Are Popular Diet Plans All They Are Cracked Up To Be?

If you are interested in your health and wellbeing, chances are you’ve looked into  “the best diet for (place your requirement here!)”

You’ve also likely returned thousands of search results and are left with even more questions than you started with.  Well to make your life easier, we’ve compiled the long and the short of some of the most popular diets.

Lets get cracking.

Low-Sugar Diet

Most low-sugar diets focus on reducing added sugar from your meals.  This isn’t a bad idea at all as most of us over-consume sugar.  This is because sugar is one of the three things manufacturers use to keep us coming back for more and so it’s added to beverages and even protein powder.

Sugar is used as energy in the body, so we need it, but when we ingest too much, sugar is floating around without a party to go to.  Insulin comes in to ship it away and it has no choice but to send it to adipose tissue.  This is where the insulin model of obesity comes in, and the reality is that an excess of any nutrient can start to cause issues; the dose really is the poison.

The take home is to reduce added sugar largely because sugar is also found in its naturally occurring form in wholefoods like fruit.  But in fruit you will also find fibre, which is beneficial to gut health. You will also find a range of phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds!

Plant-Based Diet

This approach to eating focuses mostly on foods from plant sources. It often calls for eating less meat, dairy and packaged products.

Plant based diets are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which means your body is getting a range of compounds beneficial to health.  But, it must be considered that there are nutrients that are only found in animal sources, and so, if not carefully considered, deficiencies in vitamins like B12 may appear.

The take home is that you can be plant-based, meaning you get as many plant sources in your diet as possible but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be vegetarian or vegan. Aim for 30 plant points per week.  This includes fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices!

Some plant-based foods are also heavily processed, and it must be remembered, that one of the aims of the plant-based diet is simply to eat less processed foods.

Low-Carb or Keto

The ketogenic diet (or keto diet, for short) is a low carb, high fat diet.  With just 5% to 10% of calories coming from carbohydrate food sources, lots of people assume keto is a high-protein diet, but it’s actually much higher in fat.

Ketogenic diets are touted as having benefits against cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease but there’s another aspect of a low carb diet that should be considered.

We tend to demonise simple carbohydrates or those sugars. But fibre is also a carbohydrate.

Fibre is the indigestible parts or compounds of plants and is essential to gut health. Not only to aid motility (keep things moving as they should) but it is what gut bacteria feed on.  During this process, metabolites are produced, which includes short chain fatty acids.  These metabolites are known to significantly affect mood, for example, increased levels of the short chain fatty acid butyrate are linked with reduced depressive symptoms and a reversal in behavioural hyperactivity.

Fibre, which does come under the umbrella of carbohydrates significantly influences mood and well-being – so removing this huge food group from your diet could have more impact on your mental health than you think.

In addition, research has linked long-term adherence to the keto diet (for the treatment of seizure disorders) to long-term complications, including bone loss, organ-function abnormalities, micronutrient deficiencies, and gastrointestinal problems.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting—or IF—is an approach to eating that requires you to partially or fully abstain from food and caloric beverages for a given period of time.  The basic premise is that it reduces calorie intake by removing the time available to eat.

The most popular method is to consume foods during an 8 hour window.

It has been associated with weight loss, but it is considered that intermittent fasting is a possible way to induce autophagy.  This process degrades damaged components of body cells – so it’s like having a body clear out – getting rid of anything that may start to cause problems.  That said, it’s generally thought that this only occurs after somewhere between 16-24 hours of fasting so the general approach of eating in an 8 hour window, won’t appear to induce autophagy.

The take home?  Intermittent fasting reduces the available time for you to eat – so if you are terrible for late night snacking, it could be a good approach to reign those unnecessary calories in.

The diets we have covered so far are just a few of the hundreds being touted across the internet.  But we can take some helpful lessons from them.

Tips for Optimal Health:

  • Eat as many fruit and vegetables as possible,
  • Reduce your consumption of added sugars,
  • Fibre is your friend,
  • Limit snacking!