Fad diets don’t help with health, fitness goals

  • Published
  • By Kirsten David
  • Health Promotions Program Dietician
With the New Year upon us, there are a lot of ads and marketing about the most popular nutrition fads and diets.

However, most of these are marketing ploys and/or fad diets that just don’t work. You need to look into the background before following one.

Here is a list of some of the more popular nutrition and diet fads and why they are just that: fads.

The gluten-free diet

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Many people have started to “go gluten free” because of claims gluten can make you sick, weak and gain weight.

However, only 1 percent of Americans actually need to be gluten-free, and those are people with a gluten sensitivity/intolerance or a gluten-related disease such as Celiac.

Many companies are using the gluten-free fad to market their foods and increase sales.

You can now find the gluten-free symbol on foods that never had gluten in them to begin with, such as yogurt or frozen vegetables. But because they bear the gluten-free symbol, people are more likely to buy them.

Also, gluten-free still does not necessarily mean “healthy.” Now you can find gluten-free doughnuts, candy, chips, muffins, brownies, cookies and more. These items, although gluten-free, are still packed with sugar and other processed ingredients and are not any healthier than the original.

The low-fat diet

Following a low-fat diet does not necessarily mean you are following a healthy diet nor a diet that will promote weight loss. It is more important to focus on eating healthy fats rather than cutting out all fat.

Healthy unsaturated fats, found in plant products such as avocados, olive oil and nuts, are essential to your body, and research has found they help lower cholesterol.

Also, low-fat or reduced-fat products tend to still contain sugar and sometimes even more sugar than the original. That is because since the fat is removed, sugar will add more flavor to the product.

The low-carb or no-carb diet

In this diet, it is believed carbohydrates cause weight gain, but to say all carbs are bad for you and cause weight gain is a misstep. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy.

This is especially true for those who are highly active. Carbohydrates turn into glucose, which is the energy your body uses during the day and while being physically active.

When your body does not use glucose, it will store it as glycogen for later use.

If you are not eating enough carbohydrates, your energy stores will be depleted, leaving you feeling tired.

Now, some carbohydrates are not as healthy and should be consumed in moderation. These are your refined processed carbohydrates such as white bread, cake, cookies, candy, etc.

They should be limited because they will raise your blood sugar more quickly, leading to a spike and quick crash in your energy. This can lead to more cravings for highly processed and sugary foods, which can eventually lead to Type 2 diabetes.

The high-protein diet

With this diet, it is believed that if you consume more protein, you will build more muscle mass.

The fact is, there are multiple things needed in a diet and lifestyle to build muscle mass, not just adequate protein. You must have an overall healthy diet with enough calories that contain not only protein but also carbohydrates and healthy fat, and you should exercise and participate in a quality strength program.

If you aren’t eating enough calories or carbohydrates overall, the protein you consume will be converted as an energy source rather than used for muscles. And protein consumed beyond your needs will be stored as fat, burned for energy or excreted in urine.

Remember, when starting a new eating plan, think of it as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Beware of claims that seem too good to be true, and if you have questions about a certain type of diet, ask a professional.

Focus on vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and some fruit, and you will see the results you desire. For a more specific plan based on your unique goals, set up an appointment with your dietitian.