Popular Diet Trends: 2016 Wrap-Up

Health Professional, Medical Reviewer

There were many diets that gained popularity this year — some for weight loss, and others to improve overall health. Here’s a wrap-up of the most popular diet trends, and if they are worth a try:

1. Detox or cleanse diet

What is it?

Proponents of this diet claim that dieting alone won't remove the toxins from the body, so you should “detox” or “cleanse” toxins through consumption of a raw or liquid diet. Smoothies, water, and/or detox teas are consumed each day for about 10 days. Smoothies are made from raw vegetables, such as kale, arugula, parsley, beet greens, and radish tops, along with various fruits.

Is it worth it?

As with any diet, daily caloric restriction below what your body needs each day will lead to weight loss. Rapid weight loss usually seen during the first few weeks of restrictive dieting is most likely due to water loss. Cleansing plans tend to be extremely low in calories (often less than 1,000 calories per day), which means you could be missing out on essential nutrients. Negative side effects from following a very low-calorie diet include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and nausea. The liver and kidneys work around the clock to naturally cleanse the body of toxins, so “cleansing” is really unnecessary, and may negatively impact the gut microbiome.

2. Gluten-free diet

What is it?

If you are following a strict gluten-free diet, you eliminate all gluten, which is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products. Gluten-free diets have been around for a long time, as they are the primary treatment for celiac disease.

Recently there has been an increase in the prevalence of gluten intolerance or sensitivity, which is a reaction that occurs after the ingestion of gluten. Symptoms can vary widely and include gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, fatigue, and depression. Many people with irritable bowel syndrome who follow a gluten-free diet find that it alleviates their negative gastrointestinal side effects, including gas, abdominal cramping, and bloating.

Is it worth it?

It is absolutely worth trying a gluten-free diet if it helps to alleviate any symptoms of intolerance. Going gluten-free may cause you to be deficient in some nutrients and vitamins because many grains are enriched with these essential nutrients, so a balanced diet is crucial.

It’s important to note that going gluten-free will not make you lose weight — healthy food choices and reducing your overall caloric intake will help you with weight loss.

3. Eating “clean”

What is it?

The description of “eating clean” refers to consuming a diet of whole foods that are free of added sugars or processed foods, and preferably organic.

It is worth it?

Eliminating added sugars, additives, and sodium from your diet can have numerous health benefits. Just be sure to vary the foods in your diet to avoid becoming too restrictive and ensure that you are getting adequate nutrients from a balanced diet. Numerous restaurant chains are now offering “clean” food items to appeal to those looking for unprocessed options.

4. The Paleo diet

What is it?

This “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. It eliminates all grains, dairy, legumes, added sugars, and processed foods.

Is it worth it?

Eating fresh, unprocessed food is a great way of eating for everyone. The Paleo diet is rich in nutritious foods that have many health benefits. But there are some down sides. Eliminating all dairy products could lead to deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D. When following this diet, you should make sure to consume other calcium-containing foods, fortified products, or a supplement to achieve your recommended daily intake of calcium. Cutting whole grains out of your diet may reduce dietary fiber intake, so make sure you are getting your fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables to get your recommended 25-35 grams of fiber each day.

The bottom line

While diet trends come and go, basic principles of healthy living remain. These include consuming a balanced diet consisting primarily of fresh, unprocessed food, getting regular exercise, and avoiding extreme dieting, which can ultimately lead to excess weight gain. If you need help in meeting your nutritional goals, consider meeting with a registered dietitian, who can tailor a plan specific to your health and weight loss goals.

See more helpful articles:

Going Gluten-Free: A Do or Don’t?

Teatoxing: What You Need to Know

Paleo Diet: Pros and Cons