January 17, 2011

The Latest on the “Diet Plans”

By Meredith Harper, Dietetic Intern Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, Pinellas County Extension

With so many different diets promising quick and easy weight loss, it can be difficult to separate the myths from the facts. Here’s a look at some of the latest diets and the “raw” truth about them.

Eat Like Our Ancestors
The Paleo Diet also called the Caveman Diet, claims that it will help you lose weight and have increased athletic ability. Based on the premise of eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, this diet excludes foods that became commonplace after the rise of agriculture such as grains, legumes, and dairy products. Periodic fasts are advocated, as cavemen often endured hunger while searching for foods. This diet is high protein, high fat, and low carbohydrate, recommending that most of one’s diet come from animal foods. If you follow this diet, you’ll likely end up with higher cholesterol levels (putting you at risk for heart disease), less energy (due to low carbohydrate intake), and possibly food-borne illness if you’re among the folk that eats barely cooked meat (apparently cavemen did not have fire).

The Latest Diet Rage
The Gluten-Free Diet was originally developed for sufferers of Celiac Disease, which is intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barely, and rye. Recently it’s taken off as a measure to achieve weight loss as well. Gluten-free products are now common in groceries and restaurants. Unfortunately, these specialty foods will put a dent in your diet. You’re also likely to miss out on important B vitamins and dietary fiber found in whole grain products. Plus, there is no guarantee of weight loss: you can easily fill up on gluten-free cookies and brownies. Unless you have Celiac Disease, your best bet is to stick to a well-balanced diet that includes wheat, barley, and rye.

Twinkies for Weight Loss?
The Twinkie Diet has been made popular by a nutrition professor who proved that you can lose weight while eating a diet of junk food. Of course, there is a catch: he restricted his intake to 1800 calories a day. While calories are important in weight loss, the quality of the calories must be considered: eating a diet of Twinkies is going to provide you with a lot of sugar and fat, and not any of the benefits of healthier diets.

O Positive or AB Negative?
The Blood Type Diet suggests that your blood type controls what diet works best for your body. When it comes down to it, there is no clinical evidence that people with type O blood need higher protein while those with type A should be vegetarians. Contrary to claims, this diet will not help you lose weight or improve your body’s function.

It’s All About Lifestyle
When choosing your foods, it’s best to go with the tried and true rather than the latest fads. Choose meals that offer a healthy mix of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein such as baked chicken and fish. Practice portion control and add a little physical activity, and you’ve got yourself a plan that will help you look and feel great.

For more information, check out these RD-conducted reviews of popular diets.

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