By: Lori Bumbaco
With the start of the new year, the inevitable New Year’s resolution to lose weight strikes again. This time of year marks high levels of motivation to embark on a journey towards good health. Yet seemingly as quickly as the desire to make changes arrives, there is an equally rapid return to old habits. Contributing to this annual cycle is the allure of the diet and nutrition industry, which promises quick fixes through disguised fad diets full of empty promises. Every year, buzz surrounds the latest diet craze and yet it seems we have not learned from lessons past. Let’s take a moment to highlight the trends of 2019, and determine once and for all how best to pursue wellness.
The Keto Diet
Originally developed to treat epilepsy in infants and children, today’s version has certainly gone mainstream. The diet is not just any low carbohydrate diet, but actually restricts carbohydrate-rich foods such as grains and beans, while encouraging high fat foods. Additionally, foods that contain protein are keep just high enough to support body mass, but low enough to create a state of ketosis. Ketosis is when the body uses fat for fuel instead of glucose, the simplest form of all carbohydrates we eat. When a person is in ketosis, the body is tricked into thinking it is in a pseudo-fasted state.
It is important to point out that those pursuing a ketogenic diet independently may miss the mark. There are specific medical protocols that are advised in order to monitor someone following a ketogenic diet. Many are falsely informed to believe that they are in a state of ketosis, when in all likelihood they may not be.
Experts caution that a very low carbohydrate diet might contribute to micronutrient (vitamins & minerals) deficiencies and negatively impact gut health. Quality carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruit, and starchy vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, as well as anti-oxidants and phytochemicals in a healthy diet to support wellness. Beyond these concerns, the keto diet would not be advised for someone with blood sugar conditions or an eating disorder. Constipation, confusion, and memory loss are among the side effects reported for keto dieters.
The Pegan Diet
What diet do you get when you blend one part vegan with one part Paleo? That’s right, the Pegan diet! This one eliminates dairy, legumes, grains, and animal products. What’s left is an emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables, while reducing or eliminating processed foods and added sugars. Ok, so that doesn’t sound too awful, right?
One of the downsides of the Pegan diet is in its restriction. Nutritionally speaking, this creates a potential risk for inadequate consumption of vital nutrients associated with good health, and disease protection. Eliminating healthy grains, beans, and legumes means that it loses the value of plant proteins, unique fibers, and a necessary mineral, iron. Many who eliminate dairy need to consider how much calcium they are otherwise consuming from limited choices. The valuable omega 3 fats found in fish would also be devoid on this diet.
The Snake Diet
Yes, you read that correctly. This diet is meant to mimic the eating patterns of a snake by eating for only 1 to 2 hours a day while fasting for the remaining 22 hours. The diet purports that in theory, humans have adapted during evolution when food was scarce, and this results in weight loss. During the fasting hours, the only food consume is “Snake Juice”, which consists of water, potassium chloride, Himalayan pink salt, baking soda, and food grade Epsom salt.
The Snake Diet takes restriction to an entirely new level. An extreme level! Not eating for 22 hours daily over a prolonged period can certainly raise the risk for nutrient deficiencies. Snake Juice consumed alone is absolutely inadequate to meet the daily requirements for nutritional health. (Not to mention seems absurdly disgusting!) The potential negative side effects of this type of restrictive diet include headaches, constipation, lethargy, and that “hangry” mood from not eating enough during the day. One final thought, can this diet provide the optimal amount of nutrients needed to stay healthy in 1 or 2 hours?
Healthy Eating Is Not Complicated
The first step towards healthy eating is to change your mind set. Can you think of food in terms of nutrient rich, rather than good or bad? Can you satisfy your nutritional well-being with the occasional treat to satisfy your taste for something delicious? When approaching food using this mentality, you free yourself from the consuming, overwhelming, overly restrictive, and downright unnecessary way to simply eat.
Nutritious foods are obvious, right? When we sit down to eat a meal that hopefully we prepared ourselves, we have the opportunity to fill our plate with abundant vibrantly colored plant foods. These afford nutrient density, while simultaneously offering a relatively less amount of calories. The other foods, such as fermented dairy, fish, and plant fats are a nutritional complement to the healthy plate. Over time, building a diet pattern using this approach will yield the best potential for disease protection.