It’s a New Year and time to reset health and wellness goals. If you’re scouring the internet, checking out social media, and asking friends about the best diets and nutrition advice available, you’ll notice a trend in conflicting information. There is an abundance information out there, but is it accurate and, more importantly, good for you?
Here are a few of the quick fix, cure-all trends that are more myth then fact:
Fad diets are not a new phenomenon, however, the extreme restrictive nature of them seems to be at an all-time high. Whether it is Atkins, Keto, Paleo or Whole 30 the message is fairly consistent; eliminating specific food groups or macro-nutrients from your diet is the key to weight loss.
Even though many people experience weight loss while on these diets the problem is that they are so restrictive it is near impossible to maintain the program and much of the weight that is lost is regained. Even more importantly most of them are lacking in key nutrients for health like fiber, or excessive in fat that promotes heart disease.
The promise of rapid weight loss can be very appealing but research has shown that weight lost gradually overtime with a healthy balanced diet is maintained longer.
Fact: Eating a diet high in plant based foods, rich in fiber and moderate in fat; that is also in an appropriate calorie range for you is the best and healthiest way to lose weight.
High Fructose Corn Syrup Is the Cause of All Obesity
I will begin by saying I am not promoting high fructose corn syrup; there is definitely a correlation between the introduction of HFCS into our food supply and increasing rates of obesity. However, it is important to understand that the chemical composition of HFCS is very similar to other commonly used sugars like table sugar or cane sugar and that excess sugar intake in any form will lead to obesity.
It is becoming common practice for manufacturers to tout a “made without high fructose corn syrup” or “made with pure cane sugar” claim on their labels implying the product is now better for you. Don’t be fooled a quick review of the nutrition facts panel will show you that the sugar content is exactly the same.
Fact: Limiting beverages and foods made with any kind of added sugar will help support a healthy weight.
Your Body Needs to be Detoxified With a Cleanse
Quite often a period of prolonged excessive eating and drinking, like the holidays, will prompt you to kick start a new healthier eating plan. Juice cleanses promote themselves as the detoxification method needed to kick this off. Fortunately for you your body is equipped with a liver and kidneys that handle this for you; and the best part is they are free. Additionally sweat and urine remove other toxins that build up in your system. There is no real evidence to support the claim that eliminating food and replacing it with juice or other liquid concoctions for 3-5 days will reduce toxins in your body or kick start your metabolism. In fact these cleanses typically have little to no fiber which is key nutrient for digestion and satiety.
Fact: Getting in the right mind frame to embark on a healthier eating plan will help you stick to you stick to your goals. Try keeping a 3-5 day food diary instead of a 3-5 day cleanse it will help you focus on healthy choices and hold you accountable.
Glorified Health Benefits of Excessive Fat
While many popular diets are recommending limiting carbohydrates they are doing quite the opposite with fat. Diets like Keto require the replacement of carbohydrates primarily with fat; which directly contradicts most dietary recommendation. These recommendations often lead to a free for all on fatty foods; think bacon covered in melted cheese.
There is absolutely a place for fat in everyone’s diet; it just needs to be the right fat. Unsaturated fats, primarily from plants, have tremendous health benefits such as promotion of heart health. Saturated fats, primarily from animals, have negative effects on heart health and increase risk of chronic disease.
On a side note; coconut oil is the one plant source of oil that contains saturated fats. While it is promoted as a healthy choice and said to cure almost all that ails you, it actually has a worse fat profile then butter or lard (90% saturated). Use coconut oil sparingly to add tropical flavors to your food but it should not be your primary cooking oil.
Back to high fat diets. Even promoters for diets like Keto recognize that they cannot be maintained long term due to the nutritional imbalance. As previously mentioned healthy eating plans that can be maintained over time are more likely to lead to sustained weight loss and improved health.
Fact: Diets high in excess fat or any kind lead to nutritional imbalance that increases risk of chronic disease. Unless recommended by your doctor or medical reasons these diets generally are not safe long term. Choosing a diet rich in unsaturated fat in addition to plant based high fiber foods can still lead to a healthy weight.
Along with the fad diets mentioned earlier intermittent fasting (IF) has gained tremendous popularity among those looking a way to lose weight. As the name suggests IF is characterized by periods of not eating. The length of these periods vary depending the program but can range from 16 hours a day to 24 hours at a time several days a week. The thought is fasting will allow you insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that you start to burn fat.
Here’s the concern; it is really hard to not eat for 16 hours at a time let alone 24 or more. Unless you have the same schedule every day committing to IF is very challenging. It also can create an unhealthy relationship with food. When you are “forced” to not eat you tend to think about eating more often and could be prone to over eat when you are allowed.
Current research does support IF as a means for improved glucose control in some people with diabetes, but there has not been significant proof that it improves weight loss. Shorter fasting periods (12-16 hour range) have shown some improvements in weight loss when paired with a healthy diet and exercise.
Fact: If your goal is to lose weight having an appropriate number of calories (recommended by a Registered Dietitian) each day regardless of time will lead to the weight loss you desire.
There is never a wrong time to improve your health and well-being, but if 2019 is the year consider a healthy balanced approach over a quick trendy fix.