You are what you eat, but what should you eat anyway?
“Diet trends are ever-changing and confusing––tempting anyone and everyone to try the next quick fix to los-ing weight or living a healthier lifestyle,” said Lynsey Hargrove, registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), Holland Hospital Healthy Life Programs.
So if you’re hoping to shed some pounds, maintain a healthy weight or simply eat better, which diet should you follow? Here’s the skinny on five popular approaches:
1. Ketogenic (keto). Keto encourages you to consume a high amount of fat and an extremely low amount of carbohydrates. The goal is to maintain a state of ketosis, where your body’s fat-burning system relies chiefly on fat instead of carbs for energy. If you have immediate weight-loss goals, this diet may produce results; however, eating a large amount of fat and protein from animal sources could increase your risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
“One red flag I have regarding keto is that it concentrates too much on saturated fat,” Hargrove said. Plus, it’s very restrictive. A diet that eliminates nutritious things like grains and legumes can promote irregular eating patterns, and potentially an unhealthy relationship with food.”
2. Intermittent fasting involves cycling between eating regular meals and not eating at all or consuming very few calories. For example, some people may intermittently fast for 16 hours per day, then eat all their food in an eight-hour period, twice per week. Because you’re eating less overall, this diet can nudge weight loss, but it can also be challenging to abstain from food. There’s also no blueprint on what you should eat on non-fast days, leaving the temptation to make poor food choices.
3. Whole30. Marketed as a “nutritional reset,” Whole30 requires avoiding sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy for 30 days. Meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruits and natural fats (e.g., tree nuts, coconut oil) are permitted. While you’re discouraged from counting calories or “weighing in” on this diet, meal prep and organization are key to compliance. Results may also be temporary, since it’s a 30-day plan.
4. Mediterranean. A Mediterranean diet focuses on eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil and very little red meat. Inspired by the observation that those who reside in the Mediterranean live healthier, longer lives, this diet has ranked No. 1 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diets for three straight years. The Mediterranean diet is more of a lifestyle versus a calorie-restrictive diet, and may offer a range of health benefits, including diabetes prevention and control, enhanced heart and brain health, and weight loss.
5. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Like the Mediterranean diet, DASH is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and low-fat dairy products, and low in snacks, sweets, meats, and saturated and total fat. DASH also stresses limited salt intake (ideally to under 1,500 milligrams per day). Ranked No. 2 on this year’s U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diets list, DASH has not only been proven to lower blood pressure, but may also decease bad (LDL) cholesterol, as well as also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“A registered dietitian can empower you with real solutions for a lifetime of good health,” Hargrove added. “My best advice is to view eating as a lifestyle versus a diet. That means incorporating plenty of veggies and fruits in a variety of textures and colors, and also enjoying whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Be sure to choose foods you like and will stick with for the long run, too.”
For more on how to make smart food choices for a lifetime of good health, check out Lynsey’s video from Holland Hospital’s Women’s Health Event. Or call her for an appointment at (616) 394-3344.