Popular Diets: Hype vs. Hope
With so many trending diets taking over the internet, the options on what to try can be overwhelming. Internet crazes can be influential and can potentially lead you to try something that may not be the healthiest for you. That said it is important to look at health information with a critical eye not only to determine if the information presented is accurate and reliable but also to see if it is the right diet for you.
“A well-balanced diet can lead to a longer, healthier, and higher quality life,” says Rubiceli Hernandez, nurse practitioner, PIH Health Downey Hospital. “It is vital that you crowd your plate with a variety of nutrient-rich foods, consisting of lean proteins, colorful produce, high quality fats, and complex carbohydrates—leaving little or no room for processed foods, refined grains or added sugars.”
Here are some pros and cons of some of the internet’s most popular diets.
Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
A vegetarian diet is simply a diet that omits meat and meat byproducts. A vegan diet is a type of vegetarian diet that omits all animal products, dairy included.
- Pros: High fiber, low saturated fat and cholesterol, more fruit and vegetable intake.
- Cons: Low in protein, low in B vitamins, calcium, iron and zinc.
- What is it? Based on the diet of the Mediterranean Basin, which includes Southern Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey and Spain.
- Pros: Can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Cons: Lack of recommended amounts by food group. Confusion regarding fat, may lead to excess fat consumption.
DASH Diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)
- What is it? DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. This diet was developed to lower blood pressure without medication in research sponsored by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute.
- Pros: Low in saturated fat and total fat. Can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
- Cons: Not designed for weight loss
- What is it? The Paleo diet focuses on simple foods and simple ingredients. Something like, say Oreos, has over a dozen ingredients processed together into a cookie. It’s not something found in nature, and under the paleo diet it is something that shouldn’t be eaten.
- Pros: High in fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Low in sodium and sugar. Discourages processed foods. Emphasizes local, sustainable, organic and non-GMO foods and grass-fed meat options.
- Cons: Risk for deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, may consume above recommended daily levels of saturated fat and amounts protein
- What is it? The keto diet has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. It is a diet that is supposed to promote weight loss by cutting down your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with a diet of nearly all fats and proteins.
- Pros: Body begins to burn fat efficiently. Lose weight quickly (mostly water at first). High fat consumption makes you stay full longer and reduce daily caloric intake. Controls diabetes and is an effective treatment for epilepsy in children.
- Cons: “Keto Flu,” Nutritional deficiencies from a limited diet. Increase in LDL cholesterol. Increased risk of kidney stones, constipation, and osteoporosis. May increase cancer risk.
- What is it? Intermittent fasting is the umbrella term for various diets that cycle between brief periods of fasting or significant calorie restriction and periods of unrestricted eating. Includes all of the following diets: Time-restricted feeding, 5:2 Diet, 16:8 Diet, Alternate-Day fasting, The Warrior Diet, Spontaneous Meal Skipping, Eat Stop Eat
- Pros: Weight loss, mental sharpness, optimized hormones, lower inflammation.
- Cons: Caloric deficit. Form of acute mild stress. Confusing because of many types, little research. Possible headaches, mental fog and heart burn., Lack of guidance on what types of foods to eat.
Now that you have read through some of the pros and cons, you can ask yourself, is this diet really for me? It may help to think of diet changes as improving your eating habits—take baby steps.
An easy way to start eating healthy is by using the My Plate method which is based on the dietary guidelines established by the U.S. Government’s department of Agriculture and department of Health and Human Services. My Plate is used to help us visualize what a healthy plate should look like by illustrating the five food groups that are important for a healthy diet and the amounts of each group a person should eat per day.
Small changes in the way you eat, can lead to big improvements in your health when they are done for a long period of time. With practice, these new habits feel normal which makes it easier to continue with little effort.