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Exploring the Popular Fad Diets and If They Really Work

Have you ever tried a diet that promised quick and easy weight loss, but sounded a little too good to be true?

Hundreds of fad diets have come and gone over the years with varying levels of scientific evidence and common sense. Many of these diets have lists of allowed and forbidden foods, and some go so far as to require certain foods to be eaten at specific times. Celebrities have gotten rich by promoting fad diets, yet the obesity crisis in America only seems to get worse every year.

Today, we’re taking a look at a few of the most popular diets that people are trying these days and shedding some light on how effective they are for individuals trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

Paleo Diet

The big idea about the paleo diet is that we would be a lot healthier if we ate like our caveman ancestors used to. This diet allows lean meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. However, processed foods, alcohol, legumes, grains, dairy, and refined sugars are off limits. Healthy oils, like olive oil and coconut oil, are allowed while refined vegetables oils are not. What’s great about this diet is that it removes common allergens, like dairy and gluten, and it focuses on fresh ingredients. Cons of the paleo diet is that it can get expensive and runs the risk of not providing the carbs your body needs for energy.

Photo credit: Mark Bonica via Flickr

Gluten-Free Diet

Some people begin a gluten-free diet because they have a diagnosis of celiac disease, while others are just trying to lose weight. Gluten free diets cut out wheat, rye, barley, and other grains in favor of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, beans, legumes, and dairy products. Sticking to this type of diet can be difficult, and it’s very important to maintain portion control. Since this diet is designed to address the unique needs of celiac disease sufferers, it won’t necessarily lead to weight loss.

Raw Food Diet

Raw food diets are great for people who hate to cook because cooking is out of the question here. The idea behind this diet is that heating foods up destroys their nutrients, so everything needs to be kept below about 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw food diets typically focus on fruits, vegetables, sprouted grains, nuts, and seeds. However, some raw food dieters actually eat raw meat and eggs, as well as unpasteurized dairy products, which can lead to serious health risks. Although you aren’t cooking, the prep work to maintain a raw food diet can be extensive if you are freeze-drying and blending foods.

Photo credit: Olearys via Flickr

Mediterranean Diet

Even if you live out in the desert or up in the tundra, you can practice a Mediterranean diet. With this diet, meals are focused on seafood, fresh produce, whole grains, legumes, yogurt, nuts, and seeds. Even small amounts of wine are typically allowed. This is considered to be one of the most heart-healthy diets because of the high amount of omega-3 fatty acids in these foods. However, this diet is not particularly intended for weight loss and requires more cooking and prep time than other meal plans.

Vegan Diet

Vegan diets have been particularly trendy lately because they are entirely plant-based and take a stand against animal cruelty. Vegans eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts without any meat, dairy, eggs, or other foods that are made with animal products. This diet has been linked to improved weight loss and lower cholesterol, but some vegans struggle with vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin B12. Upon switching to a vegan diet, it is common to feel low energy levels and be chronically hungry until the body adjusts to the diet. It’s also important for vegans to skip the pre-processed convenience meals and focus on whole, natural foods instead.

Choosing a Sensible Diet

Of course, there are lots of fad diets that sound a little crazy and focus on exclusively consuming diets of cabbage, grapefruit, or juice. More often than not, overly restrictive diets lack key nutrients that the body needs and are very difficult to sustain in a healthy way over time. It’s a smart idea to discuss new diet plans that you’re considering with your doctor or an experienced nutritionist to better understand what you’re getting into and whether making a change will help you reach your health goals.

In the end, most people will find that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to exercise daily and eat a wide variety of foods in moderate portion sizes. This has been a tried-and-true method all along and will continue to work even when its not trending in your social media feed.

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