By Dr. Nora DeVoe, Ph.D.
Geriatric Care Manager


Trending Diets, Pros and Cons

We have talked about the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and the MIND diet. Although I find these diets far superior to any other diets out there, I thought I would discuss the most recent trends in dieting. These are trending diets currently being advertised and marketed, and, as such, I am sure by next year at this time they will be long gone. Nonetheless, because so many of you are asking and trying the trends, I thought I could devote a segment on three currently popular diet trends, as well as the pros and cons of each. You can decide if they are worth the effort. The ketogenic, Whole 30, and Paleo diets are the most trending at this time.

Whole 30

The Whole 30 diet markets itself as a method to reset your digestive system and help you forge a new relationship with food. This is an elimination-style diet where you cut out items that are known to upset your tummy or are generally unhealthy. All processed or packaged foods, natural and artificial sugars, alcohol, grains, beans, legumes, soy, and dairy are off the menu for 30 days straight. Meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, nuts, oils, and fruits are allowed. The goal is to rewire your brain to crave whole foods and to weed out items that are not sitting well with you. After 30 days, you can slowly add food groups, such as beans and whole grains for example, back into your diet as a method of testing for food sensitivities.

If you are looking for a drastic dietary kick start, especially for the pre-summer season, this could be for you. Keep in mind that it was designed for only 30 days, so after this time you can ease your restrictions and modify the diet to be sustainable long term. Many people will notice their pants fit a bit looser, which should be expected when eating less overall. The diet can also be helpful for identifying any food intolerances, such as lactose, that could be behind symptoms like bloating. Also, some people like the diet for helping them kick their sugar lust and for practicing mindful eating.

Some of the cons of this diet is that it is a labor-intensive process requiring label reading, lots of meal planning, and more creativity in the kitchen to sidestep food boredom when faced with fewer cooking options. Vegetarians will struggle to get enough protein. After any slip-up, even if it is a slice of bread, it is encouraged that you start from scratch all over again. Also, expect some side effects such as fatigue and cravings that come with reducing calories and carbs.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic, or “keto,” diet is all about one thing- fat. Keto dieters obtain 70-80% of their calories from fat while eating very few carbs and only a moderate amount of protein. Why the fat payload? Proponents say the carb and protein restriction will move your body into ketosis, prompting it to access ketones generated from stored fat as its primary fuel source instead of carbs, leading to a trimmer waistline, fewer energy crashes, and better protection against certain diseases, including diabetes.

In the ketogenic diet, sugar is the enemy. Thus, following this diet can be the catalyst some people need to break their relationship with sweets. In addition, eating a low carbohydrate diet could help you eat less overall since fat is generally more satiating, which can be one mechanism behind the diet's war on body fat. Ketone bodies themselves may have a direct hunger-reducing effect. Some beneficial metabolic changes that come with the ketogenic diet, at least in the short-term, can include less insulin resistance and lower triglyceride numbers.

Keto diets can definitely help you shed those stubborn pounds in the short-term, but long-term results in terms of fat loss and overall health have still not been proven. Because you are restricting so much, long-term adherence to the diet can be a challenge, especially when you limit otherwise enjoyable foods. Without a careful approach to keto, you risk fiber and micronutrient deficiencies. While giving up processed foods is a good thing, eating more cheese, steak, butter, and bacon can up your saturated fat intake, which is still a concern for heart health.

Paleo Diet

Last but not least, the Paleo diet trend is a big one. People who fuel their bodies on this ancestral diet shy away from grains, legumes, and dairy. Instead, they focus their eating efforts on meat, fish, eggs, fruits, nuts, seeds, and veggies that were available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The diet also deters alcohol use. Fat loss, more energy, clearer skin, less bloating, fewer sugar cravings, and a drop in disease-provoking inflammation are among the advertised benefits of eating the caveman way. If anything, the Paleo diet is great at weeding out processed foods from your diet, because so many of those contain refined grains or added sugars, which are two big Paleo no-nos. Therefore, it is bound to increase your protein intake, which can help silence hunger, squash overeating, and build metabolism-boosting lean body mass. It is also not necessarily a low-carb diet, so you can sidestep the fatigue, headaches, and other side effects of carb-stingy eating plans. Some studies show that Paleo diets can improve blood sugar control and blood lipid numbers, which can be beneficial protections against diabetes and heart disease.

Some of the cons in the Paleo diet include the fact that eliminating dairy, grains, and legumes, can leave you shortchanged on certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Paleo also demonizes whole grains, even though research links them to better health outcomes and trimmer waistlines. Some use the Paleo philosophy as an excuse to eat too much meat and too few plant-based foods.

In conclusion, when it comes to trending diets and diet trends, there is no perfect diet for everyone. You can certainly lose weight with the above diets, but the key here should be to focus on sustainable weight loss and healthier lifestyle outcomes. Do your research and find a balance and moderation to what you are eating and what the real goal is- being healthy and feeling good.

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Nora DeVoe is a Gerontologist specializing in Eldercare and Caregiver issues. She may be reached at (716) 667-7299.  

Dr. Nora is a ....