If you haven't tried one of these popular diet trends, you've sure known someone who has. In fact, even a few at that. There's a reason for "diet-hopping," where pure fascination or "success" stories from friends and family compel us to try something new to detox and see how we feel. Experimentation is an adventure.
However, are these diets safe? Are they good for us? Effective? It's important to know the dangers of diets before embarking on them, as there can be serious consequences. And, even if the diet isn't harmful, it could be ineffective, which would be a total waste of time (and enjoyment of certain foods!) all for nothing.
Luckily, here's a cheat sheet as to which diets might be worth the investment and should be avoided, instead. To note: dieting is highly individualized. So, while one diet might seem painful to one person, it could really helpful for another. Read through these below and figure it out for yourself.
This diet excludes all animal products, which means meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are off the menu. It does not require consumption of whole foods or restrict fat or refined sugar, which makes it easy to maintain.
"Though protein and other nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B(12), vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and zinc, remain as discussion points for those who believe animal sources are needed for enough protein intake – a vegetarian [and vegan] diet can meet all current nutritional recommendations, especially when including supplementation and fortified foods," says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a.p., an integrative medicine expert.
"Raw diet believes that every raw food is balanced – that they have enzymes that are the life essence of the food and are present in a perfect combination," says Trattner. These diets often form the basis of cleanses or "detox" programs, as they are pretty restrictive and aimed at weight loss.
"In a raw vegan diet, 80% of the daily intake is from raw foods. This includes foods 'cooked' to a maximum temperature of 92°F to 118°F which helps to preserve essential plant enzymes. This diet requires careful planning in order to avoid potential nutrient deficiencies, like a regular vegan diet, including protein, B12, iron, vitamin D and calcium," she says. This can be very hard to maintain.
Here you'll find severe carb restriction from that of the standard American diet, which can lead to ketosis, a state where the body burns fat for fuel, thereby promoting weight loss, says Trattner. "Also, as a result of the ketogenic state, hunger will be less than before, which may decrease the impulse to over-eat," she says.
The diet aims to allow for weight loss through the loss of body fat with improvements in cardiac and blood sugar biomarkers, she explains. It requires severe food restriction, however, which can be tough to bear. Dining out can be difficult, as you can't eat sugar, carbs, or sweets, really. Though, you can have bacon, dairy, and lots of fat, so that's a plus.
Paleo is another restrictive carb diet, but it's not as extreme as Atkins or Keto. "This diet allows some plant based carbs but is very restrictive. Foods like squash and pumpkin are allowed," she says, for example.
"This too has supportive cardiovascular and blood sugar effects," she says. It's going back to the way people ate in the past, before the Western diet we have today took over.
"The Paleolithic diet is based on the concept that our eating habits centuries ago were healthier due to a simplified diet of non-processed foods. The Paleolithic diet consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, roots and unprocessed protein sources such as meat. Returning to our original eating patterns can decrease insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and chronic disease," she says.
Ketogenic is very low carbs, as well, with an emphasis on fats. "Ketogenic diets are thought to stimulate weight loss stem from higher satiety from protein ingestion, an increase in fat loss," she says.
"Additionally, fat consumption has a higher metabolic efficiency in a keto diet," where you're using ketones for energy, as opposed to glucose. Here are 3 keto-friendly breakfast recipes you might like!
Macrobiotics is based on Michio Kushi and consists of grains, beans, sea vegetables, and fish, as well as meat, eggs and poultry, rarely. "I actually was 'macro' way back in the 80’s. This diet is rooted in some Asian medicine, using the principles of yin and yang. What I like about it is that it includes traditional cooking methods and no microwaves," says Trattner.
It also places value on the nature of cookware, and many interesting macro products, like "brown rice syrup, which is fodmap friendly (no fructose which can be bad for your liver) and plum vinegar, which is made from umeboshi plums," she says.
Most Macro products are easy to digest, and this is a very nice neutral, balanced diet compared to some of the extreme things today. This diet is also about lifestyle, as well, like being outside, getting fresh air, and using clean body products, she says.
The South Beach diet has found success in weight loss, and became popular through its lean protein, vegetable, and “good carbs” (in 3rd phase) intake protocols, by way of its 3-Phase Approach, says Dr. Dani, PhD, MPH, RD.
"They do allow more carbohydrates than Atkin’s or Paleo, and include a greater source of lean protein, and vegetables than grains and fruits, as well as good oils, such as cold pressed olive oil," she says. "Cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston’s approach is higher lean protein, higher vegetables, and lower sugar and carb intake," she says.
"The Mediterranean diet has been touted by health clinics, the U.S. government, and international health organizations, as one of the most cardio protective and health promoting diets," says Dr. Dani. Consuming foods from the earth, such as fish, nuts, olive and olive oils, and not processed or fast foods, have been shown in research studies of world populations, she says.
"Mediterranean diets had reduced risk of death from heart disease, overall mortality, and recently, improved Alzheimer’s outcomes, possibly, protecting against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, women who consumed this diet and had high intake of nuts, demonstrated a reduced risk of breast cancer," she says.
"Dash diets are used for cardio protective properties and are promoted by the U.S.’s NIH (National Institutes of Health). This DASH diet was initially used for hypertension management. Low sodium, high fruits and vegetables, and lean protein, along with exercise," says Dr. Dani.
That means, less than 2000mg of sodium is preferred, with a range from 1500mg to 2000mg per day. But get this: one quarter tsp. of salt already has about 580mg of sodium!
The typical DASH diet recommendations eating vegetables, fruits, non-fat to low-fat dairy products in moderation, and protein sources fish, poultry, nuts, vs. high saturated fat foods, she says.
"It recommends reducing sweet foods, sweet drinks, such as juice, and soda, and it recommends avoiding processed oils and high saturated fats such as palm kernel oil, and coconut oils. Even though coconut oils has gained popularity in recent years, the DASH diet prefers that we limit all oils high in saturated fats," she explains. (Though you can use it for your beauty routine.)
"The typical food combining protocol recommends that meats and starches not be mixed. Additionally, the following are recommended: vegetables may be eaten with meat or starches; fruits, except lemons and limes, must be eaten separately from other food groups; dairy should be avoided, or eaten alone," Dr. Dani says.
Although, most physicians will state that the body breaks down all foods, whether we combine them or not, food combining principles believe that there is optimum digestion, and absorption of nutrients, with less bloating, and less fermentation, when foods are combined properly, she says.
Eating more plant-based foods and limiting sugars, processed products, and animal protein maintains an alkaline blood pH, according to the alkaline food plan.
A pH of greater than 7 is considered alkaline. "In Germany, many physicians, and complimentary MDs treating cancer patients, recommend alkaline meal plans, including the use of baking soda, to alkalinize the body," says Dr. Dani.
"Of course, that included NOT having alcohol, sweets, sugars, and animal proteins. If someone is on alkaline diet, they eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables, and 3 oz. of fish, vs. beef/pork. The compensation of an alkaline food (vegetable), to the acid food (animal protein), helps maintain the proper alkaline pH," she says.
Whole 30 was “birthed” in 2009 by Melissa Hartwig, a functional medicine practitioner, physical therapist, and certified sports nutritionist. This is seen as an elimination diet. It recommends the elimination of sugars, alcohols, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy, as well as the elimination of honey and maple syrup for 30 days.
"On this plan, one can eat meats, nuts, seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits, and later, may begin to re-introduce the other foods, such as grains, or legumes. However, this re-introduction is to be slow, and balanced, in order not to regain weight lost," says Dr. Dani.