Diet, diet, diet! It is all we read about. We see ads on TV for Weightwatchers, we see colourful ads in our favourite magazines touting whatever diet Dr Oz had on yesterday’s show. Have you been to a bookstore lately and checked out their cookbook/healthy lifestyle/diet sections? Absolutely f*** mind-boggling.
So where do we start? The first thing you need to determine is WHY you want to go on a diet. Do you want to lose weight, gain weight, lower cholesterol, have healthier eating habits, fight inflammation, maybe you suffer from a disease such as diabetes or Crohns and Colitis? Maybe you are just at a ‘savvy’ age where you are starting to think about longevity and what’s best for you to live a long and healthy life. Whatever the reason for your diet; if you plan on making a lifestyle change as opposed to a quick crash diet you need to do your homework.
Over the next few days, I am going to high-lite the top diets on the market according to Medical News Today. By Christian Nordqvist Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD
This article outlines what the diet consists of as well as some pros and cons to each diet. Hopefully, this will help you determine what diet is the best diet for you.
I am not a nutritionist. Before starting any diet you should always speak to a certified nutritionist or your own Dr.
THE ATKINS DIET
We have all heard about this diet. The aim of the Atkins diet is to lose weight by avoiding carbohydrates and controlling insulin levels. Dieters can eat as much fat and protein as they want.
The Atkins Diet has four core principles.
These state that the dieter will:
- lose weight
- maintain weight loss
- achieve good health
- lay the permanent groundwork for disease prevention
According to Dr Atkins, the main reason for putting on weight is the consumption of refined carbohydrates, especially sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and flour.
How does it work?
When a person is on the Atkins Diet, their body’s metabolism switches from burning glucose, or sugar, as fuel to burning its own stored body fat. This switching is called ketosis. (Ketosis is a normal metabolic process. When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead; this results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body.)
When glucose levels are low, insulin levels are also low. At this point, ketosis occurs. In other words, when glucose levels are low, the body switches to using its own stores of fat as a source of energy.
Before eating, a person’s glucose levels are low, so insulin levels are also low. When a person eats, their glucose levels rise. This triggers insulin levels to rise.
The glycemic index is a scale that ranks carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100, based on how quickly they increase blood sugar levels after eating, and by how much.
Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and candy, contain high levels of glucose. They are called high glycemic foods. The carbohydrates enter the blood rapidly, and they cause insulin levels to rise quickly.
Other types of carbohydrates, such as oats, do not affect blood glucose levels so quickly or so severely. They have a low glycemic load, and they appear lower down the glycemic index.
Net carbs are the total carbs minus fibre and sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols have a minimal effect on blood sugar levels. According to Dr Atkins, the best carbohydrates are those with a low glycemic load.
To make up for the lack of vitamin-rich foods, the diet encourages adherents to use vitamin and mineral supplements.
Using the fat in the body
If there is no glucose in the body, ketosis will occur. During ketosis, the body will transfer some of the fat stores in fat cells to the blood to be used as energy.
The Atkins diet works on the basis that a diet that is low in carbohydrates. This causes the body to burn more calories than it would on other diets, because it encourages ketosis.
Dr Atkins suggested that a person´s saturated fat intake should be kept to a maximum of 20 percent of all the calories they consume.
For people with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, the Atkins diet claims to lower, and sometimes eliminate, the need for medications.
However, diabetes specialists warn that although watching carbohydrate and glucose intake is a vital part of diabetes care, the Atkins diet is not a simple solution for diabetes.
Four phases of the Atkins diet
The Atkins diet has four phases:
Phase 1: Induction
Calorie consumption of carbohydrates is limited to less than 20 grams (g) each day. Carbohydrates come mainly from salad and vegetables, which are low in starch. The dieter eats high-fat, high-protein food with low-carbohydrate vegetables, such as leafy greens.
Phase 2: Balancing
Nutrient-dense and fibre rich foods are added as additional sources of carbohydrates. These include nuts, low-carb vegetables and small amounts of fruit.
These are added gradually:
- 25 grams is added during the first week of phase 2
- 30 grams during the second week, and each subsequent week until the person stops losing weight
When the person stops losing weight, they reduce their daily intake of carbs by 5 g until they slowly start to lose weight again.
Phase 3: Fine-tuning, or pre-maintenance
Dieters increase their carbohydrate intake by 10 g each week until they begin to lose weight very slowly.
Phase 4: Lifetime maintenance
The dieter starts adding a wider range of carbohydrate sources, while carefully monitoring their weight to ensure it does not go up.
The Atkins 40 plan
This version of the diet starts with 40 g of net carbs a day, instead of 20 g.
A person’s sense of well-being must continue.
If the person’s weight starts to go up, they should ease back on their daily carbohydrate intake and cut out any of the new carbohydrates they have been introducing.
Foods to eat and avoid
Foods to eat include:
Dieters can eat avocados, as they contain healthy fats.
- meats, including beef, pork, and bacon
- fatty fish and seafood
- low-carb vegetables, such as kale, broccoli and asparagus
- full-fat dairy products
- nuts and seeds
- healthy fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil
Suitable drinks include water, coffee, and green tea.
A day’s menu might be:
- Breakfast: Cheese omelette with low-carb vegetables
- Lunch: Chicken salad with nuts
- Dinner: Meatballs with vegetables
Snacks might include leftovers, a hard-boiled egg, Greek yoghurt, or nuts.
Foods to avoid
Dieters should avoid:
- sugar, such as soft drinks, cakes, and candy
- grains including wheat, spelt, and rice
- “diet” and “low-fat” foods, as they can be high in sugar
- legumes, such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas
During induction, high-carb fruits, such as bananas, apples, and grapes and high-carb vegetables, such as carrots, should be avoided.
How effective is the diet?
The Atkins diet aims to help prevent health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. However, losing weight on many diets can achieve this.
A person who continues with the Atkins diet will probably lose weight, but most people do not continue long-term.
Studies have found that most dieters are no longer following the program after 2 to 3 years.
Researchers at Stanford University found that people following the Atkins diet scored well on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight loss, compared with people on other diets.
However, more research is needed to confirm the benefit of the Atkins diet compared with other diets.
In the early phases, some people have reported adverse effects, including:
As restricting carbohydrates causes a person’s body to use up fat rather than glucose for energy, a buildup of ketones can result. This can lead to nausea, headache, mental fatigue, and bad breath.
People who use diuretics, insulin, or oral diabetes drugs should not follow the Atkins diet. It is not suitable for people with kidney disease. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not engage in this diet.
Anyone who is considering a radical change to their diet should talk to a doctor first.