🚨 Best Diet? Wh Investigates the 6 Most Googled Diets of 2019
✳️ Want to create a body for life through a lifestyle you love? Think about ‘diet’ in the traditional sense of the word, you know, the kind of foods you eat most of the time. And it’s this – what you do daily, not for one week in the summer – that makes the real difference.
But how can you discern the eating plans which are healthy and sustainable from the ones which are anything but?
✳️ The best diets to try—and which to avoid
1. The Pegan Diet
What do you get if you cross a caveman with a vegan? Not a bad joke, but The Pegan Diet. An amalgamation of a vegan (plant-based) and paleo (if a caveman didn’t eat it, then neither can you) diet, it delivers all the antioxidants, fibre and healthy fats you expect from a plant-based plan, with all the protein of a carnivorous one.
Typical meal: Grilled chicken with five-coloured salad.
What the diet advocate says: The brainchild of Dr Mark Hyman, he came up with the concept after finding himself sandwiched between a vegan and a paleo advocate while doing a panel talk. ‘The best versions of both diets are built into the foundation: eat real, whole food,’ he says.
What the expert says: ‘This diet has lots of positives – we know wholegrains are heart healthy and an important source of fibre,’ says Tew. ‘But it also cuts out gluten and restricts all grains, making it hard to stick with and unsustainable in the long term.’
WH Verdict: While it’s unlikely to be popular with those who’ve chosen a plant-based lifestyle for ethical reasons, the principal of eating real, whole food is sound. And combining two ways of eating certainly makes it easier to get enough protein and vital nutrients. But it’s still pretty restrictive, so consult a nutrition professional to make sure you aren’t at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
2. The Mediterranean Diet
Pasta, fish, olive oil. Mamma mia! The Mediterranean Diet is so-called because it incorporates healthy living habits from Med-bordering countries like Italy, Spain and Greece. It consistently tops the list when it comes to diets recommended by Western medicine and is similar to Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide.
Typical meal: Pan-fried fish with brown rice and vegetables
What the diet advocate says: ‘The key components of a Mediterranean diet are lots of vegetables, olive oil, oily fish and nuts, with no calorie restrictions. Combine that with cutting down on sugar, which was traditionally a rarity in the region, and you’ve got the base of the Mediterranean diet right. And if you get the base right you can eat a little of whatever else you like,’ says Consultant Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra.
What the expert says: ‘There is a large amount of evidence to suggest that following the MD reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease,’ says registered Dietitian and British Dietetic Association spokesperson Kirsty Barrett. ‘Significantly, a meta-analysis of randomised-control trials in 2011 found that the MD was effective for weight loss, though results were better when the diet was combined with energy restriction and physical activity. It has also been found to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) more than low fat and low carb diets.’
WH verdict: A foodie diet that delivers natural weight long-term term health goals gets our vote. Eating the rainbow means you won’t be missing out on any vital nutrients, too. Win win.
While it might have been brought to your attention by your mate with the ‘Kale 4 lyf’ tee, know that FODMAP isn’t a diet for weight loss. The acronym describes a group of short-chain carbohydrates which, when eliminated, improve the symptoms of IBS-sufferers, and it should only be followed under the supervision of a dietitian.
Typical meal: Sea bass with vegetables
What the diet advocate says: ‘FODMAPS are either absorbed slowly from the small intestine or not absorbed at all,’ says Dr Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and the brains behind the low-FODMAP diet. ‘When the FODMAPs move into the bowel, where they are fermented by bacteria, this produces gas and can also cause water to move into the bowel. This stretches the bowel wall, which stimulates the gut.’
What the expert says: ‘There have been a number of cases where GPs have said, “You’ve got IBS, go on the low-FODMAP diet”,’ says Dr Megan Rossi (@theguthealthdoctor). ‘The only support they give you is a printout with a limited explanation of the diet from the internet. I’ve had clients come into my practice who’ve been given a list of 10 “friendly” foods to survive on, which is nutritionally dangerous.’
WH Verdict: While studies suggest the low-FODMAP diet is effective in the management of IBS symptoms, it has also been linked with disordered eating, and should only be followed under the supervision of a dietitian who’s been trained in the low-FODMAP diet.
4. The Dubrow Diet
Think of it as intermittent fasting 2.0 – only a bit more complicated. Ready? Here goes. There are three windows: one to get you started, one to help you reach your goal weight and a maintenance plan. You eat within a 12-hour, 14-hour or 16-hour window depending on which phase you’re in. But what you eat counts, too. The ‘green light’ lists of foods changes with every phase. Still there?
Typical meal: Depends what phase you’re in. And what time it is. But high-fibre carbs, lean protein, fruit and vegetables are your friends.
What the diet advocate says: The food baby of the US reality couple Heather and Terry Dubrow (she stars in the Real Housewives of Orange County; he’s a plastic surgeon starring in a show called Botched). ‘As opposed to the keto diet that aims to get you to a ketogenic state of using fat as fuel, which isn’t healthy or sustainable in my opinion, interval eating helps you go into a fat-burning state that leads to increased energy and cell renewal – a process called autophagy, the toxin-eating phase,’ says Terry.
What the expert says: ‘Based on intermittent fasting, this style of diet has some evidence to suggest it can work for some people. But it certainly isn’t going to suit all personalities and the initial stage is intense.’
WH Verdict: The evidence for the benefits of fasting is promising, if not conclusive. Not one for poor time-keepers. It’s also framed as ‘a diet’ as opposed to a sustainable eating plan for life.
Weight Watchers – the diet your nan used to follow – is no more. In 2018, the company had a re-brand, with the new WW branding signalling a move away from diet culture and into the wellness-sphere – hint: WW now stands for ‘Wellness that Works’. ‘We are not classed as a diet,’ a member of the press office team tells WH. ‘It is a lifestyle change – a healthy living programme that encompasses food, activity and mindset.’
As for the substance, it’s been getting results since Atkins was a twinkle in Jennifer Aniston’s eye. But the re-brand includes WellnessWins – rewards for small, positive behaviours which are proven to lead to healthier habits – as well as FitPoints – a system designed to encourage activity choices based on what will have the healthiest impact on you.
Typical meal: If you’ve got the points for it, you can eat it.
What the diet advocate says: ‘We are committed to always being the best weight management program on the planet, but now we’re putting our decades of knowledge and expertise in behavioural science to work for an even greater mission,’ says Mindy Grossman, President and Chief Executive Officer, WW. ‘We are becoming the world’s partner in wellness. No matter what your goal is – to lose weight, eat healthier, move more, develop a positive mind-set, or all of the above – we will deliver science-based solutions that fit into people’s lives.’
What the expert says: ‘While it’s great that WW are looking at a holistic approach, I would prefer to see a lot more emphasis on nutritional education and teaching cooking skills and portions sizes,’ says Tew. ‘We need to be encouraging people to tune into their internal cues of hunger, thirst and fullness as well as focusing on all over health.’
WH verdict: It’s still a diet by any other name, but props to Weight Watchers for acknowledging that there’s more to being healthy than ‘weight’. The new platform really does consider all aspects of wellness. And with plans to partner with Alexa and Google Assistant to help track your progress, WW could be to 2019 what Weight Watchers was to the early noughties.
6. Carnivore Diet
A purely plant-based plan. We jest. As the name suggests, it’s all about meat, and other animal products. In short: it’s the anti-vegan diet.
Typical meal: Steak
What the diet advocate says: Controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson is a fan, crediting the diet for curing his daughter’s various ailments, from juvenile arthritis to depression. But it was popularised by Shawn Baker, author of the aptly titled ‘The Carnivore Diet’ – in which he describes the diet as ‘a revolutionary, paradigm-breaking nutritional strategy that takes contemporary dietary theory and dumps it on its head’.
What the expert says: ‘A totally unbalanced diet. Fruit and vegetable have a wealth of research showing their importance in keeping the body healthy. With evidence for heart health, cancer and gut health benefits why would you cut them out?’
WH Verdict: Ethics aside, an eating plan in which your five-a-day is actively discouraged is not one for us.