People determined to shed pounds in the New Year are faced with a bewildering array of fad diets and rapid weight loss programs.
Those who evaluate eating habits and diets such as Intermittent Fasting, the Keto Diet, the Whole 30 Program, and the Mediterranean Diet would do well to keep two main facts in mind, nutrition experts told HealthDay Now.
First, which diet is right for you depends a lot on what you like to eat and what best fits your personal lifestyle.
“What works best for people is what you stick with, what is comfortable for you. So if you are looking to change your diet, you need to know yourself and do things with it first. which you will stick with, ”said Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, chair of nutrition and diet studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
“There’s no point in going on any of these diets if you’re going to go on them for a week and then resume your activities as usual,” Cheskin said.
Second, any diet or eating pattern will only help you lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you burn day in and day out.
A good weight loss diet will include all the nutrients you need to stay healthy, but limit your calories.
“Every time we reduce calorie intake, we’re going to see weight loss,” said Caroline Susie, a Dallas dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Two of the most scientifically-based eating patterns behind them – intermittent fasting and the Mediterranean diet – were not originally designed as a way to lose weight, experts pointed out.
Fasting has ancient origins
Intermittent fasting requires people to eat only during specific times of the day, or severely limit their calorie intake on certain days of the week.
“Intermittent fasting is really having a moment. The funny thing is that this diet has been around forever. In fact, many religions have been practicing intermittent fasting for many years,” said Susie. “As old and as historic as this diet is, it really has its 15 minutes of fame now.”
“The good thing is it doesn’t tell you what to eat. It tells you when to eat. If you’re someone who isn’t a big fan of lists or what’s on my plan or not on my plan, that might be an option for you, ”Susie continued.
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help people manage their weight as well as typical diets, Cheskin said. He follows such a diet, eating only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day.
“It probably works because it’s not as strenuous. If you have to stick to a very strict diet 100% of the time, we all know most people won’t do it for long and they won’t. take advantage of it, ”Cheskin said.
However, people with eating disorders should avoid fasting, as it could trigger their eating problems, Susie noted.
A heart healthy option
The Mediterranean diet has the most science behind it and is touted as a way to maintain heart health – but again, it’s not about losing weight.
The diet is based on the cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean and is generally high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and unsaturated fats like olive oil, according to the American Heart Association.
You can also eat low to moderate amounts of dairy products, eggs, fish, and poultry.
“It’s a healthy diet, but not designed for weight loss,” Cheskin said. “Countries that tend to have a Mediterranean diet are not particularly thinner than other countries.”
“If you only have healthy fats, they have as many calories as unhealthy fats. It’s a good diet, but if you want to use it for weight loss, you also need to cut down on fat and calories, ”Cheskin said.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, which is associated with many different chronic diseases, noted Susie.
“I think it’s a wonderful way to eat, and it also makes it possible to have a glass of wine here and there,” said Susie. “I think it’s my favorite because it’s so inclusive.”
Keto is nothing new
The Keto Diet is another trendy weight loss plan, although Susie warns that it’s not such a new concept.
“This diet has been around for a while,” Susie said. “I feel like he has a really good marketing director because every now and then this regime gets famous.”
The Keto Diet severely limits your intake of carbohydrates, while increasing your intake of fat and protein.
The goal is to achieve a state of ketosis, “a metabolic state in which you burn fat for energy instead of burning carbohydrates for energy,” said Susie.
“Basically, you are asking your body to get rid of fat rather than carbohydrates from the diet,” Cheskin said.
However, the Keto diet can be difficult for a person.
“Getting there can be a little brutal,” said Susie, noting that people who are new to the diet often suffer from “Keto flu” for a few days in which they feel foggy, lethargic, and a headache. Other common side effects are disturbance and constipation.
“When we remove some of these foods, we are removing key nutrients and removing a lot of fiber,” which can lead to constipation, said Susie.
Keto’s focus on fat isn’t very good for your heart either, Cheskin added.
“In some ways, this is a heart attack diet,” he said. “Eat all the bacon you want, just don’t have any potatoes – well, you’re on a diet that’s the opposite of what preventative cardiology would tell you to do.”
People will lose weight on Keto if they eat less, “but you would likely get a better health benefit if you lost a similar amount of weight using a healthier diet,” Cheskin said.
Beware at all 30
Cheskin and Susie were the most critical of the Whole 30 program, a diet in which participants cut out added sugars, grains, legumes, and dairy products for a solid month.
“What’s a little worrying about the Whole 30 Diet is that it was founded by people who have limited nutritional education,” said Susie. “It’s extremely restrictive. For 30 days you will be eliminating a lot of different food groups.”
The diet requires you to cut out foods like beans or low-fat dairy products that are generally considered nutritional heavyweights, Susie said.
“I love that this way of eating encourages you to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. But demonizing an entire category for no clinical reason is where some of the red flags go up,” Susie said.
“Unless you are allergic, there is no clinical reason why you should avoid dairy products, why you should avoid beans, and why you should avoid complex carbohydrates,” said Susie.
The Whole 30 diet “will tend to decrease inflammation and can lead to weight loss depending on the number of calories you eat,” Cheskin said. “It is not intended to produce weight loss specifically, but can certainly be used for that. It was designed by sports nutritionists.”
After the first 30 days, people can start reintroducing things like beans that they took out of their diet, Cheskin said.
The best diet: the one you stick with
However, such restrictive diets can be difficult to maintain for most, and people will tend to fall off the wagon over time, experts said.
Susie said her eating habits were pretty straightforward:
- A low sugar Greek yogurt breakfast with some added nuts.
- Lunch is a sandwich on whole grain bread with vegetables on the side, such as a salad, cucumber slices, or cherry tomatoes.
- A snack made up of a piece of fruit and a piece of cheese.
- A dinner consisting of half a plate of fruits and vegetables, a quarter of a plate of lean meat and a quarter of a plate of complex carbohydrates like a potato – “I love potatoes. “said Susie. There’s no cheating day for her, Susie concluded.
“I firmly believe that any food is suitable. If I have a craving for something, I’m going to honor that urge and have a small amount of it,” Susie said.
“If I go out to eat and someone wants to share a few bites of dessert, I’m not going to put me off. I’m just going to resume my plan as soon as I move on to the next meal or snack,” said Susie.
The Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition has more information on fad diets.
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