We understand how tricky it can be for individuals to untangle fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition.
Just because it’s a diet and some people are singing it’s praises doesn’t mean it’s right for you. There is a lot of nutrition information out there, but every single person has different needs and wants, from taste preferences to metabolic health to exercise regimes.
Rather than put it in a good or bad column, what can we take from the current trends to inspire different ways of eating or approaching food to come up with a way of eating which is a combination of what it right for YOU?
Below is a closer look at some of the popular diets currently trending with more information to help you understand them better and how it might fit in your lifestyle, but also why it may be inappropriate as a path for you to reach your health goals.
1. Vegan diet
The vegan diet consists of exclusively plant-derived foods including fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and plant oils. All meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy and honey are excluded. The basis of the diet is to reduce cruelty and exploitation of animals.
- It may increase intake of vegetables and legumes, both having wide variety of health benefits including reduced risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and certain cancers.
- A reduced intake of red meat is also independently associated with improved cardiovascular health.
- Strict dietary rules or cutting out whole food groups can negatively impact individual health and relationships with food.
- It can be socially isolating due to reduced flexibility in dining-out options.
- It brings greater risk of nutrient deficiencies including iron, zinc, omega-3, vitamin B12 and protein as these as animal-derived foods are the richest sources of these nutrients for health.
What can we learn?
Reduce the total portion size of the meat serving you are having, have some meat free meals each week or increase your vegetable intake.
2. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting or time restricted eating refers to cycling periods of fasting and eating within specified time frames. It comes in various forms, including alternate-day fasting where energy-containing food and drink is only consumed every other day, or the 16:8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours every day and eating within an 8-hour window.
- It may assist weight loss goals as the restricted eating times can support the energy (calories/kilojoules) deficit required for weight loss.
- It may reduce incidence of mindless eating or grazing and provide more structure in mealtimes to engage with hunger cues and mindful eating habits.
- It can result in sub-optimal fuelling and recovery for exercise conducted during fasting times.
- The restricted eating times or amount may impact social life via an inability to catch up with friends for brunch as it is outside of eating window.
What can we learn?
It’s ok to have some periods where we aren’t eating to give the body a break and facilitate more structured eating habits. It doesn’t have to be extreme to receive the benefits of fasting and even 12 hours over night between your dinner and breakfast may be adequate.
3. Ketogenic diet
The ketogenic diet consists of a very low intake of carbohydrates like fruit, starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and a high intake of dietary fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, oils, eggs and cheese. The idea is that eating less carbohydrates and more fats will force the body into using fat as its primary fuel source, otherwise known as a state of “ketosis”.
- It may be an effective complimentary treatment for epilepsy and other neurological disorders.
- It minimises intake of foods high in refined sugar that can be associated with higher risk of negative health outcomes when consumed excessively e.g. diabetes.
- It is difficult to sustain for long periods of time due to the degree of restriction and limited meal options.
- A high intake of certain saturated or trans fats are associated with reduced cardiovascular health and has a negative impact on gut health
- A low intake of carbohydrates can result in sub-optimal fibre consumption due to restriction of vegetable and whole grain intake, which can have a further negative consequence on gut health and other associated areas including immunity.
- Low carbohydrate intake may limit exercise intensity at a peak power output as the body relies on carbohydrates for fuel at high intensities.
What can we learn?
Limiting processed and refined carbohydrates to get energy may help with other underlying health conditions if you aim to get your carbohydrates from whole foods like wholegrains and starchy vegetables.
Here’s some more information on how athletes should consider diet trends.