Fad Diets

Fad diets come and go. People are always willing to jump on the bandwagon for the latest and greatest craze hoping for the best results but usually only making it a couple of weeks before they give up and move back to their old habits. It can be hard to know if the benefits these diets are touting are factual. To the average person walking down the street, the science may sound great, but professionals have much more to say about that. I had the opportunity to listen to a webinar produced by Eat Smart Move More, Weigh Less. The presenter was Carolyn Dunn, Ph.D., R.D. She has over 25 years of dietic experience and currently works at North Carolina State University.

Her lecture Titled Diets: Fad or Fact opened my eyes to what you should look for in a wholesome diet. She stated that you should for a diet that promotes five food groups and limits four other food groups.

Food groups your diet should promote:

  1. Fruits and Vegetables
  2. Whole Grains
  3. Legumes
  4. Poly and Monounsaturated Fats
  5. Nuts and Seeds

Food groups your diet should limit:

  1. Sugar
  2. Saturated Fats
  3. Red Meats
  4. Processed Foods

There are more fad diets out there that we could discuss but the presentation talked about five different fad diets.

First, Whole 30. Initially, I was pretty open to promote the Whole 30 diet because it seems like a good way to encourage less processed foods and eat more fruits and vegetables. But Dr. Dunn’s remarks started to change my opinion. First, there is no science behind the diet, or the cures for headaches, acne, or autoimmune disorders. She didn’t claim that it doesn’t work, but there needs to be more research before touting claims in this manner. When looking at what you should promote Whole 30 does not allow whole grains, which are an essential part of a healthy diet. Oats, Farrah, and brown rice provide a lot of nutritional value and are an integral part of a healthy diet. Also, during the Whole 30, you are not allowed to eat legumes or dairy. Beans also provide protein, fiber and vitamins, and minerals. She recommends not going to the extreme of Whole 30; you can create your own rules that allow you to eat the essential part of your diet. She says, “30 days isn’t going to kill ya, you probably won’t make it the 30 days. But there are certainly easier ways to cut out processed foods.”

Second, Gluten Free. This one is a touchy subject because there are people with celiac and gluten sensitivity that need to be very careful with their gluten consumption. The claims of a gluten-free diet is that that the grains we eat today are different from those in the past. She agrees that it is different but different isn’t necessarily bad, but how it is different because most of the wheat we eat is refined. We need to change the type of grains we eat from refined to whole grains. Unlike what is promoted by a gluten-free diet, whole grains actually can reduce belly fat. Some pro’s the gluten-free diet is that it tends to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables, there is a decrease in processed foods, and typically a reduction in fast food consumption. Some cons are you can end up eating other more processed grains to avoid eating gluten. An example she gave was that Triscuits only have three or four ingredients. However, gluten-free crackers may end up being much more processed.

Third, the Paleo diet. Is also another restrictive diet and doesn’t comply with current dietary recommendations. On the Paleo diet denounces dairy, legumes, and grains. Pale does have the possibility of moving people towards dietary guidance at least in the areas of fruits and vegetables – instead, people on Paleo eating plans tend to move further away from what is recommended. In it’s roots the Paleo diet discouraged eating processed food, but the food industry has taken the rules of the Paleo Diet and make processed food that comply with the “rules”. Their argument for not eating legumes is that they contain two different compounds Lectin and Fit Acid. When eaten in large amounts these compounds bind up some minerals in the gut. The dietary guidelines take into account that this happens! Also the numbers they claim are the beans when they are raw. The amount of lectin in beans is almost diminished through the cooking process.

Fourth, the Low Fat diet. The Low Fat diet is not as popular as it was in the 90’s. The diet has not been proven to be effective by weight loss, it limits beneficial fats, and is too high in starch and sugar.

Fifth, the Low Carb diet. A Low Carb diet is different than a moderately low carb diet. A low carb diet is very low in carbohydrates which limits the amount of beans, fruits, and grains that you can eat. All of these foods have been proven to be beneficial for weight loss!

Take home. 

Try and find a balance in your diet with those five important food groups, Fruits and Vegetables, Whole Grains, Legumes, Poly and Monounsaturated Fats, and Nuts and Seeds, and limit the other four, Sugar, Saturated Fats, Red Meats, and Processed Foods you will be much better off than trying another fad diet!

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