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Fad or functionality

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Are you blindly following diet trends, not knowing whether they’re healthy or what side effects they might have? Aakriti Patni & Pranika Sharma look into the latest diet trends doing the rounds and tell you about their effects, both good and bad

When faced with the task of exercising or dieting, most of us choose to diet, because we feel that that would be easier. However, dieting is far from easy and we end up resorting to strange and whacky diets, all in the name of losing weight. Most times, we don’t even care to find out about the side effects of these diets. Here we’re telling you about the different diets, highlighting their benefits and drawbacks, so that you are well informed.

The Raw Food Diet

A diet that comprises completely of raw and unprocessed food, the Raw Food Diet or the dietary practice of Raw-Foodism, as it is often called, has actually been around for a long time, since the early 1800s. But of late, it has seen a surge in popularity. In all fairness, the diet is quite simple. As the name suggests, you have to eat only raw food, going off all cooked and processed foods, refined oils, sugar and flour. You’ll also need to avoid tea, coffee and alcohol.

There are three factions in this diet. Raw Vegetarians eat plant-based foods plus eggs and dairy products; Raw Vegans eat no animal products at all; and Raw Omnivores eat both plant-based and animal-based raw foods. The main aim of this diet isn’t weight loss, but a healthier lifestyle.

  •  The good: A major reason that the diet advocates raw food is the belief that cooking destroys natural enzymes and lowers the nutritional content of the food. And, indeed, cooking does decrease the content of water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins C and B. Eating raw food benefits the digestive system and improves the body’s immunity.
  •  The bad: The most obvious drawback of this diet is the fact that it is simply not sustainable in the long run. Yes, it’s true that you will lose fat in the beginning, but that is only because it involves a drastic change in your diet. Eating raw foods also opens you to attack by certain bacteria that are killed by cooking. A highly restrictive plan, which also proves to be nutritionally inadequate as it avoids all forms of grains (since you can’t eat raw grains), it simply isn’t one that you can adopt for the long term.

The Mediterranean Diet

Inspired by the eating habits and healthy lifestyle of the Southern European countries, this concept lays emphasis on plant foods, olive oil, fish, poultry, beans and grains. Since the diet focuses on high quantities of vegetables, fruits and grains, and limits red meat and sweets, it replaces the saturated fats and trans fats in your diet with plant foods. It has also been linked to good heart health, protection against diseases such as stroke, and a lowered risk of diabetes. The claim is that it helps to reduce weight and improve overall lifestyle.

  •  The good: Besides the claims regarding cardiovascular health, obesity and diabetes that the diet is known for, a new research study, published in the journal of Human Reproduction, found that women who follow a Mediterranean diet in the six months before undergoing assisted reproductive treatment had a significantly better chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth than women who did not. A diet concept that factors in cheat meals and holidays, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the few that is actually sustainable in the long run.
  •  The bad: Unlike other diet trends, the diet advocates a lifestyle change as opposed to simply following a few new rules. But, despite this diet concept coming out on top of the rest, it isn’t easy for vegetarians to adapt to it. And since there are no set rules for quantities or serving sizes, it is left to you to find out what works.

The SlimFast Diet

The belief here is that you can lose weight by restricting calories and portion sizes, giving way to variety and flexibility in a structured format. This diet requires you to replace two large meals a day with a SlimFast meal, or three 100-calorie snacks, which include fruits, veggies, nuts, meal bars and snacks, and a 500-calorie meal of your choice, to provide the low-calorie nutrition required by the body. Following this plan, a person consumes up to 1,200 calories a day, which allows them to enjoy small portions of their favourite foods. It is claimed that the diet can make you lose one to two pounds per week. However, it’s best accompanied with regular walks and strength training. 

  •  The good: The diet does not limit your food choices and allows you to eat all food groups, recommending a balanced plate with an adequate fill of vegetables and proteins. It is perfect for people who don’t want to count calories, since that is done by the SlimFast shakes, meals and snacks. It also helps you, it is claimed, to keep diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
  •  The bad: Hunger, a very low nutrient intake and regaining lost weight when you go off the diet are some of its long-term effects. Because the first proper meal in the day is dinner, since you’ll be snacking through the day, you tend to get hungry. Also, there is a sudden drop from the 2,000 calories a day you are used to eating on an everyday basis. This leads to a drop in blood sugar levels, which can cause dizziness and fatigue. While the diet provides vital nutrients, it misses out on fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

The Keto Diet

A popular diet that has people enamoured with its results, the Keto Diet triggers a metabolic process called ketosis. Ketosis makes use of stored fats in the body for energy in the absence of glucose that comes from carbohydrates. The diet involves foods that have a high fat content, and 77% of your calories comes from fats alone. The diet restricts carbohydrate content to 5% and protein up to 18%. Avocados, coconuts, Brazil nuts, seeds, oily fish and olive oil are sources of healthy fats that are to be consumed. Weight loss of up to 5kg in four weeks is claimed.

  •  The good: The Keto Diet is a healthy way to lose weight even though its principle is contrary to the normal functioning of the body. It allows the body to get rid of excess stored fat, which can make you active. It may help improve levels of good cholesterol, boost  metabolism and assist the functioning of the digestive tract.
  •  The bad: Since the Keto Diet encourages the consumption of an unusually large proportion of fats, it can lead to health risks. Cardiovascular issues, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are some of the potential negative effects of this diet, especially if the levels of ketone production are not monitored. A diabetes-like state can be induced due to the lack of insulin in the body, which can also lead to tiredness and fatigue in the early stages. A large rise in the levels of ketones in the body can cause poisoning — a state called Ketoacidosis. This is a dangerous condition as it develops sometimes within a period of 24 hours. People who are diabetic should be wary of following this diet.

Why isn’t it working?
If you’ve been wondering why the last diet you were on tanked, and why the weight you lost suddenly resurfaced, it’s probably because the diet wasn’t made to be followed for a long term. If you are truly serious about becoming healthier, you should understand that it’s not just a diet that you have to follow, but a lifestyle change that you have to make. Many new diet trends that crop up ignore sustainability, which is an essential factor if you want to lead a healthy life. There isn’t a doubt that these diets can help you shed the extra kilos for a friend’s wedding or a festival, but in the long run it’s a healthy lifestyle that you have to adopt, one that factors in your needs as well as your likes and dislikes, and is modified and suited to your lifestyle.

We asked a few people what they think about diet fads.

Never have, never will
I don’t really believe in dieting, and I have never attempted any diet, especially the new fad diets. Since I am an avid sports player, for me it’s more about being active and exercising to remain fit and leading a healthy lifestyle. I don’t consciously watch what I eat, but yes, I do realise when I’m indulging in calories, and so, I know when to cut down on my eating.
– Dhruv Sharma, HR college student

Goal setter

Don’t start a diet that has an expiration date. Instead, focus on a lifestyle that will last forever. A diet should also be task-specific. For example, if your goal is weight loss, muscle gain or performance improvement, then the diet should target the nutritional requirements that the goal demands. I also believe that it is important to follow three particular steps to achieve your goal — identify your goal, make a nutritional plan and follow it precisely!
– Jaydeep Bhuta, nutritionist consultant

Holistic approach

I have always preferred a holistic, hands-on approach to good health, one that integrates wellness into a healthy lifestyle. I recommend against diets that cut out food groups or focus on only consuming one type of food. Even drastic calorie-cutting or omitting food groups could result in lowered immunity and deficiencies. The right diet should help you maximise physical and mental performance and also help to regain vitality. This means balanced nutrition and regular eating habits that ensure steady weight loss, as opposed to drastic dieting. Low or no-carbohydrate diets are difficult to sustain as they are the body’s and the brain’s main source of energy.
– Dr. Namita Jain, wellness expert and author of diet book Low Fat Low Guilt


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