There are hundreds if not thousands of diets available, they can target anything from rapid weight loss to pharmacology purposes. They are now all labelling themselves the ‘best diet’, so why wouldn’t you do it. Here we will briefly examine some of the ‘best diets’ that regularly surface.
Paleo – The diet for the modern day caveman.
- The Theory
The popularity of this diet has given paleo enthusiasts confidence to give it the number one diet title. The Paleo diet is based on the common assumption that modern lifestyles are the cause of our current health problems. Therefore we must consume the same as our Palaeolithic ancestors who lived between 2.5 million and 12,000 years ago.“Nature determined what our bodies needed thousands of years before civilization developed”
- What It Involves
Aspects that are allowed in the paleo diet include grass fed meats (grains will effects the animal as it would you). Fish and seafood. High Volumes of fresh veg and little fruit. Nuts, seeds, eggs and any natural oils (olive oil, coconut oil). You should actively avoid refined sugar, grains, legumes, high amounts of starch and potatoes. Other food groups to avoid are dairy products, refined vegetable oils and any other processed foods.
Your diet will be considered ‘clean’ with no additives, preservatives or chemicals. Foods such as fruit, seeds and nuts have anti-inflammatory benefits. Iron intake will be raised from more red meats being consumed. Low iron levels is still a problem area in the UK.
No dairy results in low calcium levels. This can lead to osteoporosis and other skeletal disorders if not managed by supplementation.
Mediterranean – Why is the Mediterranean said to be the best diet?
- The theory
Well it is said that people who live within the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea have a longer and healthier life. Italy’s life expectancy is estimated at 82.29 years compared to Britain’s 80.96 years. Obesity levels in Britain are estimated at 26% whereas Mediterranean countries average out at 18.6%. (Mendis, Davis and Norrving) Levels of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are also stated to be a lot lower. 51.7 deaths per 100,000 in Italy and 68.8 and 80.1 in the UK and US. (Capewell and O’Flaherty) Alongside an active lifestyle, a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fats is the key to this healthy lifestyle.
- What It Involves
This is much more of a change in eating habits rather than being a structured diet. A strong focus on having large amounts of food derived from plant sources. These include fruits, vegetables, potatoes, grains, nuts and seeds. Olive oil is to be used as the primary fat source. With the aim to be over 35% of your daily energy intake. Fish and poultry to be consumed moderately throughout the week, along with cheese and yoghurts. Limit red meat consumption to around two meals or maximum 12-16 ounces per month. (Oldwayspt.org) Disagreeing with the Paleo.
Cardiovascular benefits. Control and prevention of diabetes type II. Satiety is easily achieved. Conforms to the recommended dietary guidelines of nutrient intake. No nutrients cut completely out of diet.
Can be considerably expensive compared to others diets. Olive oil, nuts, fish and fresh produce can be costly. Substantial weight loss only comes with restricted calorie intake. Calcium levels can become low.
5:2 – Is fasting your idea of a healthy diet?
- The Theory
It is based on the concept of intermittent fasting (IF). Fasting for 2 days will lead to a reduced overall calorie intake in the week leading to weight loss and other health benefits.
- What It Involves
Eating recommended amount of calories for 5 days. With 2 days of fasting on dramatically reduced calorie intake. 2500 calories allowed for men on normal days and limited to 600 calories on fast days. Calories must be carefully counted every day. A healthy balanced diet must have adhered on the 5 non-fast days.
You are only dieting for 2 days of the week. Easy to follow on non-fast days. Studies suggest it can be a good option in preventing diabetes type II. Doesn’t cost more or take any more work than a normal diet.
Lack of focus on healthy foods, only calorie intake. Fasting days can be very difficult for many people. Fasting is not a safe option for everyone, including pregnant women, children and adults with type 1 diabetes. Lack of long term and relevant research.
Gluten Free – The most recent and most debated diet.
- The Theory
Gluten is a protein found in all forms of wheat, barley and rye. It is responsible for causing numerous symptoms in celiac disease and gluten intolerance/sensitivity sufferers. Symptoms can include stomach pain, diarrhoea, gas, bloating, nausea and more. Cutting gluten out of the diet clearly has health benefits for those with the above conditions. However the proportion of people taking up this diet is a lot higher than people who suffer from gluten related conditions.
- What It Involves
It involves cutting any gluten containing product completely out of your diet.
Gluten sufferers will achieve reduced damage and discomfort in small intestine. Along with many other symptoms. Encourages label reading and awareness of nutrition. Fewer processed foods in your diet. If followed correctly
May result in lack of fibre, leading to digestive issues. Possible weight gain due to gluten free products often containing higher fat and sugar content. Can be very difficult to follow. Lack of nutritional knowledge can lead to nutrient imbalance. Very conflicted research on its health benefits for non-gluten related sufferers.
Diets – What to look for?
There are a number of reasons why people look for the perfect diet. However it can be a bit of a jungle of information out there. So what information should you be looking for?
- Has the diet been thoroughly researched? Unfortunately, this can be very difficult to determine. People who advise diets will only ever present research that makes them look good. Good research can often be difficult to access. Not all research is relevant, take time to read it if you can.
- Is it a short term fix or long term change? General rule to consider, if it offers quick and substantial weight loss it’s not a sustainable solution. The 5:2 will fall into this category. Whereas paleo & Mediterranean are considered more lifestyle changes.
- Is the diet easy to follow? Are you cutting out large food groups or merely limiting them. Limitations are much easy to stick to over a long period. Gluten free and paleo diet requires a lot of consideration compared against Mediterranean. Will you be stuck if you are eating out? Gluten free option are slowly becoming more available in restaurants but still limited.
- Always be suspicious and learn to question the information given to you. Nutritionist is a title that anybody can give themselves, unlike dietician (specific qualifications are required). Check the sources credibility and qualifications before you take their advice. We all have “nutritionists” on our social media selling something. Question them on their qualifications, they should not get offended if they are confident in their background.
- Is it suitable for everyone? Most will specify if it safe for everyone or if there are selected groups it would be dangerous for.
What to avoid?
- Try to avoid anything that cuts out lots of complete food groups. Juice and detox diets are guilty of this. You will lose weight but most likely make yourself seriously ill if you do it too long and is usually only a quick fix, rather than a sustainable, balanced and healthy diet.
- Stay clear of the ‘new best thing’ for weight loss on social media. Weight loss and being healthy are often two very different things.
- Don’t buy the miracle cure for weight loss from your mate’s sister’s dog walker! They probably aren’t qualified or registered to be giving advice.
- Signing up to a product long term is often a bad sign. Why would you need a 3 month supply in one order?
What’s best for you?
- Always take into account the above factors on what to look for and what to avoid.
- Do you have the time to cook and prepare everything?
- If you can’t handle your hunger well stay away from fasting diets. Don’t be the cranky person in the office beccause you’re deliberately starving yourself.
- Everybody is different. Just because it works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you.
- If you really enjoy certain foods don’t give them up. Paleo and gluten free diets can be demoralising when you don’t get to eat your favourite food.
- Do you enjoy counting calories? Pick one that is focused around it. 5:2 would be ideal for you.
- Remember, the odd cookie or packet of crisps is OK, it doesn’t meal you have failed at your diet or that it is not sustainable.
- All diets will have both positive and negative factors. You should carefully weigh them up before you start anything new. Treat all advice and recommendations with care as everyone and every circumstance is different. If you are feeling the benefits, great. If it’s having a negative effect, stop! Your health can go bad very quickly.
- If you have any medical conditions consult your GP before beginning a new regime.
Capewell, S., and M. O’Flaherty. ‘Can Dietary Changes Rapidly Decrease Cardiovascular Mortality Rates?’ European Heart Journal 32.10 (2011): 1187-1189.
Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2011.
Cordain, Loren. ‘What To Eat On The Paleo Diet | Dr. Loren Cordain’. The Paleo Diet™. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.
Lambert, Kelly, and Caitlin Ficken. ‘Cost And Affordability Of A Nutritionally Balanced Gluten-Free Diet: Is Following A Gluten-Free Diet Affordable?’. Nutrition & Dietetics (2015)
Npd.com,. ‘Gluten Free – NPD Group’. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.
Martinez-Gonzalez, Miguel A. et al. ‘Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet: Insights from the PREDIMED Study’. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases 58.1 (2015): 50-60.
Mendis, S., S. Davis, and B. Norrving. ‘Organizational Update: The World Health Organization Global Status Report On Noncommunicable Diseases 2014; One More Landmark Step In The Combat Against Stroke And Vascular Disease’. Stroke 46.5 (2015): e121-e122.
Oldwayspt.org,. ‘Mediterranean Diet Pyramid | Oldways’. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Aug. 2015.
Strewler, Gordon J. ‘Calcium: Good For Your Bones, Good For Your Heart?’. IBMS BoneKEy (2002)
Trueland, Jennifer. ‘Fast And Effective?’. Nursing Standard 28.16 (2013): 26-27. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.
Whiteman, Honor. ‘Is A Gluten-Free Diet Good For Our Health?’. Medical News Today. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Aug. 2015