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Fad Diets: How to navigate through the good, the bad, and the unusual latest trends in food


Have you ever been skeptical of a friend or co-worker telling you about a miracle diet that results in a 15 lb weight loss in 2 weeks? So have we, and we're not buying it. Fad diets are often used as a "quick fix" to loose weight in a short amount of time using a restrictive or intense means to do so- but not all fad diets are created equal. Sometimes fad diets can be more hurtful than helpful to your health and it can be overwhelming to navigate which one works best for you. To achieve sustainable weight loss, there are a lot of factors involved, including diet, exercise and overall lifestyle change. Below are some of the good, bad, and unusual diet trends to watch for.

The whole30 diet:

A theory that physical and mental health issues are caused by diet. Foods containing sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy and legumes are to be completely eliminated for 30 days. Whole30 claims by day 31 you will be “free of the food fog” and as you start to reintroduce foods back into your diet, your body will tell you which ones should remain limited or be removed for good.

Pros: You may become aware of what foods cause you to feel sick or bloated resulting in a more well balanced diet.

Cons: Not consuming enough vital nutrients by restricting food groups may make you feel even worse. This diet is also very strict, requires food prepping, does not allow dining out and is not ideal for long term use or someone with a busy schedule.

Atkins Diet:

A low carb diet with the intent of quick weight loss. Atkins claims you may consume as much protein as you’d like as long as you eliminate high carb foods. Atkins is a 4 phase diet that begins with consuming 20g carbs per day and slowly increasing that to a point of maintaining as many healthy carbs as your body can tolerate. This diet promotes “full-fat” dairy and meat, fatty fish and seafood, eggs, low carb vegetables and nuts and seeds. Foods that should be avoided are: sugar, grains, vegetable oils, trans-fats, “low-fat” foods, high carb fruits and vegetables, starches and legumes.

Pros: Most Americans consume too many carbs and not enough protein, this diet may help to regulate your blood sugar and keep you full longer without added carbohydrates.

Cons: Allowing "as much protein as you'd like and all types of fats" is a loaded statement. Increasing lean proteins and healthy fats are great, but be mindful of Aktins allowance of saturated fats, and high salt animal proteins such as; lard, butter, bacon, sausage, and pork. These food options can lead to serious cardiac disease down the line.

Keto-Alkaline diet:

Meant to balance/reduce acidic pH levels in the body by eliminating eggs, dairy, grains, lentils and caffeinated beverages. A keto-Alkaline diet promotes raw foods, fruits and vegetables, foods containing chlorophyll, nuts and other plant proteins. These diets claims to reduce inflammation in the body and reduce diseases such as GERD, kidney stones and ulcers.

Pros: You will likely increase your fruit and vegetable intake

Cons: Consuming a raw diet can be dangerous; make sure all food is stored properly and washed before consumption to eliminate bacteria. This diet may work long term for some, but due to its many restrictions, you may not be consuming enough calories resulting in hunger and nutrient deprivation.

Paleo and CrossFit diet:

Created with a goal to increase nutrients and proteins consumed and lesson the glycemic load. Also known as the “caveman diet”, Paleo suggests eliminating foods that are typically not found in nature or could not be foraged. Paleo and CrossFit promote such foods as meat (does not have to be lean protein), seafood, some fruits, vegetables, nuts and saturated fats such as lard. These diets do not allow grains, dairy, legumes, processed foods, sugar or vegetable oils. Both diets promote high intensity exercise and strength training.

Pros: Similar to Atkins, you will likely decrease you carbohydrate intake, regulating your blood sugar better. You will also likely see quick weight loss if you follow the diet and exercise plan together.

Cons: Just because a diet eliminates a food group does not mean the entire food group is bad for you! Eliminating dairy may work for some, but cutting out foods high in Vitamin D and calcium means you are probably not getting enough of those nutrients else where. Do your research before cutting out an entire food group. Also, be aware of your bodies limitations before performing high intensity work outs, modify your exercise routine to be sure not to injure yourself.

TB12 diet:

Who doesn't want to eat like the GOAT? Tom Brady's diet promotes reducing inflammation and “being as healthy as an athlete” by consuming 80% of specific vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet and beans. The other 20% of the diet are lean meats such as grass fed organic steak, duck and chicken. This diet eliminates; white sugar, white flour, MSG, dairy, iodized salt, and “nightshade vegetables” such as tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms and peppers. Tom Brady recommends drinking at least ½ of your body weight in oz. of water per day. This diet has a cookbook and subscription meal plan along with it.

Pros: You get to be like Tom Brady? Maybe not. But you will likely have more energy and feel better by cutting out processed foods and white sugar and flour. Making your diet mostly vegetables, increasing whole grains and switching to lean proteins is always a smart choice that you will reap benefits from.

Cons: Currently there is not enough research to support the benefits of eliminating nightshade vegetables to reduce inflammation so don't count out tomatoes and eggplant just yet. Brady's intense recommendation for water consumption is well intended but start off slow and gradually increase your H2O to amount you can tolerate.

Tea detoxing:

The theory that adding herbal detoxing teas to an already healthy diet

will promote weight loss and help to cleanse the body. This “diet” is promoted by many celebrities that say consuming up to 12 cups of detoxing tea per day is beneficial. Detox teas are different from regular green and black teas because they contain supplemental, herbal antioxidant ingredients.

Pros: Adding herbal teas to an already healthy diet can be great for digestion and bloating. Most tea is natural and contains antioxidant ingredients that will compliment the foods you are eating.

Cons: For the most part there are not many cons about this "diet" the problem only lies when detox teas are consumed in abundance and used as a meal supplement or means to cleanse while eliminating food completely. Detox teas have a laxative effect and if consumed too frequently can cause vomiting, diarrhea and electrolyte imbalance.

When choosing to take on one of these fad diets or any others on the market, the key is to do your research first. Think about how eliminating foods or foods groups may be harmful to your body. Don't deprive yourself to loose weight and always remember that portion control, physical activity and mindfulness will always play a roll in successful weight loss regardless of diet you choose.

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

330 Brookline Ave

Boston, MA 02215

wellpowered@bidmc.harvard.edu

Tel: 617-735-2518

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