Gluten-Free? Frutitarian? Vegan? What Is All This?! The Top 7 Diet Fads Explained

February 11, 2013  |  
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Any article on one of the many diet fads today will either swing greatly in favor or disfavor of said fad. But, like anything controversial, there is usually a true middle ground that can be found, if you just ask the experts. So we’ve gathered up all the basic information on 7 of the most popular diets today — and expert opinions — all in one convenient place.

The green smoothie diet

Being on this diet means consuming concentrated blends of fruits and veggies throughout the day and the benefit is that you can get all five of your daily-recommended servings of fruits and vegetables in just one of these smoothies. People like this trend because chewing your way through all that spinach and peppers is too much work, and liquefying veggies is a surefire way to get it all in. Typically almond or coconut milk is added for sweetness, so the smoothies are not bitter.

What the experts say

The phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables can help you lower your risk of diseases. This diet claims to boost energy but there is no hard evidence of that, so experts recommend adding nuts, flax seed or other seeds for protein and necessary fats. It is not recommended to use these smoothies as a meal replacement, but rather as a way to get your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. So fit them in by cutting out other calories where you can, but do not try to subsist on these smoothies as you can experience energy loss and nutrient deficiency.

The Gluten-free diet

About 18 million Americans have sensitivity to gluten, a component found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Those with sensitivity to it can experience digestive issues and weight gain. The best way to see if you’re gluten intolerant is to eliminate gluten from your life entirely for a few weeks and see if bloating, constipation or other digestive issues go down.

What the experts say

No one, other than those diagnosed with celiac disease—a severe reaction to gluten that harms the immune system—need to completely eliminate gluten from their diet. But there’s no harm in the diet, and it’s a great option for those trying to lose weight since gluten foods are usually high in calories, and their substitutes—like quinoa and potatoes—are not.

Adding probiotics

Probiotics are healthy bacteria living in cultured foods like yogurt and kefir, as well as fermented products (think anything pickled like kimchi or sauerkraut). When ingested, they remain in your intestinal tract and work to fortify your immune system. They are usually consumed in capsule or liquid form.

What the experts say

If you are healthy overall, probiotics are not essential, but they are a smart supplement to your diet in cold and flu season, and for anyone with digestive issues or high risk of yeast infections. There’s no found harm in consuming daily probiotics.

Genetic diet testing

This trend comes to us from a field called nutrigenomics, which essentially researches how the foods we eat can alter disease-causing genes. Genetic diet testing can determine whether you have certain genes that could be increasing your risk for weight gain. Many companies test your saliva for certain genes and then recommend a diet for your genetic “type.” The test is as simple as spitting into a tube and sending it in for results and recommendations. However it’s pricey at around $400. If you’re up for it, coaches are available to you to help you through your new way of eating.

What the experts say

The connection between one’s diet and one’s genes is very complex and this type of testing is not advanced enough to accurately determine if cutting out or adding some type of food based on your “ genetic type” will actually affect your weight. Doctors advise that, if you’re interested in the test and have the money, it could be fun to see your results. But no matter what your “type” is, the key to losing weight is simply eating less of whatever you eat.

The Paleo diet

There’s a belief amongst nutrition experts that conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity arose because our bodies were not built to process the typical modern day diet, filled with sugar, refined carbs and processed foods. Their solution: eating like cavemen. Or, essentially, like the first humans ever did, eating only that which can be hunted or gathered. Naturally, the diet is heavy in fish, meats, veggies, fruits, and nuts. Dairy and most grains are eliminated, since there was no way for our ancestors to have harvested and obtained these.

What the experts say

Essentially the “Paleo” diet is a glorified name for what is otherwise a well-respected and highly recommended type of diet by almost any nutritionist. Cutting out refined carbs and sugars is always a sound plan, and will result in rapid weight loss. But having ice cream or bread every so often isn’t poisonous to you.

The vegan diet

A long-time trend now, but for those who don’t know, Vegans run on the principle that nothing that is or comes from an animal is to be consumed. There are multiple reasons for this, including environmental: vegan items require significantly less water and energy to grow; ethical: vegans believe animals should exist without human interference; and of course health: cutting out animal fats and proteins has been shown to reduce one’s risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and various other health problems.

What the experts say

Getting the recommended daily intake of calcium and vitamin D is difficult when you eliminate calcium. But vegans can get their fill of those nutrients by eating plenty of dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. There is no evidence that proves density loss is any more prevalent in vegans than in non-vegans. However, a major concern for vegans is a Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can carry serious risks such as early dementia, nerve dysfunction, memory loss and difficulty with balance. Experts highly encourage vegans to drink beverages fortified with B12 such as soy and rice beverages.

The Fruitarian diet

The Fruitarian diet is like the Vegan diet, on steroids. Fruitarians consume only fruits and plant related bi-products. Grains are out of the picture. However nuts, seeds, capsicums and some vegetables can be eaten.

What the experts say

The diet is said to “detoxify the body of its acidic chemical imbalance” by dislodging stored wastes within the body. The diet can also help eliminate certain allergies, improve energy, eyesight and concentration, and strengthen hair and nails. However, Vitamin B12 simply cannot be found in these foods so those with gastrointestinal diseases or anemia are warned against this diet. Those that do try the diet are advised to take a daily Vitamin B12 supplement.

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