Health Tips | Dr. Tina Marcantel, RN, NMD

Fad Diets: Are They Nutritionally Sound?

published by Dr. Marcantel on December 2nd, 2009 Print this page No Comments

tomato_basketsRecently I was asked to look at a few of the fad diets that are making the rounds. I’m not going to comment here on whether or not they “work”; I’m sure the authors of these diets can point to anecdotal evidence that it’s possible to lose weight short-term while following the plans. The question is how nutritionally sound are these diets and is there a chance they may even do more harm than good for some people? Here are a few of the diets I looked at along with my recommendations:

The New Beverly Hills Diet

Since the author bills this as “not a diet; it’s a lifestyle eating plan,” it makes it doubly important that it should have long-term health benefits. The main idea of this diet is the technique of “Conscious Combining” of foods.

What is good about this diet?

I agree with the author’s recommendation to “Eliminate diet sodas, artificial sweeteners, diet products containing artificial sweeteners and artificial additives, nondairy creamer and margarine. Limit, if not eliminate, any foods with artificial additives.” I’m all for going all-natural, maybe for different reasons than the diet’s author.

Nondairy creamers and margarine contain partially hydrogenated oils and transfatty acids that can lead to health problems. Also, some artificial sweeteners can actually make the blood sugars go up, although that seems contradictory. I recommend stevia as a sweetener. Stevia is a natural plant supplement that is ten times sweeter than sugar with a glycemic index of zero and it does not affect blood sugars.

What is bad about this diet?

*There are too many high glycemic fruits included such as pineapple, grapes, and watermelon. Just because a fruit is “natural” doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain a lot of sugar.

*Fruits should be combined with a protein or fat to prevent glycemic spikes. Actually, it’s okay to have some high glycemic fruits occasionally, but combining them with nuts or cheese will help stabilize the blood sugars (exactly the opposite of the diet recommendation of “fruit must be eaten alone”).

*White potatoes and corn will make the blood sugar rise rapidly. The type of carbohydrate you eat does make a difference in how it affects the glycemic level (how fast your blood sugar rises after eating carbohydrates). This diet does not distinguish between complex and refined carbohydrates, and there is a critical difference. Complex carbohydrates (brown rice or pasta, whole grain breads) will not spike your blood sugar in the way processed carbohydrates like white bread or pasta, white rice, or refined sugar will.

Frequent blood sugar elevations from refined carbohydrates will cause the pancreas to release more insulin. Insulin is a fat storing hormone leading to weight gain and eventually the cells become insulin resistant and the pancreas becomes overworked, which may lead to metabolic syndrome or diabetes mellitus type 2.

Would you recommend it?

Bottom line: No. And particularly not if you are a diabetic or you are at risk (as the majority of Americans are) of developing type 2 diabetes.

 

The New Cabbage Soup Diet

What is good about this diet?

This could be a good cleansing diet for the gastrointestinal system–the vegetables have soluble fiber to provide bulk and to absorb toxins to cleanse the colon.

What is bad about this diet?

The diet lacks protein and essential fatty acids. Also, gas-forming vegetables may cause bloating and cramping.

Would you recommend it?

I have my patients do a mild detoxification twice a year. I may consider this diet for a few days only to assist the toxins out of the body. I would probably add essential fatty acids and simple proteins.

The One-Day Super Diet

What is good about this diet?

Whole grains are used such as oatmeal, wheat, and bran. This has a more balanced individual menu plan than most fad diets, with proteins, vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy providing a balance for the meals.

What is bad about this diet?

Obviously, eating healthy one day a week is not enough. The snacks are processed carbohydrates that can cause a rise in blood sugars, which can cause weight gain. Low fat or light yogurt are usually packed with sugar-use low carb/low sugar yogurt instead.

Would you recommend it?

No. Why not eat like this more days during the week instead of trying to make up for poor diet habits the rest of the time?

The 3-Hour Diet

What is good about this diet?

Eating every three hours will keep your metabolic rate going. It stabilizes blood sugars: when we go without eating for too long, our blood sugars go down (hypoglycemia) causing increased hunger which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

What is bad about this diet?

It does not use whole grains but uses processed carbohydrates like potato chips and crackers and refined sugars like candy. Continued use of candy will cause sugar cravings and may lead to weight gain.

Would you recommend it?

No. I support the concept of eating every three hours to increase metabolism and avoid hypoglycemia, but I don’t like the suggested foods.

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