Diets: Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Detox … Which Diet Is Healthy?
All this information came from my Can Fit Pro Wellness Eating and Weight Loss Coach manual.
Many people follow unhealthy diets through habit or lack of awareness, rather than a conscious decision to make poor choices. Some diets are short-term weight-loss plans that involve drastic changes to a person’s normal eating habits — typically known as “crash” or “fad” diets. These types of diets are considered unhealthy.
Diet Recommendations From the World Health Organization:
- Increase consumption of plant foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.
- Limit intake of fat and oil; avoid saturated fats, which are those that become solid at room temperature and most animal fats, including those found in red meat, dairy and eggs. Prefer unsaturated fats, predominantly found in plant-based foods and oils (For example; olive oil, flax oil, coconut oil…)
Many of the most popular diets for weight loss fall into one of the following categories:
- Macronutrient focused diets: manipulation of one macronutrient (i.e. protein, carbohydrate, or fat)
- Food group excluding diets: removing a food group due to choice, belief, religion, or sensitivity (i.e. vegetarianism or gluten-free)
- Crash diets: non-sustainable, sometimes dangerous diets, typically very low-calorie (i.e. lemonade diet)
Macronutrient Focused Diets
1. The high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet (Example: Paleo)
A high protein-low-carbohydrate diet typically promises weight loss, long-term weight maintenance, and prevention or control of many “diseases of civilization” such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The high-protein diet theory suggests that North American society overindulges in highly processed, refined carbohydrates, resulting in escalation of these health issues.
The Paleo diet, which suggests looking back to the Paleolithic period of more than 10,000 years ago. Sticking to animal proteins and plants because the human digestive system was never designed to handle the refined sugars, starchy carbohydrates, grains, legumes, and dairy products that have slowly entered our diets over the past 10,000 years, increasing waistlines and the risk of disease. This diet has a very simple guiding principle: If the cavemen didn’t eat it, humans today should not eat it either.
2. Low-carbohydrate diets (Example: The South Beach Diet, and The Stillman Diet.)
Similar to the theories surrounding a high-protein diet, the main idea behind a low-carbohydrate diet is that North American society overindulges in highly processed, refined-carbohydrate foods, a practice that can lead to overeating, obesity and other negative health consequences. These diets recommend an eating system designed to help people lose weight by reducing the amount of carbohydrate they consume. During normal digestion, the body metabolizes glucose from carbohydrates for energy, rather than energy from fat. If there is not enough glucose in the bloodstream due to low-carbohydrate intake, the body draws on fat stores for fuel.
3. Low-calorie diets (Ex: Okinawa diet, Body for Life, Cookie diet, Hacker’s diet, Nutri system, Weight Watchers diet, Jenny Craig diet…)
A low-calorie or calorie-restriction diet is a dietary regimen based on reduced calorie intake, without malnutrition, has been shown to slow the biological aging process, resulting in longer maintenance of youthful health and an increase in both median and maximum lifespan.
4. Alkaline Diets
Body acidity is an emerging concept in nutrition. Many North Americans are living in a state of permanent and systemic acidity, largely due to food and lifestyle choices. Foods are either acidic or alkaline. This grading is determined by burning a food down to ash and measuring the pH of the ash – a number of 7 or lower indicates acidity; 7 to 14 are considered alkaline. Stress can also push the body into an acid state, as does the shallow quick breathing that often goes hand in hand with stress. Environmental factors such as pollution, poor air quality, detergents and toxins can create an acid load in the body, (e.g. intense exercise training sessions).
5. Hormone diets (Example: Glyci-Med Approach diet)
Acknowledge hormones as influencers behind whether weight gain, weight loss, and weight maintenance is essential when considering weight loss and nutrition. These potent chemicals are produced by the body to manage everything from breathing to digestion to sexual responses and more. At the same time, our hormones are influenced by myriad factors, including exercise, diet, sleep, stress, and even the everyday chemicals that we are exposed to in soaps and cosmetics. These diet moves away from focusing on caloric intake and does not consider the source of our calories. It also supports the notion that health is not achieved through weight loss, but rather weight loss is achieved when the body is in a healthy position to lose weight – and keep it off. Since hormones are the key to controlling appetite and stimulating metabolism, attaining and maintaining hormonal balance is essential for achieving lasting weight loss. Diet and exercise are important, but so are sleeping well, reducing toxin exposure, maintaining healthy liver function, optimizing digestion, limiting stress, and conquering inflammation. All of these factors can influence hormonal activity — and weight-loss success — in dramatic ways. The Glyci-Med Approach is a diet that can be followed for a lifetime as a means of creating a lasting blood sugar and hormonal balance. This solution combines attributes of the Mediterranean diet, which is high in healthy fats and lower in carbohydrates, with principles of glycemically balanced eating. For instance, protein is a necessary building block for many hormones including serotonin, melatonin, growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and dopamine. Lack of protein in the diet can lead to mood disorders, memory loss, increased appetite and cravings, decreased metabolism, sleep disruption, muscle loss, and weight gain.
Food Group Excluding Diets
Food group excluding diets remove a food group due to choice, belief, religion, or sensitivity, not always to lose weight. This includes vegetarianism, gluten-free, as well as belief-based, non weight-loss eating such as kosher (food prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws), or halal (foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines).
1. Vegetarian diets
Vegetarianism is the practice of consuming primarily plant foods. Vegetarians abstain from consuming meat products, including red meats, poultry and seafood. It may also include abstention from animal by-products such as animal-derived rennet and gelatin (The VegetarianSociety, n.d.). An ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products. A lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs. An ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products and eggs. Those following a vegan diet avoid all animal-derived products, including eggs, honey and dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter and yogurt.
2. The gluten-free diet
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a hybrid mix of rye and wheat). Gluten is also an additive to many foods, and this diet excludes all gluten-containing products. While oats are gluten free themselves, they can be contaminated by contact with gluten-containing grains during processing. The dietary intake also excludes casein, a protein found most often in milk and dairy products. Some less obvious sources of gluten are beer, croutons, marinades, sauces, and some salad dressings. The gluten-free diet is one that eliminates foods containing gluten. This diet is indicated for those with celiac disease, defined by the Canadian Celiac Association as a “medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten,” as well as individuals with an allergy to gluten.
Crash Diets or Fad Diets (Often Negative)
They describe diet plans that involve making extreme, rapid changes to food consumption or promote eating habits that can be unhealthy. These diets are typically extreme in terms of nutritional deprivation, often severely restricting overall daily caloric intake. The idea is to achieve rapid weight loss, and the diet is not meant as a means for lasting change. These diets are often viewed as quick-fix solutions, contrary to the belief of many who use this type of diet; this way of eating is neither healthy nor largely successful for achieving long-term weight loss, as it can provoke a slowdown of the body’s basal metabolic rate. Usually, the dieter will see some initial weight loss; however, that weight is usually regained quickly in the weeks that follow, as individuals revert to their original pre-diet habits. Within this vicious cycle, more weight is often regained than originally lost, which may send the dieter spiralling back into extreme habits. This roller coaster of weight lost and then regained, then lost then regained can pose health risks. Some crash or fad diets include: The Beverly Hills Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet, Grapefruit Diet, The Israeli Army Diet, The Subway Diet, The Watermelon Diet…
1. Detoxification diets
Most detox diets claim to have a detoxifying effect on the body deemed necessary because food is often “contaminated” by various unnecessary, potentially harmful ingredients. These substances include food colourings, pesticides, and preservatives. The premise of these diets is to cleanse or detoxify the system. Detox diets can involve extreme limitation of foods. For example, some fasting-type detox diets prescribe only water or juice and usually promote elimination of processed foods. A detox diet is often high in fibre, which is said to cause the body to burn accumulated stored fats, releasing fat-stored “toxins” into the blood, which can then be eliminated through the blood, skin, urine, feces, and breath.
Important Points to Remember About Fad Diets
- Research proves that old fat stored around the belly, thighs or butt cannot be burned off effectively unless new healthy fat comes in via food or from the liver.
- Eating to maintain stable blood sugar, which ultimately stimulates less insulin release. Since insulin tells the body to store energy as fat, lower insulin is always better for weight loss. Maintaining consistent blood sugar and insulin is one of the most important steps to balancing all hormones in the body and ensuring that metabolism stays in high gear. In fact, weight loss is almost impossible when insulin levels are too high.
- Those who eat frequently, at the right times, and consume protein, healthy fat, fibre and low glycemic carbohydrates together at every meal will achieve glycemic balance.