nutrients and fiber if intake of fruits
and grains are low and could be high in cholesterol and saturated fat
if intakes of meat and fat are high. Diets that are low in nutrients and
fiber but high in fat and cholesterol may increase risk of heart disease.
Bottom Line: The ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss, but could be unsafe and
not sustainable to follow long term. When following a ketogenic diet,
it is important to focus on plant based foods and lean sources of proteins.
This diet was created by a couple who call themselves sports nutritionists
(no credentials or research provided). The goals are to eliminate all
grains, legumes, soy, dairy, sugar, artificial and natural sugars, alcohol,
carrageenan, MSGs, and sulfites. Participants are to abstain from these
foods for the duration of thirty days, no cheating allowed!
Positive: There are health benefits to emphasizing whole foods, fruits and vegetables,
while limiting processed foods, alcohol and sugar. This type of extreme
food group restriction could also be helpful in identifying food allergies
Negative: Even though the emphasis is on whole foods, there are whole food groups
eliminated from the diet (dairy and grains). The eliminated food groups
provide needed nutrients and pleasure in eating.
Bottom Line: The Whole30 diet is very restrictive. While it encourages whole foods
(hence the name), the strict guidelines make it more difficult to be followed
long term, while at a restaurant or at a friend’s house for dinner.
But the 30-day challenge may be worth the short term to break bad habits
and learn to build meals and snacks with whole foods.
This idea was originated by a book called,
The Fast Diet
by Michael Mosley, MD and Mimi Spencer. The diet dictates to eat normally
for five days and then fast the other two days of the week. On fast days,
women are to consume 500 calories, and men are to consume 600 calories
in the form of two small meals and a few snacks. Foods recommended are
lean proteins, vegetables, fruit, water and calorie-free drinks. On normal,
non-fasting days, participants are told they can eat whatever they want.
Exercise is encouraged on the five, non-fasting days while it’s
not as much on the two days you are fasting. (This is probably due to
the lack of energy you will have from only eating 500-600 calories on
those days). Once the weight loss goal is reached, fasting occurs one
day each week for maintenance.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Positive: In theory, this way of dieting should reduce the number of overall calories
your consuming to cause weight loss without altering metabolism. And studies
have found that weight loss in general may help prevent chronic diseases.
Negative: This diet is not recommended for those individuals with diabetes, children,
the underweight, or with eating disorders, pregnant, or with chronic illnesses
or disease states. During the five fasting days, there may be symptoms
of light-headedness, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, fatigue and/or headache.
Bottom Line: Any diet that restricts calories enough will cause weight loss. But, this
way of eating may be tough to follow long term and may cause temptations
to binge on non-fasting days.
This fad diet encourages eating a healthy, balanced diet including fruits
and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean proteins, with small
doses of apple cider vinegar added to drinks or meals (drink before meals
or take as a supplement). The claim is that this diet will promote weight
loss, suppress appetite, cure acne, help with digestive issues, dandruff,
bad odors, sore throats, and can manage blood sugars.
The bottom line and overall truth about fad diets:
Positive: Apple cider vinegar is made from apples, can be used in cooking and cleaning,
and can be purchased at the local grocery store, which makes it versatile
and easy to find. The vinegar is made by combining apples, bacteria and
yeast. They are fermented, producing alcohol. The byproducts contain polyphenols
that are antioxidants which have many health benefits.
Negative: If apple cider vinegar is used topically, the acetic acid (the main component
of the vinegar), can be harsh and cause chemical burns. Drinking it can
irritate the throat and erode teeth. Keep in mind only vinegars that “the
mother” on the label contain the bacteria and enzymes that are supposed
to make it a healthy probiotic. Also, it may interact and interfere with
supplements or medicines.
Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar can and should be used in cooking or to make foods
and salad dressings. It can be part of a healthy diet. But drinking large
amounts can be irritating to and possibly harmful to your teeth, throat
and stomach. Weight loss and all the other health claims are not supported
by scientific research and is probably a byproduct of healthy eating and
exercise which can occur regardless of consuming apple cider vinegar.
Also, acetic acid is found in other vinegars, too. If you use apple cider
vinegar as part of a healthy diet, don’t go overboard!
fad as “a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal.”
Fad diets, then, are generally followed with enthusiasm for the short-term
rather than following through with a long-term lifestyle change. If it’s
overall health and disease prevention you are searching for, your best
option is to find a “diet” that you can sustain long-term,
making it more of a lifestyle than a diet. Diets that restrict foods or
food groups in extreme are difficult to maintain and do not produce lasting
results if health habits are not sustained. For example, diets low in
the preferred source of fuel for the body) make it hard to meet the 140g of carbs that average human’s brain
needs each day. Also, eliminating food groups may deprive the body of
essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, exposing the body to deficiencies
or weakening the immune system which can lead to illness, chronic disease
Furthermore, fad diets tend to label food as either “bad” or
“good”. The truth is that healthy eating patterns can incorporate
a balance of nutrient dense foods with nutrient poor foods. The key is
focusing on appropriate serving sizes for moderation. Also, honor your
hunger ques - don’t overeat and stop when you are full. You can
achieve weight loss and still enjoy your food, it’s all simple math:
you must burn off more calories than you take in. So, exercise and movement
are key strategies for achieving a healthy weight.
Still looking for a diet plan that gives you a plan for reaching your goals
U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Diet list ranks the DASH diet
in first place for the 8th year in a row. But this year, it is tied with
the Mediterranean diet. The Ketogenic diet ranked last. The DASH diet
focuses on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat
dairy, low sodium, fiber-rich foods, and low to moderate fat intake. Similarly,
the Mediterranean diet emphasizes these food groups but encourages the
consumption of healthy fats by replacing butter or margarine with olive
oil or canola oil. Also, the Mediterranean diet allows for a handful of
nuts daily, moderate amounts of alcohol, limits red meats to no more than
a few times each month, and encourages fish and poultry. Also, it encourages
herbs and spices instead of salt, recommends plenty of exercise, and to
enjoy meals with family and friends. Both diets provide adequate nutrients
for health needs and can be followed long term with the added benefit
of weight loss and disease prevention.
In summary, to achieve a healthy weight, promote health and prevent disease, focus on:
- Planning meals with adequate fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat
dairy, nuts and seeds, and lean proteins
- Limiting added sugars, sweets, sugary drinks, portion sizes and sodium
- Lowering your intake of saturated fats, trans fats and heavily processed foods
If you need more education or help with making healthy food choices, seek
the counsel of a registered and licensed dietitian, who can design an
eating plan with your personal goals and food preferences. Always get
the approval of your physician before starting a fad diet or exercise program.
Renee L. Greene, RD, LDN
Wellness Dietitian for The Health First Center at Catawba Valley Medical Center