March is National Nutrition Month. Certainly, every day should be devoted to feeding ourselves the healthiest choices possible, but designating a month that focuses on nutrition is especially timely, especially as the nation continues to grapple with serious obesity statistics among all age groups. Every year there is a new crop of diet books and diet programs to inspire new diet journeys. If you find a program that’s a good fit, for your personal weight and health needs, one that also matches your personality, scheduling needs and even your finances, then you will likely stick with it long term. Though it’s really semantics, if you do find an eating plan that is sustainable, we typically shy away from calling it a die. Diet tends to connote short term fix – and we nutritionists want to see you find a method of eating that provides enjoyment, the right number of calories, a good balance of nutritious foods, and one you can live with pretty much forever, with a tweak or two along the way.
This year, some of the diet books and plans appear to have science to support them. Of course, there are also the usual new trendy offerings too. Here’s a selection of the best of 2013, so far:
The Fast Diet hails from England and has held the top slot in the Amazon’s British site everyday since publication in January of 2013. The tag line on the cover reads, “Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer.” Isn’t that what we all want? The program recommends five days of eating and drinking whatever you want, accompanied by two days (not back-to-back) of eating about 500 calories, divided into 2 meals of 250 calories (men get 600 calories divided into 2 meals). So you could have 1 egg and some egg whites and fruit, and for dinner a small serving of protein and vegetables. The science behind the diet's 5:2 ratio suggests that when you fast, or eat a minimal amount of calories in a 24 hour period, your body will turn off fat-storing mechanisms and flip on fat-burning to provide the body with the necessary energy calories needed to exist. The doctor who wrote the book and tested the program was actually suffering with higher than normal blood sugar levels and high cholesterol, and he underwent a scan that revealed the most dangerous "visceral" fat wrapped around key organs. He actually followed a much more rigorous fasting program, but ultimately modified it to the 5:2 ration that the book recommends. The term intermittent fasting has been coined to describe the diet, and despite its popularity, some experts caution that there’s not enough evidence to support the plan. Of course, on days you’re fasting, it’s also unlikely that you will move around a whole lot, and that missing exercise has professionals like me not loving the diet.
The Mediterranean Diet has now been confirmed by findings published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s website, to help reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease by 30%. The eating plan includes olive oil and other heart-healthy fats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and even some wine. The participants in this large clinical trial did not all lose weight on the diet, and some participants were already on medications for heart disease and diabetes, however one cannot argue with the impact the diet had on their health. The study actually ended early because the researchers decided that it was unethical to continue to allow part of the participants to not be eating this diet. Skeptics say that since so many of the participants were on medications, the conclusions are crediting the diet more than is warranted; others say that feeding a population that is already overweight, a diet rich in oils and nuts, is not prudent. The conclusion by many professionals is that low fat diets are hard to follow and have not been shown in rigorous studies to prevent deaths associated with heart disease and strokes. So a diet that is attractive because of its delicious ingredients will resonate with many patients. This diet is also a good template for kids to follow.
Next Up: Shred, 8 Hours, Fat Chance and a tease….
Amy Hendel is a health professional, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch? Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily #HealthGal1103. Catch her guest appearances on Marie! on Hallmark and other local and national news and talk shows.
Published On: March 06, 2013