Examining Popular Diets: What Are They And What Do They Do

There’s nothing that encompasses the term “fad” as much as a diet. It seems as if every couple months there is a new diet on trend that promises quick results, a bangin’ body and every health benefit imaginable. Of course, more often than not these fad diets are misunderstood, misinterpreted and do not provide the results that we expect when going into them. Today, eco18 is going to be looking at some of the most popular diet trends around today to inform our readers on exactly what they are and what they claim to do. But just as importantly, we will be looking at all the potential pitfalls that go along with them.

 

Mediterranean Diet: The Mediterranean Diet is one of the originators of dieting trends. With an emphasis on eating mainly plant based foods, the majority of the nutrients in this diet come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats. Traditionally, the mediterranean diet is known as a heart healthy way of eating. Research shows that this diet has been associated with lower levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein cholesterol- which is what builds up and clogs arteries. In an analysis of 1.5 million adults, it was determined that following a mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality as well as overall mortality. In terms of what you will actually be consuming on this diet, you can expect large amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains; replacing butter with olive oil; using spices rather than salt; cutting down on your red meat intake and replacing it with fish and poultry; and the most alluring aspect? Drinking red wine! In moderation of course…. While eating large amounts of pastas, chicken and veggies sounds easy enough, it’s important to consider every aspect and look at the concerns regarding this diet as well. Firstly, you need to be aware of your calcium intake. Because the Mediterranean Diet lacks large amounts of dairy, it’s essential that you consciously think about other methods of reaching your daily calcium goals. Another concern is fat intake. Your total fat intake on this diet may wind up greater than the daily recommended value if you splurge a little too much on the nuts and oils. Overall, we consider the Meditteranean Diet to be one of the more effective meal plans for health benefits. It doesn’t necessarily promise rapid weight loss, and cannot guarantee a physical transformation, but the research completed regarding its impact on heart health is enough to have us on board!

 

Atkins Diet: The diet touted by Kim Kardashian has seen a huge rise in popularity over the past several years, and can also be understood as a “low carb” diet. The claims of the Atkins diet are that it limits carbohydrates (which have the potential to turn into sugar), so the body burns fat, including body fat, for fuel. This approach claims to leave the body steadily fueled while the body loses weight, even when more calories are being consumed. Essentially, the main gist of this diet is that you can supposedly eat as much protein and fat as you want, as long as you avoid foods high in carbs. The main reason people believe low carb diets are so effective in weight loss is because when people reduce carbohydrate intake and eat more protein, the appetite typically goes down and they eat less calories without even thinking about it. On this diet, foods that you will be avoiding include Sugar (soft drinks, cakes, candy, etc.), Grains, Vegetable Oils, Trans Fat, Low Fat Foods, High Carb Fruits (Bananas, apples, pears etc.), starches and legumes. On the other side, foods that you will be consuming regularly will be Meats, Fatty Fish and Seafood, Eggs, Low Carb Vegetables (Kale, Spinach, Broccoli etc.), Full Fat Dairy (Butter, Cream Cheese, Yogurt), Nuts and Seeds. Now, while all of this sounds promising in terms of weight loss, like any diet there are some major pitfalls to be aware of. Firstly, this diet is high in saturated fat, which contributes to heart disease and strokes. You must also be wary of eating too much protein on this diet, as it may cause negative repercussions in the kidney’s. But one of the major contributors to the potential downfall of this diet is restriction. Because carbohydrates are the main source of fuel that our bodies are used to, followers of this diet have found that by restricting their carbohydrate intake, their cravings often take over and lead to a major binge session on all of the foods their bodies have been hankering for throughout the diet. All in all, the Atkins is one of the most controversial fad diets around. Humans have cravings for a reason and sometimes it’s best to follow our gut (no pun intended) and eat what we feel our bodies need. Because of the restrictive nature of the Atkins Diet, you typically can expect a more rapid weight loss, but that loss will be very short term.

 

Paleo Diet: One diet that has sprung up just over the past year or two and has taken the world by storm is the “Paleo Diet”. True to it’s name, when following the paleo diet, you can eat anything that would be able to be hunted or gathered in the paleolithic days. This includes meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies and seeds. And what does that mean? Absolutely no processed foods including pasta, cereal, candy, breads etc. Unlike most diets, the paleo diet reinforces not quantity but quality. Rather than tediously counting calories, you will be focusing your energy on eating the right foods instead. The way they put it? Eating 400 calories of Doritos does not have the same effect on your body as 400 calories of high quality veggies and protein. The Paleo Diet considers food as fuel, which it is, and focuses it’s efforts on fueling the body with the highest quality nutrients possible. Now what exactly does this method of dieting promise the dieter? The Paleo Diet claims that because the foods you will be eating are so nutritious and filling, you will be eating satiating foods that fill you up but are not carb-calorie dense. As studies have shown, a Palaeolithic diet has been proven to improve glucose tolerance- even more so than the Mediterranean Diet. The major claims of this diet include: more efficient workouts, stabilized blood sugar, burning off stored fat, reduced allergies, stable energy throughout the day, clear skin and improved sleep. Like any diet, the claims sound great! I mean, who doesn’t want to burn fat and have clear skin? While these claims do sound intriguing and promising, there is still a problem with the paleo diet. Firstly: Are grains and legumes actually even bad for you? Research reveals that the benefits of legumes far outweigh their negatives. They have antioxidant activity, protect DNA from damage, have anti-cancer properties and so much more. Along with that, studies have shown that whole grains may actually decrease inflammation in the body. And while the Paleo Diet has it right cutting out highly stripped and processed foods, we must consider this: the actual processing of food is the problem- not the grains. While white breads and pastries are not known for the nutritional value, whole grain or multi-grain carbs are chalk full of essential vitamins and minerals that are hugely beneficial to our health. While this diet makes sense in theory (considering “cavemen” are known to have low body fat and lots of lean muscle), we cannot deny the fact that evolution has changed our bodies in a far more adaptive way. While there aren’t necessarily many negatives to this diet, I go back to the struggle that many people face with restrictive dieting: it’s just hard and leads to a short term diet resulting in big binges.

 

Intuitive Eating: One of the most unique takes on dieting, Intuitive Eating has become one of the more popular diets throughout this past year. There are 10 basic Principles of this lifestyle:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality: Throw away your diet books and stop focusing on losing weight quickly. If you allow the dieting mentality to enter your mind and take over your conscious, you will prevent yourself from listening to your body and it’s own personal needs.
  2. Honor Your Hunger: It’s important to keep your body fed with energy and carbohydrates in order to prevent yourself from triggering your body to register yourself as hungry and overeat. Once your body recognizes it’s excessive hunger, all consiousness when it comes to eating and foods leaves and you tend to binge.
  3. Make Peace with Food: Give yourself permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t have a particular food, you will put yourself in a deprivation. Then when you “give in” you are left with a sense of unnecessary guilt.
  4. Challenge the Food Police: Stop telling yourself that you’re good or bad for eating a certain number of calories, or types of foods. Give yourself a break.
  5. Respect Your Fullness: Listen to your body and it’s signals that tell you whether or not you are hungry. Take your time when eating and give your body time to adjust to your food intake so that you can really feel your state of hunger. When no longer hungry, no need to keep eating.
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: The Japanese consider pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. But in our quest to lose pounds, we often lose our sense of satisfaction and pleasure instead. So make eating enjoyable. Eat food that tastes good to you, with people you enjoy and in an environment that makes you happy.
  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food: Stop relying on foods to treat your emotions. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom etc. tend to trigger us to eat excessively or unnecessarily. Find other ways to combat your emotions that won’t lead to an unhealthy eating routine.
  8. Respect Your Body: Accept your genetics. You must be realistic, and have realistic expectations of turning over a healthier leaf. Rather than expect your body to instantly turn into that of a Victoria’s Secret model, focus on progress and how you feel.
  9. Exercise: Keeping your body active through exercise should be about how you feel. Rather than going to the gym to track how many calories you’ve burned, give yourself a workout that gets your endorphins pumping and makes you feel good.
  10. Honor Your Health: Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. One snack or one meal won’t ruin you. It’s your consistent efforts over time that matters. Focus on progress, not perfection.

Based on these principles, it’s clear that the “Intuitive Eating” style of eating is almost moreso a lifestyle diet than a food related diet. Rather than focusing on restrictions or deprivations, it tells you to actually listen to your body and it’s needs. Sometimes cravings are good. As I’ve mentioned numerous times already, depriving a craving often leads to a massive binge sesh and reverses any efforts you’ve put into your diet change. Through intuitive eating you are focussing on what feels good. Intuitive eating is a diet that I consider a healthy option. It allows you to cater your eating and your lifestyle to your own personal needs. As pointed out in principle #8, everyone’s body is different and cannot rely on the same formula for success. Rather than tailoring your diet to what has worked for somebody else, try intuitive eating for a few months to see how your body reacts, what it craves, and what gives it the most powerful fuel.

 

All in all, eco18 believes in eating healthy, and that filling your day to day diet with nutritious foods is the most important thing you can do.

Lieve Falck-Pedersen