Nutrition Myth Busters: Fad Diets

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It is hard to watch TV or read the news without hearing about the latest fad diet.

Commercials and advertisements make claims that seem incredible, making these diets seem like the perfect quick fix. However, the truth is simple: If a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No foods or supplements are magic, no matter what companies may claim in order to sell them. In fact, some of these diets, as well as ingredients in supplements and herbal products, can actually be detrimental to health.

Here are the real facts behind the fads:

Q: I’ve heard a lot about “juice cleanses” recently. Is this method really effective, or even safe to do?

A: A short-term juice cleanse is not harmful if you are an otherwise healthy person, but it is not beneficial either. A juice cleanse may lead to rapid weight loss, but steady weight loss is much healthier and more likely to last than sudden dramatic changes. Many cleanses also claim to be detoxifying, but your body already has organs whose purpose is to help the body detoxify itself. The kidney and liver function to clear out the body by breaking down substances such as alcohol, neutralizing and excreting the ammonia that results from protein metabolism, and preventing harmful carcinogens from being absorbed into the bloodstream.  There is no evidence yet that any ingredient in these juices is by itself able to eliminate toxins from the body.

Here are a few things you can do instead of a cleanse that will help your body’s detoxifying system run smoothly:

  • The digestive system needs a steady flow of fiber to work properly to eliminate toxins. Find a list of high fiber foods here.
  • To support the liver’s ability to maintain an abundant supply of the potent detoxifier glutathione, eat lots of sulfur-containing vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Q; What about other diets, such as ones that instruct you to eat a lot of one food, (the “grapefruit diet” or “acai berry diet”)?

A: Your body needs a wide range of nutrients, and it is hard to get that from eating just one food. Not to mention it becomes boring to eat the same food day after day and you may end up feeling deprived.  Also avoid any diet that severely restricts one or more food groups. The best way to eat is to get the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. With any new diet, always ask yourself: “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?” If the answer to that question is no, then the plan is probably not for you. The best kind of program is one that you can understand and sustain.

Q: What are ways to stay healthy that don’t involve a supplement or a specific diet plan?

A: You might try “clean” eating that focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein — basically, whole foods without a lot of processing. Relying on whole foods is the best way to get a good combination of micronutrients, keeping you satisfied for longer. Regular physical activity is also essential for good health; plus it makes you feel great! The key to success is to find physical activities that you enjoy and then to aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days of the week.

7 thoughts on “Nutrition Myth Busters: Fad Diets

  1. I’m so glad you addressed fad diets. I have often wondered about the juice diet, etc. This has answered a lot of my questions. I think a well-balanced, all things in moderation, diet is the way to go. Great information!

  2. What are some general guidelines to keep in mind when trying to eat “clean” in terms of weight loss? Put another way, how much fruit, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein should one be consuming per day to lose weight at a healthy rate– or does it not matter?

    • The purpose of eating clean is to avoid processed foods. Processed foods and high-carb foods contain simple sugars that trigger spikes in blood sugar. The hormone insulin then binds to it’s receptor and transports the sugar into the cells where it can either be used for energy, turned into glycogen for short term storage, or into fat for long term storage. Therefore the key to losing weight is to restrict foods that will lead to a spike in insulin and maintain a high level of activity. The best way to do this is to make healthy eating and exercise a habit by finding ways to work it into your life on a daily basis, and you should start to feel better see results.

  3. Great information! Instead of these ‘fad diets,’ individuals should simply add more fiber to the diet, drink more water, and cut back on processed foods that are high in fat, sugar, and sodium!

  4. I’m really glad this is being addressed! 🙂 I see fad diets being advertised everywhere and so many of them are very convincing. I wish everyone could see that the only way to really be healthy is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. It’s a lot easier than it seems and can benefit your quality of life and satisfaction so much. Great blog, again!

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