Why Fad Diets Aren't The Way To Total Health
We all see new diets and trends flashing up on social media promoting quick fixes, weight loss and improved health. It can be hard to understand what to eat when we are bombarded with mixed messages. One ad will tell you carbs are good for you, but others will scream they are bad! Fats are healthy but should also be avoided at all costs. It isn’t surprising that millions of people fall into the trap of fad diets as conflicting claims, testimonials and reviews from self-acclaimed ‘experts’ can be confusing.
Fad diets often follow trends and are only around for a short time. Usually if something is called a ‘diet’ then it is a temporary, short term ‘fix’, and not something that is sustainable. Once the diet is stopped then we revert back to our old ways, and weight is put back on as no core nutritional habits have been formed. Many fad diets are not even based on scientific evidence! For example, juice cleanse diets supposedly ‘detox’ the body, but our body already has the ability to detox itself using the liver and kidneys.
Unfortunately, and I hope to no surprise, most diets don’t work and involve eliminating foods and whole food groups that are important for health. This can cause nutrient deficiencies, including fibre, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. By cutting foods out and not getting in the correct nutrients for your body, you can develop serious health problems in the long term.
The ’Keto Diet’
The Keto Diet is one of the more popular trends appearing across our social platforms. This is a diet that focuses on a low carbohydrate intake and a high fat intake. This sends the body into a state of ‘ketosis’ and forces the body to burn fat, rather than carbohydrates.
This diet does have its place in society and is thought to be an effective treatment for people with epilepsy.
However, for the general population, you will likely experience many side effects if you try to follow this diet, such as; fatigue, dizziness, rashes, constipation, low exercise tolerance and headaches. Furthermore, if this diet is followed for a long period of time, you can be at risk of developing; fatty liver, vitamin deficiencies and low protein levels.
Gluten Free Foods
This is another trendy fad, but more of a food lifestyle. A gluten free diet is necessary for individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, most people do not need to eliminate gluten from their diet to be healthy. Research has shown that gluten does not induce gastrointestinal symptoms in healthy people.
Gluten is a natural protein found in grains including wheat, barley and rye. Gluten containing grains make up a large percentage or foods consumed in a modern Western diet. The carbohydrate content in gluten will provide you with energy and help fuel your brain and body for exercise. If you follow a low carbohydrate or gluten free diet unnecessarily you can end up with fibre and nutrient deficiencies leading to side effects such as muscle cramps and constipation.
Furthermore, extreme restriction of foods and food groups can lead to cravings. This deprivation can lead to excessive binging due to cravings and creates an unhealthy relationship and cycle with food. In the worst-case scenario, this can lead to decreased health status and the development of eating disorders. Additionally, demonising foods and food groups creates a negative relationship with food. It is important to not have an ‘all or nothing’ mindset when it comes to nutrition. Yes, some foods are more nutritious than others but that doesn’t mean they are bad for a healthy and well-rounded diet! Removing your favourite foods takes away some of the pleasures of eating, it is possible to enjoy all the foods we love, just in moderation and the correct portion sizes!
Take Home Tips
It is important to realise that food is not the enemy. Good nutritious food provides our bodies with all the macro and micronutrients we need. It is important to be well-rounded and consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Skipping meals and food groups can be harmful to our health and performance. If you see new diets and trends popping up, try look into the research and avoid falling into the trap by sticking to a balanced and varied diet.
Here are some things to be wary of and consider;
- Never eliminate or restrict food groups excessively.
- There is no evidence to suggest that certain food combinations or eating at specific times of the day aid weight loss and health.
- Look for something that you can keep up for the rest of your life. You need a healthy and sustainable diet. If you ever think that you couldn’t eat this way for the rest of your life, then that plan is not for you!
- Be consistent with what you eat and meal timings, this will help manage hunger, cravings and blood sugar levels.
- Focus on adding to your meals, not taking away! Make sure every meal and snack contains fruits or vegetables, so that you are getting your 5 servings daily.