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The trendiest diets of 2017 and what nutrition experts say about them

The trendiest diets of 2017 and what nutrition experts say about them
From Global News - July 15, 2017

Canadians pay billions of dollars a year to the diet industry, with some estimates putting its revenue at $7 billion. And while names like Weight Watchers and Atkins have become immediately recognizable (and celebrated or vilified, depending on the results theyve yielded), new diets pop up all the time with promises of offering life-long changes.

But how many of them are actually effective and sustainable?

The problem today is that people are so concerned with losing weight quickly, they dont care about sustaining it six months down the line, says Abby Langer, registered dietitian and owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto. They want to be able to do something today and wear a bikini tomorrow, but you want to make changes that will last for the rest of your life.

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There seems to be a careful formula needed to create hype behind diets todayand that includes a doctors seal of approval, celebrity endorsement and health claims backed by self-serving science.

At the end of the day, Langer says, finding a diet that will work is as personal as finding the right swimsuit. What might work for one may not work for another.

Weve examined the six most popular diets today and asked the experts to weigh in on their claims and effectiveness.

#1 The Whole30

What it is: A diet that claims to re-set your body, and rid you of any food, skin or seasonal allergies by eliminating foods that cause inflammation and cravings. Its a hardcore program that needs to be followed for 30 days with no interruptions. Just a small amount of any of these inflammatory foods could break the healing cycle, the website states. One bite of pizza, one spoonful of ice cream, one lick of the spoon mixing the batter within the 30-day period and youve broken the reset button, requiring you to start over again on Day 1. Bonus: the diet strongly advises people against weighing themselves to measure progress.

What you eat: Moderate portions of meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, some fruit, natural fats, herbs, spices and seasoning. (Coffee and tea allowed.)

What you eliminate: Real and added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy and soy.

What the experts say: Langer calls this basically a cleanse, but says the rationale behind cutting out healthy foods like dairy and whole grains, is based on poorly done research, and its restrictions make it virtually impossible to follow if you follow a plant-based diet. In addition, it sends a problematic message.

Whats very disturbing about it is the insulting and punitive way it treats people. The people who wrote the diet claim it ends your relationship with unhealthy food, but I think it will start a new unhealthy relationship with food. Its unforgiving, and if you dont follow it, youve failed, she says.

#2 The Dukan Diet

What it is: Created by Dr. Pierre Dukan, a French neurologist and general practitioner, the diet consists of four phases that are meant to change your eating habits forever through a high protein, and low-fat and carbohydrate program. It boasts a list of 100 foods that are allowed on the diet and claims no frustration and no starvation. In phase one (Attack phase), you eat pure protein foods; phase two (Cruise) introduces non-starchy vegetables; phase three (Consolidation) gradually re-introduces starches; and phase four (Stabilization) allows all foods but requires consumption of three tablespoons of oat bran per day and one pure protein day per week.

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What you eat: Lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, vegetarian proteins (soy, tempeh, tofu), fat-free dairy, eggs and vegetables. (Coffee, tea, unsweetened drinks and no more than one can of diet soda is allowed. No alcohol.)

What you eliminate: At the beginning, you only eat pure protein and other foods are re-introduced slowly throughout the phases. Oat bran is required every day through the entire program to boost fibre intake.

What the experts say: Thrust into the spotlight after it was revealed that Kate and Pippa Middleton followed this diet leading up to the Duchesss wedding (it got popular thanks to Pippas butt, Langer quips), the experts once again take issue with Dukans restrictiveness.

To be balanced and healthy it needs to have more focus on plant-based foods, says Andrea Hardy, a registered dietitian in Calgary and owner of Ignite Nutrition. Eating all that meat means youre missing an opportunity to get phytochemicals, antioxidants and nutrients from fruits and vegetables.

She also points out that the absence of fibre means youll lack healthy gut bacteria, which can lead to long-term health problems like anemia, high cholesterol and osteoporosis.

#3 The Paleo Diet

What it is: Created to mimic the way our ancestors ate (like in the Paleolithic period), this diet claims to lead to weight loss, optimize health and minimize the risk of chronic disease. This is another high protein, low carb diet that emphasizes non-starchy fruits and vegetables that wont spike your blood sugar, and promotes moderate to high consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It especially vilifies whole grains and dispels the notion that they are a rich source of fibre. In other words, if the hunter-gatherers before us didnt eat it, neither should youwith the exception of the three non-Paleo meals per week that youre allotted. (Thats when you can have wine.)

What you eat: Meat, poultry, fish, (non-starchy) fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils. (Moderate amounts of green tea allowed.)

What you eliminate: Grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed food, salt and refined vegetable oils, coffee.

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What the experts say: Ultimately, Paleo is a sustainable diet for some people and is especially attractive to meat lovers. But, Hardy warns, a lot of people do Paleo wrong and fail to round out their protein-heavy meals with fruit and vegetables. In addition, its highly restrictive nature could end up driving people to consume unhealthy grains for a cheat meal which in turn muddies the relationship with healthy carbs.

If its too restrictive, people will end up feeling like theyve fallen off the wagon when they consume grains, and will, therefore, gravitate to something unhealthy like a doughnut because theyre cheating, instead of choosing a wholesome grain product, she says.

#4 The Mediterranean Diet

What it is: This predominantly plant-based diet draws from the traditional foods consumed by Mediterranean dwellers (like Italians, French and Greeks). It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol, and is associated with reduced incidences of cancer, Parkinsons and Alzheimers disease. It promotes healthy fats as well as lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, some fish and very little red meat.

What you eat: Vegetables,fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt should be eaten in moderation, and red meat should be eaten rarely. (Wine, coffee and tea are allowed.)

#5 The Alkaline Diet

#6 Intermittent Fasting

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