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How can you tell if a diet is really worth its weight in salt? Start with the facts; Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator Lynn Tucker, who recently hosted a chat on setting reasonable diet goals, has laid them out for some of this year's most popular diet plans.
Click the names listed below to find out more about these popular diets:
Whole30 | Mediterranean | Keto | Paleo | Dash | Raw Food | Fast 5:2 | Juicing & Cleanses | Vegan
Whole30A 30 day challenge diet to eat no processed foods and avoid all grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol and sugar. Who is this diet recommended for?It is marketed as a cure-all diet to fix a plethora of health issues and for weight loss. There’s no high quality research to back up any of these claims. What are the benefits?Eating fewer processed foods and avoiding added sugars is a good idea for almost everyone. If a person follows this diet for 30 days, they will likely lose weight. What should those who try this be careful of?This diet restricts some very healthy foods that can be a great source of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and probiotics. As an example, there is a lot of research to suggest that eating legumes like beans and lentils, whole grains and fermented dairy like kefir and yogurt is beneficial to gut health and health in general. Another concern is the explicitly short-term nature of this diet, eating differently for 30 days will not have long-lasting health benefits. Is this diet recommended by dietitians?Probably not. Dietitians will recommend eating less sugar and processed foods, but will not generally recommend restricting whole food groups without a medical reason. Dietitians usually recommend changes that are manageable long-term to promote health and wellness.
MediterraneanBased on a traditional eating pattern found in Mediterranean countries. It is considered a plant based diet that includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil. Also includes fish and poultry for meat sources and only occasionally red meat. May include moderate amounts of red wine.Who is this diet recommended for?Anyone, particularly people at risk for heart disease.What are the benefits?The Mediterranean diet has been thoroughly studied and has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease, decreased cancer risk and decreased Alzheimer’s risk. What should those who try this be careful of?If you take Coumadin (a blood-thinning medication), you may need to limit certain vegetables. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian if you take Coumadin and want to follow the Mediterranean diet.Is this diet recommended by dietitians?Yes. This diet is highly recommended for general health and has a lot of research to back up its benefits.
KetoAn extremely low carbohydrate diet intended to cause the body to produce and burn ketones for energy. Ketones are an alternative energy source to glucose when glucose stores are depleted in the body. This occurs during starvation, but can be mimicked with an extremely low carbohydrate diet. The diet includes mostly meat, eggs, nuts, cheese, fats and low carbohydrate vegetables. Who is this diet recommended for?This diet has been used to treat seizures for a long time. If you suffer from seizures and your doctors would like to try treatment with a ketogenic diet, it should be done with the help of a dietitian to ensure that you do not develop nutrient deficiencies. Without careful management, the diet is deficient in calcium, B-vitamins, magnesium and selenium.What are the benefits?It can be very effective in treating epilepsy for some people.What should those who try this be careful of?This diet can be harmful to people with a variety of pre-existing conditions including kidney disease, metabolic conditions, pregnancy, lactation and liver problems. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking of going on a ketogenic diet.Is this diet recommended by dietitians?It is recommended as a medical treatment for certain people, most commonly for epilepsy.
PaleoThe premise of the paleo diet is that we should only be eating foods that humans in the Paleolithic period could have been eating. It prohibits grains, dairy, some oils, potatoes, sugar, salt and processed foods. Who is this diet recommended for?It is marketed for weight loss and wellness. What are the benefits?Eating fewer processed foods and avoiding added sugars is a good idea for almost everyone.What should those who try this be careful of?This diet restricts some very healthy foods that can be a great source of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and probiotics. As an example, there is a lot of research to suggest that eating legumes like beans and lentils, whole grains and fermented dairy like kefir and yogurt is beneficial to gut health and health in general.Is this diet recommended by dietitians?Dietitians will recommend eating less sugar and processed foods but will not generally recommend restricting whole food groups without a medical reason.
DASHIt is an eating pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, fish and limited red meat. It is low sodium, high in potassium and high in fiber. Who is this diet recommended for?Anyone. The DASH diet has a lot of research showing it can be used to treat high blood pressure. It is a generally health meal pattern that can be adopted to different food preferences. What are the benefits?Lower blood pressure, can be used for weight loss with portion control. What should those who try this be careful of?People with kidney disease will need to discuss how to adapt this diet to their specific needs with a dietitian. Is this diet recommended by dietitians?Yes, highly recommended!
Raw FoodThis diet claims that cooking food destroys nutrients and enzymes in your food so your food should all be raw. Emphasizes eating a lot of organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, unpasteurized dairy and some raw eggs and meat.Who is this diet recommended for?Someone with careful attention to food safety.What are the benefits?It promotes eating a lot of fresh foods, including a lot of fruits and vegetables. Some nutrients, namely vitamin C, are destroyed by cooking. However; many foods that are usually eaten fresh contain vitamin C, like oranges, melon, red pepper and kiwi. What should those who try this be careful of?Eating unpasteurized dairy, raw eggs and raw meat increases the risk for foodborne illness. Pregnant women and anyone with a decreased immune system should avoid raw dairy, eggs, fish and meat. Is this diet recommended by dietitians?It’s probably okay. It would be very labor intensive to follow it strictly, so might not be a good sustainable plan. However; increasing fresh fruits and vegetables is almost always a good idea, but some foods are actually better digested when cooked. Most dietitians tend to recommend a mix of raw and cooked foods as part of a balanced diet.
Fast 5:2This is an intermittent fasting diet. You eat normally 5 days per week and eat very little (1/4 of the normal amount of food) 2 days per week. Who is this diet recommended for?It is recommended for weight loss. What are the benefits?Assuming you eat reasonably the 5 days you are not fasting, there are potential benefits of intermittent fasting. You could lose weight. Long-term calorie restriction in animals has shown some promising results for health. What should those who try this be careful of?Talk to your doctor about this diet before attempting. For example, people taking diabetes medications need to talk to their doctor about their risk for low blood sugar if they fast. Children and pregnant or lactating women should not fast.Is this diet recommended by dietitians?Depends on the individual. Some dietitians would probably okay this for a healthy person not on any contraindicated medications. Fasting is very common in some cultures and has been practiced by many people for a long time.
Juicing & CleansesJuicing is including fruit and vegetable juices (usually made fresh in a juicer) in your diet. A juice cleanse means that you only drink juice and don’t eat anything else, and is promoted to “detoxify” your body.Who is this diet recommended for?Including fresh fruit and vegetable juices without adding sweeteners in your diet is okay. It may be better to use a blender instead of a juicer because a juicer usually removes the fiber. Juices from stores or restaurants often include added sugars, so be sure to find out the ingredients before buying.What are the benefits?It can be a way to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, in addition to eating other foods. Juices that include the pulp and have more vegetables than they do fruit are the best choice. A juice detox is not recommended, as it does not provide adequate protein, fats or all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. What should those who try this be careful of?Watch out for added sugars. People with diabetes need to be wary of how much fruit is in the juices, as they can raise blood sugar levels. Detox juicing diets do not provide adequate nutrition. Is this diet recommended by dietitians?Not cleanse diets. Juicing vegetables and fruits can be part of a healthy diet.
VeganA vegan diet is one that contains no animal products whic inlcudes meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy and hoeny. Who is this diet recommended for?A well-balanced vegan diet can be a healthy way to eat for most people. People who are concerned about the environment can help reduce their carbon footprint by following a vegan diet. What are the benefits?Plant based diets have many known health benefits including reduced risks of many chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancersWhat should those who try this be careful of?There is possible concern that following a vegan diet could lead to inadequate intake of certain nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. All of these nutrients can be eaten in adequate amounts as part of a vegan diet but it is important to be intentional about consuming those foods regularly or taking a supplement.Is this diet recommended by dietitians?Yes, assuming the diet is well-balanced.
Disclaimer: There are probably dietitians that recommend some of these eating plans that most dietitians I know would not recommend. I can’t speak for all dietitians.