Paleo and more - five trend diets analysed
Some trend -and often fad - diets claim to produce exceptionally fast results, or promote special foods which supposedly have almost miraculous effects. However, some of these diets may severely restrict entire food groups or exclude certain foods all together. Following any of these diets might result in weight loss, but it's important to remember to speak to your GP before drastically changing your diet, especially if you have a medical condition that requires special eating plansi.
We examine five diets that have been recently generating a lot of buzz.
The Paleo Diet was the most commonly Google-searched diet of 2013ii, and has quickly gained a large group of devoted followers. Those on the Paleo Diet eschew all grains - wheat, barley, rye, and to a lesser extent, rice - as well as dairy and sugar. What they do eat is a diet high in lean protein, with a focus on organic grass-fed meats, and lots of seasonal vegetables and fruits.
The philosophy behind the diet is that we should be attempting to eat in a way that is closer to how our Paleolithic ancestors ate. The idea is that our diets changed rapidly from what early humans would have been eating as hunter-gatherers, as modern agriculture encourages a grain-dense diet instead. The Paleo Diet is based on the premise that our biology - and therefore our ideal diet - may not have evolved so quicklyiii.
Despite Paleo's popularity it remains very divisive. Proponents of the plan claim it's not only a natural, healthy diet but also a weight loss solution. On the other hand, the Paleo Diet received a crushing rating from a recent best and worst diets survey for being "too restrictive, too hard to follow, ineffective for weight loss, and unhelpful for heart health"iii. Critics also point out that Paleo can be a very expensive way to eatiii.
The 22 Day Vegan Challenge
Veganism is often a lifestyle choice for those who are particularly devoted to curbing cruelty against animals or reducing their carbon footprint. However, recently short-term veganism has been promoted as a way to lose weight and improve health after celebrities Beyoncé and Jay Z undertook the 22 Day Vegan Challengeiv.
As a vegan diet requires you to avoid all animal-derived ingredients, overhauling your diet from that of a typical meat eater can be particularly challenging. To ensure that you get all the nutrients and protein your body requires you'll have to plan meals ahead of time and it may be advisable to ease yourself into the challenge by starting with one vegan meal per dayv.
If you are undertaking the 22 day challenge purely for weight loss you may be setting yourself up for disappointment - diets that are drastically different from what you can realistically stick to long term may only result in any weight loss being gained backi.
Raw Food Diet
People following a raw food diet eat at least 75 per cent uncooked foods and often favour organic foods. The theory goes that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients if they are uncooked because heating them above 49 degrees destroys natural enzymesv.
Despite these big claims the diet has many critics who say that a raw food diet is lacking in protein, certain minerals and vitamins as well as foods which provide energyvi. Like the Paleo Diet, if you want to follow a Raw Food Diet in a healthy way you may be facing a bigger grocery bill and eating out will become a challenge.
The Pil-Sook Diet
The Pil-Sook Diet is a fad from South Korea, generating a lot of interest on blogs this year. Pil-Sook (or Pil-Suk) was a character on a Korean teen drama called Dream High who wanted to be a pop star and felt that to do so she needed to lose 30 kilos in 200 daysvii. When she confided this to her teacher she received this advice, "Eat breakfast like a queen, lunch like a commoner, and dinner like a pauper"vi.
On the show, Pil-Sook followed her teacher's advice and lost the weight - and a lot of Korean viewers apparently did toovi. The diet advice itself is not anything new and may work as a tool for restricting calories. There certainly is some evidence which suggests that those who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weightviii.
A lot of common diet advice involves eating frequent small meals throughout the day but Intermittent Fasting takes the opposite approach. The name sounds scarier than the practice actually is; followers do not starve themselves but instead fast for a portion of the day.
For example, you may choose to have a 14 hour fast which would mean eating all three meals between 9am and 7pm. There are many variations of the diet but the common theme is the idea that we may not have to eat whenever we're slightly hungryix. Proponents of the diet claim that among other benefits, eating all your meals within a relatively small window forces you to stop snacking or "grazing"ix. On the other hand, no diet will be effective if it doesn't fit into your lifestyle or your routine, therefore if fasting doesn't fit around your work or family commitments, it isn't the right choice for you.
Professionals recommend to follow a balanced eating plan that meets your own body’s needs and to incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine in order to lose weight in a healthy in sustainable wayi.