There’s rarely a shortage of diet and health trends. Harder to sort out is which ones are legit and which are a total crock. Luckily, we scoured the wellness world to see what people are obsessing over right now, and then consulted experts to get their input on each one.
“Lately, I’m seeing less of an emphasis on fad diets and more focus on diet lifestyles,” says Sharon Palmer, a registered dietician who’s known as The Plant-Powered Dietitian. “This is a very positive change since it’s easier to follow a long-term, sustainable diet plan than a restrictive pattern you can’t wait to go off of.” Research also shows that the most effective weight-loss diets are those that you can sustain over the long term, so it’s best to find one you like.
To that end, ahead are some top wellness trends of 2017 (as well as some longstanding diets that remain popular today), plus expert tips on whether they’re worth trying or skipping.
With Volumetrics, eating volume-rich foods helps fill you up and can lower your hunger level. It can also help you retrain your brain to recognize foods that provide more satiety (and usually health benefits) — such as popcorn versus chocolate-chip cookies.
“A lot of volume-rich foods, like fruits and veggies, are high in water, which helps you feel satisfied,” says Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian and nutritionist based in New Jersey. Obviously, just make sure you don’t apply the Volumetrics principle to junk food, or you’ll see the number on the scale skyrocket and your health plummet.
The Sirtfood diet
Living on dark chocolate and wine may not sound that bad, but Gorin says this diet isn’t ideal. It consists of eating those treats along with foods such as kale, green tea and turmeric to activate proteins called sirtuins, which are said to regulate inflammation and metabolism while protecting the cells in your body.
“The deprivation stage is extreme at 1,000 calories for a few days,” Gorin says. “Limiting your calorie intake to that degree could result in overeating later on to compensate.” Instead, consider incorporating some of the diet’s healthy ingredients, but add lean proteins and healthy fats. You’ll also need more variety in produce since the food list doesn’t provide enough of a balance, says Gorin.
The ketogenic diet
Ketogenic is similar to Atkins, which advocates healthy fats as longer-lasting fuel instead of grains that burn off quickly and leave you hungry. When you eat this way, your body becomes better at burning fats and they turn into ketones in the liver, which supply energy for the brain. It’s also been shown to help brain health, metabolism and energy levels.
“Healthy fats like avocados, wild caught fish, coconut oil, coconut milk, olive oil [and] grass-fed beef are a slow, sustainable form of energy, unlike the sugary roller coaster many find themselves on,” says Dr. Will Cole, a functional medicine practitioner from Pennsylvania. “Biology knows best: As Babies, we were all born relying on fat in the form of breast milk for brain development and energy.”
The five-bite diet
There’s no counting calories when you take just five bites per meal — but who can (or would want to) live that way?! “Eating such a low amount of calories is dangerous to your health and can harm your metabolism. It’s very low in calories and won’t contain all the nutrients you need in a day,” Gorin said.
In other words, it’s just a fancy name for an eating disorder — don’t bother with this one.
Verdict: Try (for some)
You may notice friends on social media trying this plan, which is gaining traction, says Sharon Palmer. “There are pros and cons to this diet, which promotes eating more whole foods for 30 days, but eliminates many other healthful foods, such as whole grains and legumes,” Palmer says. “There is absolutely no evidence these foods are harmful. In fact, studies consistently link them with lower risk of disease.”
So, essentially it just helps you cut out foods that could potentially be upping your caloric intake, preventing you from losing weight. If it’s just slimming down you want, give this a shot, but if it’s a long-term lifestyle change you’re looking for, this may not be the most sustainable (and you probably shouldn’t permanently eliminate many of these foods, anyway.)
Verdict: Skip (unless you’re super-careful)
Fasting is nothing new, but the practice is trending again. “One of the most common ways to do intermittent fasting is to stop eating after 8 p.m. before bed and skip breakfast in the morning, waiting to eat at lunch or even later,” Cole noted. Believers in fasting claim it helps regulate their appetites, allow their GI tracts to heal and rest in between meals, and enable more efficient digestion when they do eat.
Many medical experts seem to agree that intermittent fasting is okay, but most nutritionists do note that skipping breakfast isn’t always the best idea, as eating a protein-rich meal at the start of the day gives you energy, brainpower, and can kick-start your metabolism.
The Mediterranean diet
If you enjoy eating nuts, legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry, fruits and veggies — in other words, a healthy, balanced diet — you’ll probably be a fan of the Mediterranean diet, which Jimmy Minardi, a personal trainer from California, says is a great choice.
“This eating style has been around for a long time and isn’t losing any traction,” Gorin said. “It offers many benefits, including supporting your brain and heart. It may even help you live longer and help you lose weight.” Sounds like a win-win.
The Atkins diet
Even though you’ve probably heard of this low-carb, high-fat and high-protein eating plan that was popular in the early 2000s, it’s not going anywhere.
“Atkins is great if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are also other less obvious benefits, like less hunger and a steady supply of energy,” Minardi said. “You can still eat fruits and vegetables that are lower on the glycemic scale, and you tend to lose weight quickly, which is an incentive to stick with it.”
Veggies have never gone out of style in diets and eating plans, but more people are looking to integrate plant-based meals into their diets now.
Cole says the plant-based trend was originally born from the Paleo diet, which advocates eating only foods that cavemen could eat — which means skipping out on anything processed.
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