Diet Trends of 2014

  • Each year, there are new diets that are popular for weight loss and health. Here’s a review of the ones I’ve received the most questions about this year:

    The Paleo Diet

    The Paleolithic (Paleo) Diet is centered on the premise that if we eat like our caveman ancestors, we will lose weight and ward off disease. The “hunter/gatherer” way of life encourages the consumption of those foods that existed during the caveman days, including all meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.  The Paleo diet excludes all dairy, grains, and legumes, claiming that the onset of chronic disease occurred as a result of the agricultural revolution that introduced these foods into our diet.

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    Pros: Cutting out all processed foods, salt, and added sugars can have many health benefits.  Consuming a diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and heart healthy fats can help you to lose weight, regulate blood pressure, control blood sugar, and prevent type 2 diabetes.

    Cons: Eliminating all dairy products could lead to a deficiency in calcium and vitamin D.  Cutting whole grains out of your diet may reduce dietary fiber intake.  A high fiber diet has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.  If you decide to go Paleo, make sure you are getting your calcium from fortified sources and/or supplements, and that you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to get adequate fiber.

    Intermittent Fasting

    The intermittent fasting (IF) approach to dieting is to allow your body to go a “longer than normal” amount of time between meals.  IF can vary greatly from person to person- some people choose to skip one meal each day while others may choose to fast for an entire day once a week.  During IF, a person consumes no solid food (however water, tea, and low or non-caloric beverages are allowed).  The proponents of IF believe that during this period of fasting, the body can be “cleansed” of dead and damaged cells.  Some studies have shown that alternate day fasting can lead to a decreased risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

    Pros: For many people who are trying to lose weight, frequent snacking or late-night eating can be a large contributor to excess caloric intake.  Sticking to 3 sensible meals each day may help in limiting overall calorie intake while preventing hunger. There is no harm in skipping an occasional meal, and for some people this may be effective in helping them to lose weight in the long run.

    Cons: Other research has shown that for people who frequently miss meals or go long periods of time between meals tend to over-consume high fat, high calorie foods at the next meal, making their efforts counterproductive when trying to lose weight. Inconsistent eating patterns can also negatively affect your metabolic rate (how effectively your body burns calories). This diet is not appropriate for growing children under the age of 18, pregnant and lactating women, athletes, people living with diabetes, and other individuals (such as people with severe chronic reflux or GERD) for whom regular food intake can help to alleviate their symptoms.

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    hCG Diet

    The hCG Diet is a weight loss diet that couples extreme caloric restriction with daily injections or oral drops of hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), which is a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. The diet is very low in calories (as low as 500 calories per day). Dieters are encouraged to follow this plan for 45 days.  The theory is that the hCG hormones will make you feel less hungry and force your body to burn stored body fat for fuel.

    Pros: As with any diet that restricts calories, you will lose weight if you are burning more calories than you are consuming. The diet plan includes primarily organic, unprocessed foods, which can have a positive impact on your health.

    Cons: There is no proven research that hCG injections can promote weight loss. The weight loss resulting from following this diet is most likely from the dramatic caloric restriction. Severe complications and deficiencies can be a result of extremely low-calorie diets. Most dietitians do not encourage their clients to consume less than 1200 calories per day, since very low-calorie diets can force the body to break down muscle mass rather than stored body fat for fuel.  Very low-calorie diets can also be deficient in many key nutrients your body needs. And not only is hCG expensive, but injections can also lead to nutritional deficiencies and can have harmful side effects.

    Bottom Line: While all of these diets have some benefits and can impact weight loss, they carry some risks and are not for everyone. Check with your doctor or dietitian before following any restrictive diet to make sure there are not any contraindications for you.

Published On: December 08, 2014