Breaking down today’s diet trends
Sometimes I write posts for you guys – inspirational (I hope) recipes, nutrition facts, food vs health, etc, and sometimes I write them for myself. This one is for me out of pure interest, but hopefully it will be informative and appealing to you as well.
If I could go back in time, I would do everything the same as I’ve done (because there’s no point in wishing you could change the past), except for one thing – I would have studied nutrition. My 20 year old self would probably laugh at me. In all honesty, my great passions at 20 were my fairly newly discovered love of binge drinking, rave fashion (short on material, long on skin) and my sexy new boyfriend who was smooth AF (shout to my now husband who still, on occasion, can pull the moves out the bag). My idea of nutrition back then was an Engen pie for lunch (cheap, tasty and gone in 60 seconds), 2 minute noodles for dinner and Hunters Gold. I suppose at least I’d moved on from Hooch and Peach Schnapps.
Nutrition wasn’t something I understood or gave any thought to. After all, when you’re young and invincible, why should you worry about what you eat? I feel lucky to have discovered a new passion later in life, and even if it’s something I never formally study, I am grateful to live in an age where I’m able to informally teach myself.
Diet trends are so much a part of our existence today. It seems like every day produces a new headline about what we should or shouldn’t be eating and how good/bad *insert diet here* is for us. My intent with this post is not to tell any of you what you should be doing, but rather to break down what the experts are telling us and the advantages and disadvantages of each. You see – very much a post for me, because I find this stuff fascinating. Here are a few of the most talked about diets today – there are so many more, I might do a part 2 in future.
Note: all my info is taken from Nutritionfacts.org. It was founded by Michael Greger, author of food book du jour, How Not To Die, and is the only non-commercial (ie free), science-based public service website that aims to provide people with the latest in nutrition research to help us make better choices regarding our diet and lifestyle and therefore our health. I have his book and will write about what I learn in future posts – I’m just waiting to capture it back from stealthy interception by Mark.
Another note: I’m approaching the Would You section hypothetically and without taking into account the morality of the diet, because obviously as a vegan most of these aren’t on my table.
What is it: keto is short for ketogenic diet, which causes the body to produce small fuel molecules called ketones from fat. Ketones act as an alternative source of fuel when glucose is in short supply. The body automatically chooses carbohydrates to break down into glucose as its preferred source of energy. Ergo (I live to use this word), to achieve ketosis ie the state where the liver produces ketones, you must remove glucose as an energy source and supply the liver with fats to produce energy.
Summarise it in one sentence: bacon, eggs, meat, cheese – gooooood; potatoes, bread, grains, beer – bad.
Cheerleaders say: it’s great for weight loss as your appetite is controlled due to feeling satiated all the time. Ketoers report that the steady supply of energy from fat, which contrasts with the blood sugar spikes and dips on a high carb diet, keeps them alert and focused and they don’t feel the post-carb slump.
Doom and gloomers say: as levels of fat in the body rise, the ability to clear sugar from the blood drops. Increased levels of fat in the cells can therefore play a part in the development of insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Would you? No. As a vegan, keto would be impossible because there’s simply not enough saturated fat in plants to sustain you. If I wasn’t vegan, in all honesty I would probably still not do this. I have always been and still remain highly suspicious of any diet that consists primarily of animal products – more on that in upcoming posts.
What is it: followed by people in Mediterranean countries like Spain, Greece and Italy, this diet includes lots of vegetables, olive oil, seafood, herbs, potatoes, nuts, legumes and fruit while limiting or completely eliminating poultry, red meat, dairy, eggs and processed or refined foods.
Summarise it in one sentence: it is consistently rated as one of the healthiest diets around, and includes physical activity and sharing meals with family and friends as part of the package. Cheers!
Cheerleaders say: people on the true Mediterranean diet of old showed a very low risk for all of today’s modern disease killers including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and strokes, while increasing overall longevity. This diet is associated with excellent long term health (in scientific terms, optimum cell function and processes).
Doom and gloomers say: the traditional diet has become corrupted over the years so that people looking to emulate the Greek or Italians of today will not get the benefits of the true diet. In other words, pizza, pasta and white bread is not what you’re aiming for. Otherwise there is very little criticism.
Would you? Definitely. I mean, bread (wholegrain), olives, fish and veggies…I could easily live on this.
What is it: DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It was developed to help people lower their blood pressure without medication, as high blood pressure is one of the top three killers in humans today. The idea is that eating foods rich in nutrients that are known to lower blood pressure, such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, while reducing foods high in sodium, achieves the goal naturally and affordably.
Summarise it in one sentence: lots of vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods, moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry, legumes and nuts and next to no saturated fats and cholesterol.
Cheerleaders say: well this one is obvious – if followed correctly, it does what it says on the tin, ie reduces high blood pressure.
Doom and gloomers say: There’s not much to criticise here, as studies have shown this one works for what it intends to achieve. It does not, however, make you lose weight, in case that’s what you’re going for.
Would you? Let’s talk if I ever have high blood pressure.
What is it: this is my favourite diet name because really it means whatever you want it to mean. It’s the get out of jail free card for vegans who eat meat once a month. It’s the pescetarian who is aiming for veggie but can’t quite get there. It’s the guest at your dinner party who talks about her wholefood recipes but grabs McDonalds on pay days. Basically, it’s a diet that doesn’t adhere to strict rules, but instead encourages a mostly plant based eating plan with a side of flexibility for those days when tofu just isn’t enough. In short, it’s the gateway diet to improving our overall health while consciously making ethically-driven choices that also decrease our carbon footprint. You can probably tell I like this one.
Summarise it in one sentence: you do you, man, go with the flow – it’s all love, brah.
Cheerleaders say: you get to do all the good things like make environmentally conscious changes and improve your long term health prospects without commitment. It’s like a friend with ultimate benefits.
Doom and gloomers say: it’s a cop out, you eat steak three times a week. They’re probably right.
Would you? I did. This was my exact path to becoming vegan…or if we’re keeping it totally real, this is technically still a reflection of where I am. As I’ve said in previous posts, I am 90% vegan and there are a couple of instances where I cheat (salmon sushi being the main culprit). So yes, I would, and I do.