Diet Fads, Part 2

BREAKING! California man has discovered a revolutionary new twelve day diet to the perfect body! Scientists hate him! 

Everyone wants the perfect diet, an easy way to getting their dream body, and often look to popularized fad diets to do so. While I hope I don't have to tell you why the cabbage soup or cookie diets are bad ideas, there are aspects of some fad diets that are based in real science and could prove beneficial to us. However advisable or inadvisable following these might be, more information is never a bad thing, so here’s a basic comparison of a few of the more realistic fad diets. 

 

Keto

What: Quick biology lesson: glucose is our body’s main source of energy. Glucose comes mainly from the breakdown of carbohydrates, and is used to provide energy to not only our bodies but minds as well. When there are not enough carbohydrates, there’s not enough glucose to power our bodies, and we need to pull fuel from stored fats instead. This breaking down of stored fats for energy is called ketosis, and produces acids called ketones as a byproduct. So, taking this all together, the keto diet is a very low-carb, high fat, and moderate protein diet that forces the body into ketosis for the purpose of tapping into fat stores instead of the usual carb stores. We found www.myketokitchen.com to be a helpful resource full of recipes and even a Keto Calculator! 

Pros:

  • Can be very helpful lessening symptoms for people with seizures and epilepsy
  • Helps promote weight loss, lower body fat percentage
  • Improves triglyceride concentration levels, blood pressure, and HDL (good) cholesterol levels compared to low-fat diet groups
  • Can reduce appetite compared to higher carb diet in short term

Cons:

  • Diet can be restrictive with no/very little carb intake
  • In the most extreme cases, if ketosis occurs for too long, the buildup of acidic ketones can cause ketoacidosis, which is a serious condition that can have harmful consequences
  • Not enough research has been done on longer term (1+ year) effects of this diet

 

Atkins

What: Similar to the keto diet, the Atkins diet is a low carb one. It’s difference lies in a gradual reintroduction of some carbs once certain weight milestones are reached. The first stage is extremely low carb (< 20g/day) consumption, which is followed by slowly adding more carbs based on weight loss per week. To tweak the diet to lose/gain more weight, just cut/add more carbs.

Pros:

  • Relatively reliable weight loss schedule, easy to adapt to your weight loss needs
  • Has some flexibility once you start adding carbs back, allows for protein and fat consumption
  • Can improve lipid and cholesterol levels
  • Trades unhealthier refined and processed carbs for better, more natural carbs later in the diet

Cons:

  • Initial depletion period might be hard to cut carbs so severely and quickly
  • Diet is low in fiber, could lead to gastrointestinal issues
  • Risk of weight gain relapse if regimen isn’t strictly followed or too many carbs eaten
  • High levels of saturated fat can contribute to cardiovascular disease, high levels of protein can lead to kidney problems

 

Paleo

What: With the paleo diet, we get in touch with our inner caveman, eating as our Paleolithic ancestors would have via hunting and gathering. This means shunning more ‘modern’ and processed foods in favor of foods that humans would have eaten millennia ago and are said to be ‘genetically designed’ to eat, such as lean grass-fed meats, fish/seafood, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, eggs, and healthy oils. To avoid, however, are grains, dairy, processed foods and sugars, legumes, starches, and alcohol. Short and simple version: grown/made = bad, hunted/gathered = good.

Pros: 

  • Weight loss, lower body fat percentage
  • Reduction in triglyceride concentration levels, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Reduction in plasma insulin (high fasting levels predict type 2 diabetes)
  • Has some flexibility in the form of ‘open meals’ where you can eat any foods you want a few times a week

Cons: 

  • Time-intensive cooking and preparing meals, can be expensive
  • Limiting in terms of foods you can consume, especially in modern stores
  • Some studies have shown consumption of grains and legumes can be beneficial
  • Very different than the mainstream recommended diet in the U.S.

 

Raw food diet

What: The name says it all. With this diet, you’re aiming to eat foods that have not been processed, cooked, or made in any way. However, before you bite into that raw chicken (hello, salmonella), know that raw foodism is more a guideline than a strict law. The goal is simply to eat more raw foods, but some foods can be lightly cooked at low temperatures (< 115*F) and still yield beneficial results and be within those guidelines, depending on which sub-type of raw foodism you follow. A typical ‘raw foods’ diet will consist of at least 75% living or raw foods, but a follower of this diet can decide what proportion it will be, depending on how feasible, committed, and important it is to them.

Pros:

  • Weight loss, lower body fat percentage
  • Reduction in triglyceride concentrations levels, lowers total cholesterol
  • Fewer saturated and trans fats than Western diet
  • Low in sodium, high in potassium, folate, magnesium, fiber, and phytochemicals found in plants

Cons:

  • Time-intensive cooking and preparing meals, can be expensive
  • Can be easier to have certain nutritional deficiencies, like calcium, iron, B-12, protein, and not enough calories
  • Lowers HDL cholesterol

So there it is! I think the most important thing to remember is that there’s no one size fits all solution for nutrition, and a great way of finding what works best for you is simply by trying different things and making tweaks along the way. While each of these fads might have drawbacks, there’s also something to learn from each diet. Best of luck on your nutrition and fitness journey, and we’ll see you in the next post!

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