There is always a new diet to try that promises impressive weight loss and a new burst of energy. And then there are the fads that hang around; the ones that a friend of a friend tried last year and lost 10 pounds with. To cut through the myths, Bazaar asked two leading nutritionists, Gabriela Peacock and Charlotte Stirling-Reed, to explain the pros and cons of the six most popular diets.
What is it? Vegans don't eat any foods that come from animals. It is a diet based entirely on plants, so think grains, nuts and fruits.
Gabriela Peacock says: 'Veganuary is a good way to try out the vegan lifestyle for the month of January. It's a reasonable amount of time to see if it suits you and helps you reach your diet and lifestyle goals, including weight loss or increased energy. If adopting a vegan diet doesn't appeal after the month is over, try compromising by eating less but better quality meat. Once or twice a week, choose meat that is grass-fed and organic; far more nutrient dense and healthier for you and the environment.'
Charlotte Stirling-Reed says: 'Veganism, if done properly, can be a healthy way of living. The main trouble with this diet is that a vegan lifestyle is notoriously hard to maintain. It leaves you with very limited choice and there is a lot of effort involved in balancing meals to ensure that you don't miss out on any vital nutrients such as calcium and iron.'
LEMON DETOX/MASTER CLEANSE
What is it? A popular detox diet that consists solely of drinking a lemon-based tonic.
Gabriela Peacock says: 'While it may stop you eating for a few days, giving your digestive system a rest, it is certainly not sustainable. Such a short-term fix is unlikely to have any success in the long term. Swapping your normal latte for a mug of hot water with fresh lemon is a refreshing way to start the day and far more hydrating.'
Charlotte Stirling-Reed says: 'Unfortunately, detoxes are just another false promise and, while there is nothing wrong with having a slice of lemon in your tea to give you a boost of vitamin C, this diet isn't going to do much apart from leave you seriously lacking in nutrients – and probably pretty hungry.'
What is it? You eat normally for five days and restrict your calorie intake on the other two.
Gabriela Peacock says: 'Intermittent fasting gives your body a break and brings with it widely reported health benefits. However, fasting days can be extremely challenging as it is hard to get all the nutrition you need with such a low calorie intake - many are left feeling dizzy, irritable and lacking concentration, although these symptoms should pass.'
Charlotte Stirling-Reed says: 'Many people have had positive results on the 5:2 diet. But, as with any diet, weight loss is likely to occur initially, in the short-term - what we really want to know is how it will affect weight in the long run. Unfortunately, there is little information about this diet and its long-term effects. It's likely that the weight loss comes from a reduction in overall calories rather than the structure of the diet.'
What is it? You cut out gluten – a protein found in wheat and grains such as barley and rye. You can eat meat, fruit, vegetables and certain grains. The diet is predominantly used to treat those who suffer from coeliac disease.
Gabriela Peacock says: 'Many people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon to lose weight. The problem is, many of the gluten-free products on the market are higher in calories because they contain a lot more sugar, fat and emulsifiers to make the products palatable and stick together. Gluten-free products also tend to be more expensive and harder to find in shops and restaurants. If you are avoiding gluten, choose rice, potatoes, millet and buckwheat, and bulk up with beans and lentils rather than opting for the more processed gluten-free breads and pastries.'
Charlotte Stirling-Reed says: 'There is no evidence that cutting out gluten will have an effect on weight and, unless you've been diagnosed as gluten intolerant, there is no benefit to restricting your diet in this way. It's better to simply keep an eye on your portion sizes when it comes to carbs.'
What is it? A low-carb, high-protein diet where you eat a lot of fish and eggs.
Gabriela Peacock says: 'The proponents advocate a restriction of carbohydrates in favour of increased protein. Although it allows you to eat a lot of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, the exclusion of carbs means it is very low in fibre, essential energy and vitamins. Fibre is an important part of the diet to fill you up and maintain a healthy digestive system. There are also some rather unpleasant side effects of Atkins such as halitosis and constipation…'
Charlotte Stirling-Reed says: 'This diet has a bad reputation and, although you may lose weight quickly, you are unlikely to maintain the weight loss over the long term. Often with fast weight-loss diets you put the pounds back on as soon as you return to normal eating. Any programme that encourages an abnormal or challenging way of eating is unlikely to be sustainable.'
What is it? The paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet, is based on removing dairy and processed foods and replacing them with plants and meat.
Gabriela Peacock says: 'When it comes to dining like a caveman, the paleo diet is rich in some nutrients such as omega-3 fats and low-GI carbohydrates and totally eradicates nasty foods – sugar and trans fats. By removing sugar, people reportedly have more energy and increased feelings of wellness but the overreliance on meat is not beneficial long-term and the total lack of dairy products, which are rich in calcium, needs careful consideration.'
Charlotte Stirling-Reed says: 'This diet has some positives in that it encourages dieters to reduce processed food, salt and sugar in their diet. However, it also encourages avoidance of a number of whole food groups including grains and dairy, which would be very hard to stick to for any length of time and could, once again, leave you seriously lacking in some vital nutrients such as calcium and fibre.'
Via Harper's Bazaar UK