What You Should Know About Paleo, Keto, and More Fad Diets

What You Should Know About Paleo, Keto, and More Fad Diets

A whopping 36% of American adults are following a specific diet protocol, according to the 2018 Food & Health Survey carried out by the International Food Information Council Foundation. That is an increase of 22% in just one year!

The survey shows that perceptions of what causes weight gain are evolving, although sugar and carbohydrates are still identified as the main components that dieters tend to avoid when trying to lose weight.  This change of perception may be one of the reasons that so many Americans are trying a variety of trendy food regimes, sometimes known as fad diets. Amongst the most popular of them are: Paleo, gluten-free, and ketogenic/high-fat.

But fads, whether they’re in food or fashion, usually have a very short life span. In the field of nutrition, fad diets promise quick weight loss but they tend to be highly restrictive and not designed for long-term, healthy weight management.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more popular fad diets:

Paleo diet

Often referred to as the ‘caveman diet,’ the paleo diet includes foods believed to be the basis of the caveman’s diet up until about 10,000 years ago and is high in protein (meats and eggs), vegetables, nuts and seeds. Restricted foods include grains, legumes, potatoes and dairy. As a result, this diet may be inadequate in carbohydrates, fiber and lack calcium. On the positive side, however, the diet advises limiting refined sugars and heavily processed foods. Though Paleo isn’t specifically a diet for shedding pounds, weight loss does often occur.

Ketogenic diet

Rapid weight loss, increased energy and muscle building are the claims of this very low carbohydrate diet. It encourages you to eat meat, fish, poultry, and fats, while restricting fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, beans, and legumes. The primary problem with the ketogenic diet is that it is very unbalanced, with a recommended intake of  up to 70% of calories from fat,  and carbs are limited to as low as 5% of calories. Without adequate carbs, the  body runs on ketones for fuel, which are byproducts of the body breaking down fat for energy. But ketones don’t feed your brain adequately and the diet can contribute to constipation and bad breath. Due to the limited nature of the diet, the keto plan lacks adequate fiber, calcium, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Gluten free diet

This is a must for those who have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, or those who have gluten sensitivity. However, if you do not fit those criteria, you may not benefit from this diet. Since most foods –with the exception of those containing gluten– are allowed, there is no guarantee for weight loss unless you count calories. Restricted foods are those made with wheat, rye, and barley which may include other non-starchy foods such as  beer, processed meats and condiments.  However, with so many gluten-free products available, your diet may still be high in fat, sugar and carbohydrates, which means you’ll still need to pay attention to your calorie intake.

It is also important to note that some essential nutrients, such as protein, do not come only from meat. Plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils and whole grains are a great, healthy way to ensure you get the protein you need along with other benefits. Herbalife Formula 1 protein shakes are made from soy protein because it’s one of the few complete plant-based proteins, meaning it contains all of the nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own.

Remember that having a balanced diet is important, as much as exercising and cultivating overall wellness habits. In order to strive for that balance, try to incorporate nutrient dense foods; that is, those that provide an abundance of nutrients relative to their calorie cost, such as lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and a modest amount of healthy fat.

Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND –Sr.Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan BowermanM.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan Bowerman earned a B.S. in biology with distinction from the University of Colorado, and received her M.S. in food science and nutrition from Colorado State University. She is a registered dietitian, holds two board certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a certified specialist in sports dietetics, and a certified specialist in obesity and weight management, and is a Fellow of the Academy.