Pros and Cons of Trending Diets

by LindsayHill

2013-03-05 08.32.10Hi Friends –

I was recently asked to speak in a corporate setting about the pros and cons of today’s trendy diets. The group I was speaking to specifically wanted to know my thoughts on Paleo and Gluten-Free diets, but I also spoke about cleansing and juicing since these are as de rigueur now as fat-free and Atkins were in the eighties and nineties. I won’t post my entire handout here, but I will share a simple table I put together for the talk since this topic is a popular one and certainly one I get asked about frequently.

Trending Diets Pros & Cons

Paleo: A diet meant to mimic that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors (pre agricultural revolution, pre processed foods)

Pros:

  • Focus on natural foods eaten by our ancestors
  • Less dairy and grains is good advice for most people as they are over consumed in the Western diet
  • A diet higher in good fat that most diets and this is a good thing, you are less likely to go hungry and more likely to take in less total calories than you would on a low fat diet

Cons:

  • High in saturated fat, sample meal plans on website emphasize meat over vegetables
  • Advice to steer clear of all grains and legumes is inconsistent with most proven healthy diets and most expert advice
  • The Paleo reasoning behind not eating grains and legumes (that the phytic acid in both leech minerals from the body, rendering both less nutritious than meat) is at best inconclusive, at worst ridiculous (rinsing and cooking grains and legumes removes most of the phytic acid, which isn’t thought to be an issue in a balanced diet regardless)
  • Claims lack evidence and are hard to prove (i.e. our ancestors certainly had less of the diseases of aging, but they did not live as long anyway so it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges)

Gluten-free Diet: A diet free of wheat and all wheat based products. Formerly only for Celiac sufferers, a gluten-free lifestyle is now followed by many athletes and celebrities

Pros:

  • Eating less wheat leads to positive changes for many people: more energy, improved digestion, less sluggishness, better skin
  • Eliminating gluten has been shown to help reduce symptoms of some auto-immune and gastro-intestinal illnesses
  • Eating less wheat means you have more room on your plate and in your belly for healthy carbohydrates like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes

Cons:

  •  When people eliminate one major element of their diet, they often compensate with poor choices  (prime example is when people eliminated fat and replaced it with sugar)
  • The rush of G-free products to the market means people may eat more highly processed foods than before and many g-free foods actually have more sugar and else fiber than their wheat based equivalents

Cleanses/Juicing: Restrictive diets intended to “purify the system”

Pros:

  • Good way to get a lot of vitamins into the system quickly
  • Good way to reset after a lapse in self-care (will shrink the stomach)
  • Short length of time and ease (open, then drink) is appealing to busy people, people on the go

Cons:

  • Health benefits unproven/overstated (a healthy liver and kidney will do a perfectly good job of eliminating toxins from your body)
  • Many are far too restrictive, leave people feeling weak and unable to function at an optimal level
  • Juice cleanses are too low in fiber and good fat and too high in sugar (most of the fiber is removed in the juicing process)
  • Another quick fix, rather than a lifestyle shift – as I say in my book “losing 10 lbs in 3 days on a juice fast is like falling in love in 3 days on a private Island ala ‘The Bachelor’ – yeah, it can happen, but it sure won’t last when real life gets in the way!”

Conclusion: Like all diets, today’s trending diets have some pros and cons and can be healthy or unhealthy depending on how you interpret the “rules” and follow the plan. However, the best way to lose weight is to learn to cook and prepare real food and eat realistic portions as I teach you how to do in my book The Get Real Diet.

Cheers!

Lindsay

 

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