Popular Diets: Rad or Fad?
by Lindsay Martin, MS, RD, Hilton Head Health
We have all most likely been exposed to every single diet known to man. Paleo, Mediterranean, cabbage soup, cleansing, low-fat diet, high-fat diets, wheat-free, dairy-free, low-carbohydrate, and the list goes on and on. The following information will provide the background as well as the positives and potential negatives of various “diets” that are typically seen in today’s culture. Finally, each diet will be given a rating of “FAD” or “RAD” so one can weigh the pros and cons to decide if it may be worthwhile. However, it is important to note that everyone is different—what works for some will not and should not be recommended for someone else.
Popularly known as the Caveman diet, Stone Age diet, Primal Blueprint, etc.
It is characterized by consuming an ancient style diet rich in wild plants and animals. Researchers are still figuring out what the paleolithic people consumed, but the modern day paleo diet is rich in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, eggs, beef, roots, and nuts. It normally excludes dairy, grains, legumes, certain potatoes, refined sugars, and refined oils.
Postives: A diet rich in foods such as broccoli, spinach, berries, wild salmon, lean animal proteins, nuts, avocados, and healthy oils is a great base and foundation for an overall healthy eating plan. Most individuals don’t consume enough vegetables and many others struggle to get enough dietary protein in the day – this diet can supply sufficient amounts. Another positive? Most individuals love sweet foods while this plan encourages added-sugars (like soda and candy) hit the trash before they hit the mouth.
Negatives: Without dairy, various whole grains, legumes, and “not allowed” foods, one may struggle with a few realities: families are involved and not everyone wants to avoid dairy and/or fiber-rich whole grains. Social outings, vacations, weddings, work-life, and more are always going to be in our schedules and choosing a safe, paleo way of eating may not be realistic. Another negative? If one is involved in heavy exercise and/or endurance based programs, this eating plan may lack the carbohydrates needed for constant recovery and energy if one isn’t careful.
Rating: FAD with a slight touch of RAD
Gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, should be avoided for those with gluten sensitivity or those with Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the lining of the small intestine continues to become impaired if gluten and foods containing gluten enter the body. Some are very sensitive to gluten, whereas some individuals can’t even tolerate the cross-contamination in a toaster oven.
Positives: Once one follows a gluten-free plan the common symptoms of fatigue, abdominal discomfort, nutrient malabsorption, and more can completely go away if sensitive or intolerant to gluten. Added bonus—once one has been diagnosed through biopsies and blood work, a gluten-free diet can still provide all the nutrients needed and there are plenty of products available to consumers.
Negatives: The grocery store is full of “gluten-free” products that have been naturally gluten-free for years. For example, yogurt should not contain wheat, barley, or rye, but one can get suckered into purchasing something just because the media portrays gluten-free eating is the way to go. Some gluten-free products are actually higher in calories, fat, and added sugar because food products can be a science—something has to replace what was lost.
Rating: FAD, except for those sensitive or intolerant
Blood Type Diet
Based on your blood type, one would be encouraged to eat certain foods and avoid others. This diet gained more press in the late 1990s with the book, Eat Right 4 Your Type, but has resurfaced in the past year. In regards to weight and digestive health, following the right diet for your blood type is “simply the answer.”
Positives: Who doesn’t love an individualized plan?! It makes things easier, especially when it comes to weight loss. The concept of “one size doesn’t fit all” is great: various forms of exercises are suggested as well as lots of non-starchy vegetables and fruit.
Negatives: There is no research to back up this diet. Numerous health experts coming from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Tufts University, Baylor College of Medicine, and more do not find this diet realistic or sound on scientific evidence. Depending on the diet suggestions, one may go too low in calories due to large food groups that are “dangerous” being omitted and the energy to physically exercise may be out of the question—not ideal for a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Depending on the intensity of a juicing plan, it can last anywhere from 3 days to 40 days. Many may think of this as a period of time without solid, intact whole foods while most of your calories come from fruits and vegetables. Basically, fruits and vegetables are processed through a juicing machine and the pulp, fiber, seeds, pits, etc. are left behind while you drink the vitamins, minerals, and water content coming from the juice.
Positives: This diet is rich in antioxidants, provides wonderful hydration, and usually entails one consuming the juices throughout the day—never going long periods of time without calories coming in.
Negatives: The dietary fiber is lost, one has barely any dietary protein intake unless one is supplementing on the side, and caloric intake can be entirely too low to assist in the energy to be physically active and stay on a training program. Another problem? The potential, yet highly probability, of HANGRY to take over—a combination of physical hunger and irritability due to an unbalanced eating plan.
The foundation of the Mediterranean diet consists of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, seafood, low fat dairy, olive oil, nuts, and meat is sometimes seen as the garnish versus the star of the plate. Wine is consumed in moderation, physical activity is encouraged, and meals are typically served at the table with friends and family.
Positives: The Mediterranean diet is definitely more of a healthy lifestyle versus just a standard diet. The meals are social and family focused, physically activity is highly encouraged, and one gets enough protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Added bonus? In April of 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine featured an original research study including over 7,000 participants with cardiovascular risk. The study lasted 4.8 years and those following a Mediterranean diet (big focus on olive oil and nuts for dietary fat) reduced the risk of a cardiovascular event to occur up to 30%.
Negatives: In terms of calories, olive oil and nuts are dense. If one uses a heavy hand, it can be very easy to go over daily energy needs. Even though olive oil can be very satisfying and nuts are typically very filling, one may need to portion control these specific foods.