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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Which Diet Is The Best Of All?!

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Which Diet Is The Best Of All?!

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Losing that extra weight can be difficult, but taking shortcuts is not a solution. Although crash diets and fancy diets may give you the desired number on the scales, they may often turn out wrong and result in various long-term health conditions. In order for a better understanding, Rachitha Dundoo lists out the popular trends with their pros and cons.

GM Diet

This diet was created by General Motors for their employees in the ‘80s, and though it is over 30 years old, this diet is quite popular even with the current generation. Most of us turn to this diet when we have little time before a grand event—be it a wedding, holiday or a special occasion. This diet claims to show results in seven days and many claim it works. 

GM Diet

How It Works?

You are made to have different food sources through the week for all seven days. The diet plan consists of eating only fruits (except banana) the first day, only veggies on the second day, and a mix of fruit and veggies (except banana and potatoes) on the third day. You can have bananas, skim milk and soup for lunch and dinner on the fourth day, whereas on the fifth day, you can eat tomatoes, lean meat and brown rice. You can consume lean red meat, vegetables and brown rice on the sixth day and on the seventh day you have fresh fruit juices, vegetables and brown rice. This is the typical plan of the GM diet and there are many who swear by this diet for quick weight loss. You can even find a vegetarian alternative of this diet on the internet. 

But is this really a miracle diet without any side effects? Science says otherwise. The diet majorly lacks proteins, which are the building blocks for your body. You lose weight very fast because your body is not getting the required amounts of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The weight lost while doing this diet will easily be gained back as this diet is not a long-term plan, and once the week of diet is done and you shift to your regular food habits, your body will bounce back. Here are a few pros and cons of this diet:

Pros

  • It flushes out toxins from the body and cleanses it
  • It improves your attitude and mental state for a short term
  • You see visible results 

Cons 

  • It does not supply the nutrients required by your body. You cut out proteins and carbohydrates in this diet, which can make you feel weak.
  • You feel very dehydrated in the first three days of this diet because of the reduced food portions. Though you drink plenty of water, you feel thirsty always. This can lead to dizziness and headaches. Your body will crave more food and when you do not provide it, you start experiencing hunger pangs which result in severe headaches. 
  • Though some recommend working out while doing this diet, it is not practical as you have already reduced your daily food portions and your energy levels are low. Doing lighter exercises (apart from cardio and heavy weights) is advised.
  • As your protein intake is reduced, you may notice a few changes in your body. Follicles need protein for growth and because of this, your skin and hair may look dull. Your rate of metabolism also decreases. 
  • Due to the decreased metabolism, it gets very hard to lose weight post this diet when you get back to your regular food habits. Eventually, you will gain weight and losing it in the future will become very tough. 
  • It leaves you exhausted and leads to loss of muscle protein.

Expert Opinion 

Devika Reddy, practising dietician, Nestle 

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The GM diet does not incorporate sufficient calories and hence cannot be followed as a daily routine. As you all know, Indian diets have many traditional foods that constitute too many calories. We can have a protein diet that can include sprouts, rajma, dals and other varieties of milk products. If you can have a calorie-based diet or a natural diet as per your lifestyle, stick to it and have follow a basic exercise regime consisting of 45 minutes of and you will surely lose weight.

Don’t fall for fad diets, because the fact is that fad diets are notorious for actually causing weight gain – Kavita Devgan

  

Kavita Devgan, Delhi based nutritionist and weight management consultant and author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits Of Thin People, gives her take on fad diets. 

“Fad diets do not and cannot work for the simple reason that all of them restrict certain food groups and deliver weight loss (seemingly) by depriving the body of adequate calories and nutrition for a short period of time. Don’t fall for this. Because the fact is that fad diets are notorious for actually causing weight gain: when the body feels deprived and banned foods are reintroduced, our bodies will regain more weight than they had lost, as if in fear of another starvation or restriction.”

Keto Diet 

Keto Diet 

One of the trending diets in today’s day and age is the ketogenic diet or ‘keto diet’. It is very popular among the younger generation and the cherry on top is that you get to eat a lot of protein and fat in this diet, with low tolerance for carbs. More and more people are beginning to recognise the benefits of the ketogenic diet nowadays, however, this diet was originally used as a medical nutrition therapy for pediatric patients with seizure disorders, for whom medication was no longer effective. 

Indeed, there’s plenty of research to support ketogenic diets in the treatment of some devastating neurological conditions. Let’s try to understand what exactly happens in the body with keto diet.

When you eat something high in carbs, your body produces glucose and insulin.

  • Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source. 
  • Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it around the body. 

A ketogenic diet lowers your carb intake. In turn, your glucose levels lower, so your body can’t convert it to energy. This sends your body into a state known as  ketosis, the basis of a ketogenic diet.

How does the Keto Diet Work?

In regimented keto diets, only 10% of total calories per day (about a measly 20 grams!) come from carbs, 20% from protein, and a whopping 70% from fats. Since our bodies preferentially use carbs for energy, cutting them means we have to use something else to keep our organs functioning. Our bodies then turn to the glucose stored in our muscles as glycogen for fuel.

What else happens when we break down the muscle glycogen? We lose  water weight! Our muscles store about 3 grams of water for every gram of glycogen, meaning we can lose quite a bit of weight right away when we tap into glycogen stores for fuel. That’s why someone who loses weight in “just one week!” from a low-carb plan is likely losing water weight, not necessarily real weight that stays off over time.

How does a low carb diet help in treating neurological disorders?

It’s true that the brain needs about 50 gm of glucose a day, but this doesn’t need to come from eating carbohydrates. Instead, the body is capable of producing glucose from amino acids, glycerol and lactate and pyruvate. These substrates go to the liver where it turns them into glucose via the process known as gluconeogenesis.

The rest of the energy that the brain requires is derived from ketones. Having the brain get the majority of its energy from ketones actually improves brain function and is the reason that ketogenic diets are used to treat brain disorders.

The one important catch to this system is that just as it takes time for the body to become adapted to ketosis, the brain too has to go through the same process. During the adaptation period, the brain function may suffer and feelings of fatigue may increase.

While there’s reasonable evidence to support the use of the ketogenic diet for clinical purposes, the use of the ketogenic diet for people just looking to optimise their diet and lose weight is a bit more controversial. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros

  • The diet helps treat and reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments including epilepsy. 
  • It leads to an automatic reduction in appetite, thus helping in weight loss. 
  • Keto diets are very effective at lowering blood triglycerides that are fat molecules in the blood and a well known risk for heart diseases. 
  • The ketogenic diet may help to reduce insulin levels and thereby help to potentially reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Due to the fact that this diet allows only 25 to 35 grams of carbs total, most people will have to cut out their intake of really sugary foods, which is certainly a plus and something I think most of us can benefit from

Cons:

  • It’s really difficult to live your life and follow a plan that’s 70 to 80% fat, 10% carb, and 15% protein, as every single meal has to be planned and calculated. 
  • While the upside of this plan is the increased fat intake, the downside is that many people actually end up eating a lot of highly saturated animal fats. Though the carbohydrates are out of the equation, making the fats potentially less dangerous, these types of fats aren’t health-promoting. 
  • Though there is some weight loss for many, many people don’t lose as much as they would like to (perhaps because it’s so hard to strictly adhere to it). 
  • Though this diet is high in heart-healthy fats (depending on the ones you choose), it’s often low in fibre. It can also be lower in plant-based healthy nutrients, as many foods that contain fibre also contain more carbs than permitted on this type of plan. 
  • If the level of ketones in the blood skyrockets, ketoacidosis may occur because ketones are acidic in nature. This means blood pH could become lower which can spell death.
  • Once you resort to a ketogenic diet, there is likely that you will experience fatigue and brain fog.

Expert Opinion

Here are some points of advice by Mayuri, a nutritionist from Trudiet. 

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  1. 1.     Choose the healthiest fats you can to make up the 70 to 80%: egg, avocado, and almonds are my favourite picks. 
  2. Include as many greens as you can—they’re lower in carbs and packed with nutrients. 
  3. Try to get organic/grass-fed animal products whenever you can, including cheeses, eggs, other dairy products, and animal meats of all kinds. 
  4. Drink plenty of water. With more fat and less fibre (generally), you can get a little constipated, so water helps. 
  5. Assess as you go, how you feel, and keep a journal of your progress that you can track. 

When it comes to other fad diets, I think any diet that has a name is not worth being on – Rujuta Diwekar 

Rujuta Diwekar, fitness and nutrition expert and bestselling author of Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight, who is popular for her stand on eating right and good food, explains it better for us to help us understand these fad diets.

Any diet that has a name is not worth being on. It is like deciding which girl to marry based on how thin she is or how fair she is or whether or not she is convent educated and English speaking. So, there has to be much more in a person before you try to be with them and similarly there has to be much more to a diet than just a name. The diet that I think we should all follow is the kind of diet, which our grandmother approves. Eat on time and eat the food that is in the season and every time that you are eating, make sure that you are not watching TV, not on your phone or reading a magazine. Focus on the food that you’re eating as this is the long-term solution for fit life and sustainability.”

Paleo diet

Paleo diet

In its purest form, the Paleolithic diet — more commonly known as the paleo diet or the “caveman diet” — allows only those foods that humans ate when they first roamed the planet, half a million years ago before the invention of agriculture.

The diet encourages the consumption of whole foods such as seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats and eggs, while excluding foods introduced through farming and industry such as dairy products, beans, grains, cereals, salt, alcohol, coffee and processed foods. Any foods that were not available during the Paleolithic period are thought to be deleterious to health and are forbidden

Because of its straightforward guidelines, focus on nutrient-rich produce, and emphasis on exercise, the paleo diet has earned a loyal following among fans who say it helps them not only lose weight but get — and stay — healthier. However, experts say the long-term results aren’t proven and the diet is difficult to maintain.  

Pros

  • The diet is rich in potassium – Eeating a lot of fruit and vegetables increases potassium levels, which is important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, healthy kidney and muscle function.
  • The fats are healthy – Consuming moderate amounts of unsaturated fats such as those found in nuts, avocado and olive oil gives rise to a healthy lipid profile.(high VLDL and low LDL)
  • High protein content – Proteins are essential for growth and development of the skin, muscles, bone and cartilage. Adequate amounts of lean protein in the diet contribute to a healthy body composition and a lowered insulin response.
  • Elimination of processed foods – The diet is comprised of whole foods, which means less salt and sugar is consumed. This improves blood sugar levels and blood pressure and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Cons

  • The food portions allowed by the diet exceed the recommended daily allowances for those foods.
  • Eliminating entire food groups can mean essential nutrients and vitamins are not included in the diet.
  • People in the West often obtain their calcium from milk, cheese and yoghurt and those following the paleo diet are at risk of inadequate calcium consumption and therefore low bone and tooth density.
  • The elimination of whole grains may mean a decreased intake of fiber, which is beneficial to gut health.
  • The diet does not allow the consumption of legumes, which are highly beneficial to gut health and rich in magnesium, selenium and manganese.
  • Humans today are not genetically identical to ancestors from the Paleolithic period, as the paleo diet assumes. We have evolved in order to adapt to our changing environment.
  • The diet does not account for the wide range of foods that were available during the Palaeolithic period and there is inadequate evidence available for it to be established exactly what amount and proportions of foods were eaten during that period.

Experts Opinion 

Kavita Devgan, a Delhi based nutritionist and weight management consultant and author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits Of Thin People is of the belief that the idea of completely excluding dairy, legumes, and grains isn’t that great. She also believes that a big concern is that a one-size-fits-all “best diet” approach doesn’t work.

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Rujuta Diwekar, fitness and nutrition expert and bestselling author of Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weightsays, “India, China and other ancient, and therefore more evolved, civilisations, have grown and celebrated rice (Mohenjo-Daro had a flourishing trade in grains). Both India and China offer rice even to the dead, so if you are born into this DNA and gene pool, I doubt you can escape it.”

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As for Paleo, it allows nuts that are just like grains, cultivated, not exactly growing in the wild. The “game” meat is not hunted with boulders and arrows but bought from a counter. So the risk of the genes interacting with the new environment is still very much prevalent. And then what about the grain free muffin, protein rich cookies and so on? Did the hunter-gatherer breed also make time to bake while living in their caves? 

For a culture like ours which doesn’t open boxes for breakfast or goes for “take out” for lunch/ dinner, the meat-based diet is not “wilder” or coarser than what we are currently eating. Also, making a villain out of any food group invariably leads to health issues, the carb-fever in the case of Paleo (where the body suffers from mild fever to full-blown adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance). So, one needs to look at our ancestors in totality and give them more credit than being just hunters and gatherers and not overlook the value of eating wholesome, local and home-cooked, irrespective of where one lives.

Every fad diet out there, whether paleo, the GM diet, Keto, South Beach or Atkins; is all about deprivation – Karen Campos Bhatia 

Karen Campos Bhatia, nutritionist, exercise physiologist and lifestyle consultant, Vigor Health Consulting gives her insights about various trending diets. 

The ones who design these diets are preying on desperate people and those who follow them are running away from reality. It’s a vicious cycle of the ones peddling them, who are making you feel like this is your next best quick fix and the ones who subscribe to them who are constantly feeding their insecurities regarding body image and self-confidence. Every fad diet out there, whether paleo, the GM diet, Keto, South Beach or Atkins; is all about deprivation. You deprive yourself based on someone’s theory regards how it is supposed to be done. Wise up, there is no short cut to losing weight and there is definitely no other way to do it other than a comprehensive plan of balanced nutrients. Diets come and go, but they are not the best way to lose weight. Try to pick a sustainable plan that will help you lose weight and maintain it and not lose your mind over it. It is important to know your body needs and work on it accordingly.Do not expect quick results rather focus on living better and exercise. As the old proverb says, “slow and steady wins the race”, take your weight loss challenge steadily and slowly and you will a great transformation. 

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Atkins Diet

Atkins Diet

The Akins diet was devised in the 1960s by cardiologist Dr Robert Atkins to reduce his own weight and was later applied on his patients to help them lose weight. The Atkins Diet restricts carbs (carbohydrates) while emphasising on protein and fats. The main aim of the Atkins Nutritional diet is to reduce one’s carbohydrates intake, and is a four phased eating program which is combined with vitamins and mineral supplements and as well as regular exercise. Atkins Diet holds that eating too many carbohydrates — especially sugar, white flour and other refined carbs — leads to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain and cardiovascular problems. To that end, the Atkins Diet restricts carbohydrates and encourages eating more protein and fat. However, the Atkins Diet says it is not a high-protein diet.

Carbohydrates

The Atkins Diet doesn’t require calorie counting or portion control. It does require you to track your carbs, though. It uses a system called net carbs, which is the total carbohydrate content of an item minus its fibre content. For example, a half-cup (4 ounces) of raw broccoli has 2.3 grams of total carbs and 1.3 grams of fibre, putting its net carb value at 1 gram.

Exercise

The Atkins Diet acknowledges that exercise can help maintain your weight, as well as offer other health benefits.

Phases of the Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet has four phases. Depending on your weight-loss goals, you can start at any of the first three phases.

Phase 1, Induction: In this strict phase, you cut out almost all carbohydrates from your diet, eating just 20 grams of net carbs a day, mainly from vegetables. Instead of getting 45 to 65% of your daily calories from carbohydrates, as recommended by most nutrition guidelines, you get only about 1%. “Foundation” vegetables, such as broccoli, celery, cucumber, green beans and peppers, should account for 12 to 15 grams of your daily net carbs.

You should eat protein such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and cheese, for every meal. You don’t need to restrict oils and fats, but you can’t have most fruits, sugary baked goods, breads, pastas, grains, nuts or alcohol. You should drink eight glasses of water a day. You stay in this phase for at least two weeks, depending on your weight loss.

Phase 2, Balancing: In this phase, you continue to eat a minimum of 12 to 15 grams of net carbs as foundation vegetables. You also continue to avoid foods with added sugar. You can slowly add back some nutrient-rich carbs, such as more vegetables and berries, nuts, and seeds, as you continue to lose weight. You stay in this phase until you’re about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) from your goal weight.

Phase 3, Pre-maintenance: In this phase, you continue to gradually increase the range of foods you can eat, including fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grains. You can add about 10 grams of carbs to your diet each week, but you must cut back if your weight loss stops. You stay in this phase until you reach your goal weight.

Phase 4, Lifetime maintenance: You move into this phase when you reach your goal weight, and then you continue this way of eating for life.

 Pros

  • Eliminate Refined Carbohydrates: The Atkins diet eliminates all refined carbs from the diet. Because so many gain and retain their excess weight because of these carbs, not eating them may cause a quick shedding of fat from the body.
  • Improved Cholesterol Levels: Although it does seem counter-intuitive given all the meat that is consumed, dieters will actually improve their cholesterol levels when on this diet despite the high levels of fat that is consumed. Obviously, exercise is an important part of helping to keep the cholesterol down, but this diet does manage to lower the “bad” or LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Easy to Adjust Carbohydrate Levels: Because of the very low intake of bad carbohydrates, it is really easy for dieters to find the right levels of carbohydrates that suits them best in this diet program.

Cons

  • Not Enough Carbs: Because of the lack of carbohydrates, the body is forced to go into ketosis which places a heavy burden on the kidneys. The addition of complex carbohydrates in some form is needed to offset the effects of ketosis.
  • Vitamin Deficiency: Because you are not eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, your body will suffer from the lack of vitamins. However, this can be supplied with vitamin supplements on a daily basis.
  • Side Effects: Although the severe side effects from the diet are rare, many dieters do suffer from dehydration, constipation. Arguably the worst aspect of the diet is when it is finished, dieters who go back to eating the carbs will quickly gain back the weight and probably even more. For those who want to keep the weight off for good, this is not the best diet program.
  • In addition, the Atkins Diet isn’t appropriate for everyone. For example, the Atkins Diet recommends that you consult your doctor before starting the diet if you take diuretics, insulin or oral diabetes. 

Experts Opinion

Kavita Devgan, a Delhi based nutritionist and weight management consultant and author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits Of Thin People suggests that it is difficult to follow the diet on a long-term basis. – Imagine eliminating potatoes, pasta and sweets from your diets totally! In addition, extremely high protein intake can lead to increased uric acid and ketones.

Baby Food Diet

Baby Food Diet

The Baby Food Diet, an internet phenomenon rumoured to have been started by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson, is a gimmick for cutting calories and controlling portions. It involves replacing one or two meals or snacks a day with jars that range in calories from about 20 to 100. This is not a weight loss diet, but a maintenance plan to help you keep off pounds you’ve already shed. 

The rules, although not published anywhere officially, vary from person to person. One version calls for eating 14 jars of baby food during the day and a real dinner in the evening. It’s not hard to see why a person might lose weight by replacing adult-size meals with a few small jars of bananas or peas. And because many people find it difficult to eat more than a few spoonsful, portion control is probably not a major issue.

Pros

  • Since baby food is readily available in the west, you will be doing less of cooking and shopping if you follow this diet shopping: 
  • You do not need to have in person meetings with your nutritionist
  • Exercise: Not required

Cons

  • Since most baby food is made from fruits or vegetables, it’s not difficult to eat vegetarian or vegan on this diet. But plant sources of protein, like beans and soy products, aren’t typically found in baby food products.
  • Replacing meals with baby food could result in nutritional imbalances and getting very few calories. And because protein, fiber, and the act of chewing food help you feel full, you may find your stomach grumbling after a “meal” on this diet.
  • The Baby Food Diet is a fad diet that may help you lose weight for the short term. But just like a baby, it won’t be long before you outgrow this diet and start to gain weight.
  • Expensive unless you choose to puree your own baby food. 

Experts Opinion 

Dr Lakshmi Kilaru, a nutritionist with a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition says, “Quick weight-loss diets are not healthy, and the weight is likely to rebound when you begin eating normally again. Diets that claim you don’t have to exercise are not the best for your overall health. And if you cannot stay on a fad diet or popular diet the rest of your life, it’s better not to start.

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