Most of us have tried a fad diet at some point in our lives. Many of us even know a ‘yo yo dieter’, someone who is nearly always trying the latest dieting trend. But whether you’re looking to lose weight or just be a bit healthier, dieting can sometimes give us interesting insights into our own eating patterns.
Not all diets work for everyone, and there is a lot of conflicting advice. This overview aims to give you a nudge in the right direction — and also show you what diets to avoid!
Here are the pros and cons of 10 diet trends of 2013:
Juice cleansing (aka juice fasting) is a type of detox diet where a person consumes only freshly juiced fruits and vegetables. A juice cleanse can last anywhere from several days to a few weeks, and during this time the dieter abstains from all other food.
Advocates claim juice cleansing helps them slim down, reduce bloating, shrink their stomach, and can help overcome habitual reliance on coffee and soda. It is also said to help ‘purify’ the body through removing and flushing out toxins. Some juice dieters even use salt water or a herbal laxative to assist with the detoxification.
The juice cleanse is seen by some health experts as controversial, especially for extended periods of time. As all the dieter’s nutrients are derived from juice for the duration of the cleanse they can miss out on essential fiber and proteins.
Pros: Short term, quick results, can have detoxification benefits.
Cons: Difficult to stick to, requires preparation, can be awkward for office and social settings, can be unsuitable for those with prior health issues.
The zone diet
The zone diet works on the idea that managing insulin levels can result in more effective weight control. The diet’s main principle is that every meal we eat needs to contain 30% protein, 30% good fats like nuts, avocado and olive oil, and the remaining 40% unrefined vegetable carbohydrates.
Creator Dr Barry Sears claims this precise mix of protein, fats and carbs regulates our blood-sugar levels and promotes long term weight loss. Any carbohydrates like pasta, bread, cereals, cakes and sweets are definitely a no go area on this diet. Sears claims these foods spike our insulin and cause weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.
The zone diet is fairly moderate as far as popular diets go. His principles, if you can follow them, promote a healthy, nutritious diet but don’t leave a lot of room for cheat days and weekend treats.
Pros: You get to eat every few hours, good for your heart, keeps blood sugar levels regular, good mix of healthy fats and unrefined carbs.
Cons: Limits placed on white carbs and sugars which can be difficult in social situations, no calorie limits which can test self control of some.
Nicole S. Young
The raw food diet
The raw food diet involves eating only unprocessed, plant based and organic food. On this diet at least three quarters of this your overall food must be uncooked. Many on the raw food diet are vegans, but some also consume raw fish and raw meat.
Raw food is a movement as well as a diet, with a growing number of ‘raw foodists’ adopting a long term raw lifestyle. They believe that beneficial enzymes in food are lost when it is heated above 47 degrees centigrade. They also claim uncooked foods promote long term weight loss, increase energy and enhance your body’s ability to repair and fight diseases.
There are some foods in this diet that followers need to be cautious of like buckwheat, kidney beans and cassava, which can contain toxic chemicals when raw. The diet also involves a lot of preparation and can be tricky to stick to when eating out.
Pros: Can help lower bad cholesterol, ensures a wide range of plant based nutrients are consumed.
Cons: Some raw foods can be risky and carry disease, dieters can miss out on calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
The negative calorie diet
The negative calorie diet focuses around eating as many ‘negative calorie’ foods as possible. The definition of negative calorie foods are those that need more energy to be digested than they deliver when you consume them. For instance, if you eat 100 calories of celery, it might actually burn 110 calories to digest it – meaning that the dieter has essentially not contributed to their daily calorie intake.
Foods that are popularly touted as negative calorie are celery, apple, lettuce, broccoli, grapefruit, asparagus and cabbage. However while these foods are low calorie, unfortunately there is no scientific evidence that they are actually negative calorie. Eating lots of these foods may help with weight loss, but only because they fill the stomach with lower calorie choices (leaving no room for naughty snacks)!
Certainly, some foods are harder for our bodies to digest than others, but as far as negative calorie foods, they might just be too good to be true. The only 100% negative calorie ingredient is water!
Pros: Gets dieters eating fresh leafy greens more often.
Cons: No scientific proof that negative calorie foods exist.
The Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet mimics the eating habits of people in Greece, Crete and southern Italy. The diet focus on plant foods, beans, nuts, legumes, dairy, moderate amounts of fish and poultry, and small amounts of red meat.
The diet contains quite high amounts of fats — largely from olive oil, cheese and nuts. While this might come as a surprise to some, rates of obesity, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are significantly lower in Mediterranean countries.
Being able to eat dairy and carbs makes the Mediterranean diet easier to stick to. And the best news? Wine is included! In moderation of course.
Pros: Good for heart health, incorporates ‘fun’ foods like cheese and wine, easier to stick to long term.
Cons: No calorie limit so can be easy to overeat, takes time to see results.
The Paleolithic diet
The Paleolithic diet (aka the ‘caveman’ diet) is based upon the diet of ancient man in the Paleolithic era millions of years ago. It works on the idea that humans only began farming and producing grain 10 000 years ago, and that our bodies still do not properly digest these grain based foods.
The Paleolithic diet involves eliminating processed foods, especially those containing grains, dairy and oils, and focusing instead on meat and vegetables. It has been criticized by some health professionals and food groups for it’s hard stance on grains, yet the popularity of the Paleo diet has increased in the last year.
Dieters find the Paleo diet promotes sustained weight loss and still allows the consumption of a wide range of foods. However, many restaurants would struggle to cater to the strict Paleolithic requirements.
Pros: Unprocessed foods good for overall health, large amount of vitamins and minerals contained in diet.
Cons: Eliminates foods with natural carbohydrates, can be unsuitable for athletes or those training heavily and requiring high energy.
The shake diet
The shake diet involves replacing two meals per day with calorie controlled shakes or bars. There have been a range of companies like Lean Body and Slim Fast producing shakes over the years, but the formula remains the same. By eating only one moderate meal and two shakes per day dieters severely restrict their calorie intake which leads to fast weight loss.
These dieting fads have been popular with people trying to shed quick weight before an event or holiday. Unfortunately, much of the weight lost is water weight and muscle, not sustained fat loss. The body can miss out on certain nutrients and proteins while using the shakes, and most people find they gain the weight back.
Pros: Quick results if solely slimming for an event or occasion.
Cons: Not sustained weight loss, yo yo dieting can be detrimental to metabolism.
The ‘volumetrics’ diet
The ‘volumetrics’ diet is based around eating foods that contain lots of water, to make you feel full quicker and combat feelings of hunger. Created by nutritionist Barbara Rolls the diet focuses on soups and green veggies whilst cutting out heavy calorie-laden foods like cakes and chips.
The theory goes that people generally eat the same weight of food per day, regardless of the calorie content, so eating food higher in volume and lower in calories helps you feel full and satisfied more quickly. Volumetrics is based on getting as much mileage as possible out of your food, with the lowest calorie content.
Pros: Focus on nutrient-rich foods, range of choices available.
Cons: Won’t work if you don’t like veggies and soup, doesn’t leave room for snacks and treats.
Intermittent fasting involves extending the number of hours between mealtimes combined with reducing overall calorie consumption. Intermittent fasting directly contradicts all the diets that advocate small, frequent meals spaced evenly throughout the day.
Intermittent fasters believe that varying our calorie intake, and varying the times that we eat, is in line with our evolutionary history. We would feast in times of plenty and use our body’s fat stores during lean times. Advocates of this diet believe skipping a meal (or multiple meals) can help your body burn fat while preserving muscle mass.
Pros: Works well for busy people, convenient, still have choice over what foods are eaten.
Cons: Can lead to light levels of hunger and overeating, less guidance on what foods to avoid.
The Atkins diet
The Atkins diet is an oldie, but seems to make a reappearance every year. Created by Dr Robert Atkins the diet strictly eliminates all carbohydrates. He believes that refined carbs like flour and sugar are the main factor that affect our health and make us gain weight.
Atkins diet followers claim that when we limit carbs we keep our insulin levels steady and switch to burning our body’s fat as energy. There are four stages of the diet beginning with eliminating nearly all carbs, and then slowly reintroducing them into your lifestyle again. A diet low in carbs has also been shown to help keep weight off once it has been lost – if you can stick to it!
Pros: Good success rates, satisfying with high protein levels, can increase good cholesterol, can promote long term weight maintenance.
Cons: High fat content, requires a life-long change, difficult to eliminate all sugar from sauces and beverages.