MountainStar Health - January 04, 2021

Sometimes bad fad diets are easy to spot – the chocolate diet or the Hollywood juice diet, for example. Other diets are more difficult to recognize. Here's a look at what's right and wrong with a few popular dietary trends.

The Paleo diet

This primal diet limits you to eating only foods our Paleolithic, hunter‐gatherer ancestors would have eaten: lean meat, eggs, honey, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Dieters can also consume fats like avocado, butter and coconut oil.

  • What's not allowed?
    • Whole grains, legumes, dairy products, processed foods and most oils.
  • Pros:
    • The prohibition of processed foods is a big plus, and lean protein, produce and healthy fats are the staples of a healthy diet.
  • Cons:
    • Paleo diets ban foods our bodies use to function well, including whole grains (high in fiber, B vitamins and minerals), dairy (rich in calcium and other nutrients), and legumes (a great source of protein, fiber and minerals).
  • What research shows:
    • Claims that evolution has not equipped us to eat differently from our ancestors are unproven, reports Scientific American magazine. In fact, modern man is not only well adapted to be a flexible eater, but we likely have different intestinal bacteria than cavemen, which enables us to digest more varied types of foods.

The low‐carb diet

Eating plans like the Atkins or keto diets may help people lose weight by reducing or eliminating high‐carb foods like grains, starchy veggies and sugar. Instead, dieters fill up on high‐protein foods like lean meat, fish, eggs and cheese. Non‐starchy vegetables are also allowed.

  • Pros:
    • By eliminating empty calories from processed foods and alcohol, low carb diets can jump‐start weight loss.
  • Cons:
    • Your body uses carbs for fuel, so eating too few carbs may dampen energy levels. In addition, eating a lot of protein can put a strain on your kidneys.
  • What research shows:
    • Low‐carb diets can lower insulin levels and may reduce high blood pressure and heart disease, as long as dieters avoid high levels of saturated fats in foods like cheese and red meat. However, a study in Cell Metabolism found that low‐carb diets might actually burn less fat than low‐fat diets, contrary to what proponents have claimed.

The raw food diet

This plant‐based diet involves eating only uncooked foods, though some followers do warm up foods, as long as they don't reach high temps that can destroy a food's natural enzymes. People may follow a raw food diet to lose weight, improve health or both.

  • Pros:
    • Packed with healthy fruits, veggies, legumes, seeds, nuts and sprouts (hello, antioxidants and fiber!), this diet cuts out all processed foods and is low in saturated fats and salt, making it heart healthy, too.
  • Cons:
    • This eating style takes serious commitment and expensive equipment. To pull off this diet, you'll need a juicer, blender and dehydrator. If you include unpasteurized milk or raw fish, you up your risk for food poisoning.
  • What research shows:
    • A study of raw food dieters found they tended to weigh less and take in fewer calories, according to the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. However, claims that raw food is healthier don't always hold up. Cooking actually makes certain nutrients easier for our bodies to absorb.

Here's the bottom line: Dieting is different for everyone, and complicated diets can be hard to follow long‐term. Talk with a doctor or dietitian about what's best for you based on your health, lifestyle and metabolism. And remember, if a diet sounds too good to be true, you may lose weight, but you'll probably gain it all back again.