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The New Atkins, Paleo, the 5:2 or Alkaline diets; every week a new, miraculous diet plan is launched on the public with the promise to turn us from flabby to fabulous.
Most of these diets are simply inventive ways of restricting our food intake so that we eat fewer calories than we consume. But our individual genetic make-up and metabolism may mean that all calories are not created equal.
The hugely popular 5:2 diet is based on a system of intermittent fasting (IF). Basically you cut down your intake dramatically (500 calories for women and 600 for men) for two days a week and eat normally the rest of the time. It’s not a permission to binge, it’s a way of resetting your appetite and it can be easier to stick to the rules because the food you crave is only ever a day away.
Pros and cons
Fast days can leave you grumpy, light headed and lacking in energy. But as long as you pay attention to the nutritional content of your food and choose a healthy balanced diet, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and stay healthier. There is evidence that individuals following this way of eating may have protection against diabetes, Alzheimer’s and some cancers
The Paleolithic Diet harks back to our caveman origins. Only foods that man ate when he was still hunting and gathering, thousands of years ago, can pass your lips: Fish, eggs, lean meats, fruit, non-starchy veg, nuts and seeds are allowed. Dairy, grains, starchy veg and anything processed are definitely off the menu.
Pros and Cons
The diet is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. It focuses on fresh produce that is rich in nutrients so by choosing carefully it is possible to get all the essentials you need.
Advocates and enthusiasts say that it can help people lose weight and a 2008 study also states that it can protect against chronic illnesses including heart disease. It is a low carb diet so can make you tired, headachey and give you bad breath if you don’t drink plenty of water. And let’s face it, cutting out all processed food, grains and dairy can make it difficult to stick to- but some experts say that getting it right eighty percent of the time should be enough.
New Atkins diet
When the Atkins diet was first launched it got a lot of bad press as a dangerous dietary fad. It has come back new, improved, and better balanced nutritionally. It is one of the most popular low carbohydrate diets, transforming your body into a fat-burning machine.
Grains, starchy vegetables and most fruit are banned. Instead your diet should be made up of meat, fish, eggs, plenty of vegetables and salads and full fat dairy produce, with a good slug of oily dressing, mayo or creamy sauces to help them go down.
Pros and Cons
The first two weeks of the diet are very strict; with only 20g of carbs and rapid weight loss, which can definitely boost motivation. You may suffer ‘carb flu’ during this period and feel sluggish, weak and with stinky breath – like a hangover without the fun. However, once you are in ketosis and efficiently burning fat you should have a surge of energy and fewer hunger pangs.
The Atkins encourages cutting processed carbs, most alcohol and encourages lots of veggies, so that can only be good. However too much red and processed meat, butter, cream and cheese goes against current health guidelines, so it’s wise to exert moderation.
The alkaline diet apparently boasts celebrity fans including Victoria Beckham. It is based on the concept that our modern diet makes the body produce too much acid, leading to weight gain and also conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis as well as kidney and liver problems.
Foods that are described as ‘acid-producing’ are cut; this includes meat, dairy, grains, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. Instead the diet advocates more ‘alkaline options,’ which means plenty of fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Pros and cons
Cutting out processed foods, refined sugar and booze is likely to make you feel healthier and lose weight. So, the alkaline diet can have great results. However, whether this is anything to do with the body’s pH is questionable. We have our own in-built systems for acid-base balance, which should be able to cope with food of all sorts.
Cutting down on dairy products means you need to find calcium from other sources. The British Dietetic Association says that if you’re going to try the alkaline diet, it’s important to pick a nutritionally balanced plan.
The truth is that when it comes to weight loss and optimum health, instead of thinking of diets, we need to be considering changing our way of eating permanently. Returning to bad habits can only lead to the weight and any health niggles and concerns returning. The right dietary choice for each individual will depend on lifestyle, tastes and what is written in their DNA. By looking at these you can stop the cycle of yoyo dieting, lose weight and improve your health forever.