Pros and Cons of Today’s Most Popular Diets

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Weight loss


Every day we get bombarded with new information about what we should be eating, how we should be eating it and when we should eat it. Promises are thrown out regularly, saying that certain diets can help us lose weight or stave off disease—but what’s right? And more importantly, which one is right for you?

Low-Carb

The low-carb diet has been a source of controversy since it was initially introduced in the 1970s. When sticking to a low-carb diet, you must drastically reduce the total number of carbohydrates in your meal plan by avoiding foods like pasta, wheat, starchy vegetables, sugars and alcohol.
Low carb diets do tend to result in more rapid weight loss. Very low carb diets are difficult to maintain long-term, though.

Opting for a moderate amount (90-130g) of unprocessed carbohydrates each day (whole grains, fruits, legumes, low fat dairy, vegetables), choosing lean proteins and filling up on non-starchy vegetables is a realistic goal for long-term success and maintenance if you want to lower your carb intake. Most of us tend to overindulge in starchy items like potatoes, rice, bread and pasta, so reducing the amount of these can make a huge difference in your weight.

PROS

  • Can assist with weight-loss goals
  • No restrictions on the amount of food you eat, as long as it’s an approved food and you stay within your carb limit for the day

CONS

  • Some plans emphasize the consumption of high-fat and high-cholesterol foods such as processed meats, butter and high-fat dairy
  • Discourages overconsumption of high-nutrient foods like fruits
  • Very low carb diets can be difficult to maintain and result in weight regain once stopped

Low-Calorie

Low-calorie diets can be done a number of ways—either through an organized program like Weight Watchers, or on your own by keeping a journal or digital log of your daily intake. Just as the name would suggest, the only thing you have to do in order to follow this diet is to limit the total number of calories you consume daily, regardless of where they come from. It is not recommended that you restrict your daily calorie intake to less than 800-1000 calories unless you are being supervised by a physician.

PROS

  • Flexible diet that is easy to follow for most people
  • Wide variety of foods available that still work within the diet
  • Supports long-term weight loss goals

CONS

  • Only successful when you consistently record your eating habits throughout the day
  • Must pay attention to your overall nutrient consumption, not just calories; there are some high-calorie foods that are very nutritious and vice versa
  • Can reduce your metabolism over time, resulting in rapid regain of weight if your calorie intake increases

Paleo

If summarizing the paleo movement into one sentence, one could say, “If cavemen didn’t eat it, neither should you.” Essentially, those who follow the paleo diet believe that modern-day agriculture has changed the way we eat in a negative way–one that’s making us fatter and more sickly than our ancestors. The paleo diet thus allows high-protein foods like fish, vegetables, nuts and fruits (things that could be hunted or gathered), while restricting foods such as dairy, grains, potatoes and other packaged goods (things that are heavily processed and/or manufactured by humans).

PROS

  • Reduces the total number of processed foods, which are often full of added salts, sugars and fats
  • Emphasizes fresh, whole ingredients that retain a lot of their original nutrients
  • Easy to follow, with no careful label-reading or tracking needed

CONS

  • Can overemphasize meats and proteins, which contain fats and cholesterol
  • Eliminates important food groups that provide many with vitamin D, calcium and fiber, which can cause some GI problems
  • Can be hard to shop for this diet, since some items like game are not found in your local grocery store

Vegan

Generally speaking, vegans eat everything except those foods which come from, or are derived from, a living being. That means no meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, etc. Many vegans also choose to eliminate the use of other animal-related products, like leather goods, feather bedding or certain cosmetics.

PROS

  • Nutrient-rich diet with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Low in saturated fats and cholesterol
  • Benefits the environment

CONS

  • You may have to take a supplement for the nutrients that you can’t get through a plant-based diet
  • More careful shopping and label-reading is necessary to make sure you are getting enough protein
  • Restrictive, which means it may be difficult to maintain long-term

Fasting

Regulated fasting, such as the 5:2 model, claims that it can help people who love to eat lose weight easily. The premise is that for five days out of the week, you can eat normally, but then for the remaining two, you greatly restrict your total calorie intake (500 for women, 600 for men).

PROS

  • Short periods of fasting may help give your digestive system some much-needed rest
  • Reported to be as effective as a regular low-calorie diet
  • Believed to reduce the levels of IGF-1 in the blood, which is a hormone that has been connected to aging and cancers

CONS

  • May cause dehydration, difficulty sleeping and a general fogginess
  • Difficult to maintain over a long period of time
  • May lead to eating disorders in vulnerable individuals

There is no “perfect diet”

They all have their benefits and drawbacks, especially depending on what your personal goals are. The single most important thing to consider before beginning a new diet is to discuss your options and goals with your healthcare provider. They will be able to help you make a choice that is right for your body type, lifestyle, health status and age.

To schedule an appointment with a physician today, please visit ololphysiciangroup.com.
 
 


About Emily Thevis

Emily L. Thevis is a Registered Dietitian at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and a Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist through the Commission on Dietetic Registration. She received her bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and completed her dietetic internship at North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond, LA. She is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and specializes in weight loss surgery.​

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