Diets, diets and more diets
Posted on 13th February 2019 at 08:15
A couple of weeks ago we looked at “Low fat high carb” diets. How much confusion there still seems to be about them AND how this has unwittingly contributed to rising levels of Diabetes and Obesity. However, with the huge number of different diets out there being marketed as “the one” – particularly at this time of year (!) – it’s not surprising that many people are still completely confused about the different options; let alone which is the best one for them.
So, this week, we’re going to have a look at the two most popular types of diets in the last couple of years. Low Carb and Intermittent Fasting. But, don’t be fooled. They both appear in many different guises, each with their own particular programme and celebrity endorsement (!).
Let’s start with the Low Carbohydrate – Low Carb – Diets. As the name suggests, this diet excludes the mainstays of the western diet. Wheat in all its forms – so bread, cakes, biscuits, pastry, pasta, etc – as well as other grains, rice and potatoes. Starchy vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips, may also be cut out or, at least, restricted.
With many people being intolerant to gluten – whether they’re aware of it or not – cutting out wheat on its own often brings many other health benefits, particularly digestion. Added to this, there’s increasing concern about the levels of Glyphosate – the weed killer used by farmers – in many wheat based products, particularly processed foods.
Cutting down carbohydrates not only helps to balance blood sugar, but also reduces acidity, as sugar is very acid. Pressure is taken off the Pancreas and insulin levels fall. The body switches from burning glucose as fuel, to that stored in the tissues as glycogen, as well as fat.
By basing meals around healthy proteins and fats, people feel full for longer and so avoid the temptations of sugary snacks mid morning and mid afternoon. Weight is lost more easily and, just as important, stays off. With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see why this type of diet has become so popular.
And, for those who find the Low Carb diet a bit too restrictive, there are now some less stringent versions of it. These allow small amounts of brown rice and other grains – but not wheat – as well as a wider range of starchy vegetables.
While we’re talking about Low Carb diets, there are another group of diets that also come under this heading, although they’re usually referred to as being “High Protein High Fat” rather than Low Carb. You’ll probably have heard of them, even though they’re now less popular, mainly due to their very restricted nature.
The first is the Paleo Diet, a Low Carb diet by another name. It advocates a return to what early humans would have eaten, on the basis that these are the foods are bodies are designed to eat.
While some versions are stricter than others, they centre on lean meats and fish, nuts, seeds and plant based oils along with fruit and vegetables. Grains – wheat, barley and oats – pulses, potatoes, refined sugar, dairy and processed foods are excluded.
Cutting out both wheat and dairy addresses the two foods that cause the majority of food related problems, wheat and dairy. However, there can be problems where the diet centres of protein, particularly meat, rather than a more balanced wholefood diet.
The other is the Keto Diet which was originally designed for children to help control epileptic seizures, although it has been re formulated in recent years to focus on weight loss. With around 70% of the diet being fat, 20% protein and the remainder non starchy vegetables it’s similar to the Atkins Diet – remember that? – and other very Low Carb diets.
An often heard complaint is that the Keto Diet is extremely restricted. It centres on meat, poultry, fish, cheese, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, seeds, some plant oils, berries and non starchy vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli and kale.
By limiting the carbohydrates eaten, the body switches to burning fat for energy, known as “ketosis”, hence it being known as the Keto Diet. This reduces blood sugar levels and so takes pressure off the Pancreas and insulin production. Initially it can lead to the so called “Keto Flu” with feelings of tiredness and toxicity but this usually clears quite quickly. While it does lead to weight loss, keeping to the diet longer term can be quite a challenge.
The other broad group of diets come under the Intermittent Fasting heading. All this means is that short periods of fasting are incorporated into your day to day life.
The 5:2 plan – eating normally for 5 days a week and then fasting for 2 days – or 4:3 plan – eating normally for 4 days and then fasting for 3 days – have both become very popular in the last couple of years.
Other versions include fasting on alternate days or not eating between 6pm in the evening and 8am the next day.
The theory behind all of these is that after you’ve fasted for more than 12 hours then your body starts to burn up the more stubborn fat stores for energy. It also helps control blood sugar and insulin levels.
The short periods of fasting, together with very few restrictions on what is eaten on the non fasting days, makes this diet much easier for people to stick to. Weight is still lost and, as it’s easy to remain on this diet, tends to stay off.
Before we finish for today, we must mention the ever popular Mediterranean Diet. It’s been popular for years and, as the name suggests, is based on the traditional diet of those living in the Mediterranean. It’s all about eating local foods that are in season NOT basing your diet around pizza and pasta (!).
Really, it’s not so much of a diet – as in cutting calories – but about lifestyle and eating healthily. Fruit and vegetables are the mainstay of this diet along with smaller amounts of poultry, fish, cheese, yoghurt, pules, nut and, whole grains. Sugar and red meat are occasional treats. A glass of red wine a day is also recommended (!).
So now it’s over to you to decide which approach is best for you. And when you do please don’t just think of diets in terms of weight loss. Or the quickest way to lose weight, so you can go back to all your bad habits (!).
We know we’ve said it many times before but it’s all about lifestyle, which is why the Mediterranean Diet is so successful. Making small changes that work for you, easily fit into your lifestyle and bring the most health benefits long term. Doing so not only makes the whole process easier but, more importantly, prevents yo yo dieting with all its attendant problems.
As always, the choice is yours.
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