April 11, 2023 7 min read

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    Another day, another fad diet trend that’s taking the Internet by storm. Whether we’re being told to eat like cavemen, take carbs completely off the table, or become amateur scientists to use terms like macros and ketosis, calling it overwhelming would be an understatement. 

    In recent years, several diets purported to promote weight loss and establish healthy eating patterns have attracted followers for their alleged benefits. It’s not hard to find public figures taking to social media to share their success stories. From Mikhaila Peterson and the Carnivore Diet to Kelly Ripa’s Alkaline Diet, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s now-infamous “intuitive fasting,” we’re constantly bombarded with potential new (and sometimes contradictory) alternatives. 

    But do any of these diets deliver on their end of the bargain, or are they just another means of fueling a problematic approach to nutrition and wellness? 

    In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular diet trends and see how they stack up against today’s current context. 

    1. The Paleo Diet

    The Paleo Diet

    The Paleo Diet, also known as the Caveman Diet or Stone Age Diet, is based on the idea of eating like our ancestors did in the Paleolithic period. 

    This diet centers around whole, unprocessed foods that were available to early humans, such as meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Foods that are excluded include grains, legumes, dairy products, processed foods, and sugar. While anyone can “go Paleo,” you might associate it with that friend of yours who is a little too obsessed with Crossfit. 

    The concept behind the Paleo Diet is that our bodies haven’t evolved to adapt to today’s nutrition, which is high in processed foods and carbohydrates. By eating like our ancestors, we can avoid many of the health problems associated with modern lifestyles, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

    However, some nutrition experts have criticized the Paleo Diet for being too restrictive, focusing on too much protein, and for ignoring the beneficial nutrients found in dairy products and whole grains. There is also little scientific evidence to support the claims that the Paleo Diet is uniquely beneficial.

    Famous Fans: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Biel, Miley Cyrus, Uma Thurman

    2. The South Beach Diet

    The South Beach Diet

    No, this diet doesn’t have anything to do with packing up and relocating to Miami to live in a string bikini all day (though that sounds kind of nice!). Created by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston, the South Beach diet was created as a way to help patients lose weight and improve their heart health.

    The South Beach Diet promotes the consumption of "good" carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables, and "good" fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and fish. It also encourages the consumption of lean protein, such as chicken and fish. 

    The diet is divided into three phases. The first is the most restrictive, as it eliminates all carbohydrates - including those found in fruit and whole grains. In the second phase, some carbohydrates are reintroduced, and in the third phase, individuals transition to a more inclusive diet with whole grains and fruit. The ability to sustain this diet over the long term has made it extremely popular with celebrities.

    The South Beach Diet claims to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems associated with being overweight. Some nutrition experts have criticized the diet for being restrictive and for promoting the consumption of saturated fats. However, it is generally accepted that the diet can be effective for weight loss and improving heart health. 

    Famous Fans:Oprah, Jennifer Aniston, Barbra Streisand

    3. The Keto Diet

    The Keto Diet, short for Ketogenic Diet, is high in fat (60%), moderate in protein (30%), and very low in carbohydrates (10%). The goal of the diet is to put the body into a state of what’s called ketosis, where it burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

    Ketosis is achieved by drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake. It accelerates metabolism, diminishes hunger cues, promotes growth of muscle mass, and stabilizes blood pressure. A Keto diet is often indicated for patients with epilepsy or diabetes given its therapeutic impact on brain activity and insulin levels.

    Some of the foods that are permitted on the Keto Diet include quality meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, and high-fat, unprocessed dairy products. Foods to avoid are grains, fruit, and most vegetables. Oh, and don’t forget that alcohol, sugary drinks, and other sweet treats are forbidden while you’re on the keto diet.

    Collagen supplements are an excellent addition to a Keto Diet. Taking collagen peptides boosts protein intake, doesn’t impact ketosis, and supports muscles, bones, skin, and more.   

    Keto has gained popularity for its potential to promote rapid weight loss and reduce the risk of certain health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. In fact, dozens of stars have jumped on the keto bandwagon to drop unwanted pounds and transform their bodies. However, some nutrition experts have questioned the safety and sustainability of the diet, and there is limited research on its long-term effects.

    Famous Fans: Halle Berry, LeBron James, Adriana Lima, Kourtney Kardashian

    4. The Slow-Carb Diet

    The Slow-Carb Diet

    The Slow-Carb Diet was developed by author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, who gained popularity for his book "The 4-Hour Body." The diet is designed to be a simple, sustainable way to lose weight and improve overall health. Ferriss claims that it’s effective for rapid weight loss, suggesting that it’s possible to lose body fat by optimizing any of these three factors: diet, exercise, or your supplement regimen.

    The Slow-Carb plan is based on five fundamental rules that dictate the basics of the diet. In general, it involves consuming a limited list of foods for six consecutive days, with one free day once a week. There are five primary food groups in the Slow-Carb universe: animal protein, vegetables, legumes, fats, and spices. Each meal consists of as much as you want of the first three food groups, plus small amounts of the last two. It’s also suggested (but not required) that those on the diet take supplements to support weight loss.

    The Slow-Carb Diet is designed to be simple and easy to follow, making it a popular choice for people who are looking for a sustainable way to lose weight and improve their health. However, some nutrition experts have criticized the diet for being too restrictive and for limiting the consumption of healthy foods, such as whole grains and fruit. 

    5. Intermittent Fasting

    Intermittent Fasting

    Intermittent Fasting (IF) has become a popular trend in recent years and, as the name indicates, involves alternating periods of fasting and feeding windows. Canadian nephrologist Dr. Jason Fung is a leading advocate for this type of diet (proponents deem it a lifestyle more than a diet), having authored several books on the subject, including 2016’s “The Obesity Code.”

    The idea behind Intermittent Fasting is that it can lead to weight loss and improve health (energy, focus, metabolism, autophagy) by reducing the amount of time spent eating, allowing the body to enter a state of ketosis. Intermittent Fasting has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. 
    There are several different ways to implement IF. One popular approach is the 16:8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours a day and eating during an eight-hour window; another is the 5:2 method, which involves eating normally five days a week and restricting calories to just 500-600 on the remaining two days. You can go down the rabbit hole of IF and all its varieties here.

    So, what can you eat during fasting periods? Water and zero-calorie beverages such as black coffee and tea are permitted. However, certain supplements, such as gummy multivitamins and protein powders can break a fast. Fish or algal oils (Vegan Omega-3s) and collagen peptides are typically considered safe to consume while fasting.

    “Eating periods” or feeding windows doesn’t translate into “going buckwild.” Nutrition experts mention the Mediterranean diet as a good blueprint of what to eat, since it focuses on leafy greens, healthy fats, lean protein, and complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains.

    Intermittent Fasting may not be suitable for everyone, and it’s important to ensure that the body is receiving adequate nutrients. Longer periods without food, such as 24-, 36-, 48- and 72-hour fasting periods, are not recommended for everyone and for many, result in health hazards. Going too long without eating might actually encourage the body to start storing more fat in response to starvation.

    Famous Fans:Chris Hemsworth, Terry Crews, Hugh Jackman

    Conclusion

    What do these diets - and other popular eating trends - have in common? They generally skimp on carbs and promote a protein-heavy approach to eating. Our current lifestyle is typically much more sedentary (and nuanced) than the days of yore. No longer do we find ourselves rising before the sun to till the fields or hunt for our dinner.

    Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to keep up, but the pace at which the modern age continues to advance makes conditions ripe for complex - and often confusing - new information to arise.

    It’s also worth noting that while these diets may have gained popularity for their different alleged health benefits, the science behind them is constantly evolving. Before starting any new diet, consult with a qualified healthcare or nutrition professional.

    While each of these diets has its own strengths and weaknesses, remember that a one-size-fits-all nutrition solution doesn’t exist. What is sustainable and effective for one person might not be suitable for another!

    We often fall into the trap of framing a new diet as an “all or nothing” approach, focusing more on what’s being excluded rather than how we can modify our nutritional habits on the whole. A successful diet change is one that is sustainable, that prioritizes healthy habits over pseudo-hacks, and that can be adapted to your existing lifestyle in a reasonable way.

    Understanding the importance of whole grains, healthy fats, protein, and a variety of fruits and vegetables is crucial for achieving and maintaining optimal health. Restriction and elimination diets may offer temporary weight loss, but they can also foster negative relationships with food and trigger potential nutrient deficiencies.

    Additionally, it's important to remember that weight loss ultimately comes down to a calorie deficit: burning more calories than you consume. This can be achieved through a combination of healthy eating habits and regular physical activity that fits your body's individual needs and preferences.

    Fad diets and trends come and go, but the foundation of solid nutrition and wellness remains the same. Rather than searching for quick fixes and shortcuts, focusing on developing consistent, healthy habits is what will lead to long-term success. If a new “hack” or silver bullet seems too good to be true, it probably is!

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