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Food Trends: Top Diet Trends of 2013 by Carmen Roberts MS, RD, LDN

At Kindred Nutrition we're not too keen on putting all of our eggs in one basket as a New Years Resolution.  Our goal is to help people establish lifestyle changes that are realistic and achievable so that a New Years Resolution can be more along the lines of spending more time with friends or family or taking that dream vacation.   That being said we are still aware that one of the most famous New Years Resolutions is to try a new diet.  In many ways 2013 was the year of "emerging or re-emerging diets."  Were you just as confused as we were? Below is a summary with pros and cons. Enjoy!

The Paleo Diet
The Paleolithic (Paleo) Diet is centered on the premise that if we eat like our caveman ancestors, we will lose weight and ward off disease. The “hunter/gatherer” way of life encourages the consumption of those foods that existed during the caveman days, including all meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.  The Paleo diet excludes all dairy, grains, and legumes, claiming that the onset of chronic disease occurred as a result of the agricultural revolution that introduced these foods into our diet.
Pros: Cutting out all processed foods, salt, and added sugars can have many health benefits.  Consuming a diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and heart healthy fats can help you to lose weight, regulate blood pressure, control blood sugar, and prevent type 2 diabetes.
Cons: Eliminating all dairy products could lead to a deficiency in calcium and vitamin D.  Cutting whole grains out of your diet may reduce dietary fiber intake.  A high fiber diet has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Intermittent Fasting
The intermittent fasting (IF) approach to dieting is to allow your body to go a “longer than normal” amount of time between meals.  IF can vary greatly from person to person- some people choose to skip one meal each day while others may choose to fast for an entire day once a week.  During IF, a person consumes no solid food (however water, tea, and low or non-caloric beverages are allowed).  The proponents of IF believe that during this period of fasting, the body can be “cleansed” of dead and damaged cells.  Some studies have shown that alternate day fasting can lead to a decreased risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Pros: For many people who are trying to lose weight, frequent snacking or late-night eating can be a large contributor to excess caloric intake.  Sticking to 3 sensible meals each day may help in limiting overall calorie intake while preventing hunger. There is no harm in skipping an occasional meal, and for some people this may be effective in helping them to lose weight in the long run.
Cons: Other research has shown that for people who frequently miss meals or go long periods of time between meals tend to over-consume high fat, high calorie foods at the next meal, making their efforts counterproductive when trying to lose weight. Inconsistent eating patterns can also negatively affect your metabolic rate (how effectively your body burns calories).This diet is not appropriate for growing children under the age of 18, pregnant and lactating women, athletes, people living with diabetes, and other individuals (such as people with severe chronic reflux or GERD) for whom regular food intake can help to alleviate their symptoms.

hCG Diet
The hCG Diet is a weight loss diet that couples extreme caloric restriction with daily injections or oral drops of hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), which is a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. The diet is very low in calories (as low as 500 calories per day). Dieters are encouraged to follow this plan for 45 days.  The theory is that the hCG hormones will make you feel less hungry and force your body to burn stored body fat for fuel.
Pros: As with any diet that restricts calories, you will lose weight if you are burning more calories than you are consuming. The diet plan includes primarily organic, unprocessed foods, which can have a positive impact on your health.
Cons: There is no proven research that hCG injections can promote weight loss. The weight loss resulting from following this diet is most likely from the dramatic caloric restriction.Severe complications and deficiencies can be a result of extremely low-calorie diets. Most dietitians do not encourage their clients to consume less than 1200 calories per day, since very low-calorie diets can force the body to break down muscle mass rather than stored body fat for fuel.  Very low-calorie diets can also be deficient in many key nutrients your body needs. And not only is hCG expensive, but injections can also lead to nutritional deficiencies and can have harmful side effects.

The Gluten-Free Diet
First, we need to define what gluten is, and the difference between true gluten allergy and gluten intolerance.  The gluten-free diet has been around for quite some time, and has been used as the dietary treatment for people who have Celiac disease, which is a digestive disorder that prevents your intestines from absorbing nutrients properly.  People with this disease have an allergy to gluten, which is the protein found in grains (wheat, barley, and rye). For people with Celiac disease, eating gluten can cause severe intestinal damage and can present with dramatic symptoms, including mouth sores, rash, joint pain,severe abdominal cramping, and diarrhea.  True Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose, since it may present with similar symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), ulcers, or Crohn’s disease.
For people who have gluten intolerance, the damage to the body is not as severe, but it may present with uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating and abdominal cramping. For this reason, some people choose to avoid gluten for a period of time to determine if eliminating gluten from their diet improves these gastrointestinal symptoms.
Gluten-free eating has become increasingly popular with the general population with new diet trends such as “Wheat Belly.”  This diet claims that by removing wheat from your diet, you will lose weight. This is based on the theory that when you eat wheat, your body secretes very high levels of insulin, causing your body to store more fat, particularly in the abdominal area.  This diet also claims that these high levels of insulin can lead to decreased blood sugar, which can cause you to feel hungry.  The author of this diet states that by removing wheat from your diet you can limit the cycles of high insulin and low blood sugar, decreasing your hunger and cravings, resulting in overall weight loss.
Pros: There are many research studies that show that limiting high-carbohydrate foods (particularly those with little nutritional value such as snack foods and high-sugar foods) can lead to decreased hunger and lower caloric consumption, resulting in weight loss.  Selecting high-quality carbohydrate choices that are high in fiber (such as fresh vegetables and fruits) instead of starchy foods with limited nutritional value can also help with weight loss and can limit the extreme swings in insulin and blood sugar levels that cause hunger.  If you do have symptoms of gluten intolerance, this diet may be for you.  Gluten is difficult to avoid, however with the growing popularity of gluten-free diets, there are many gluten-free products now available not only at natural markets, but in your corner grocery store.
Cons: You can achieve the positive results listed above of hunger suppression and weight loss without eliminating wheat entirely.  People who follow a gluten-free diet may be at risk for nutritional deficiencies, since many grains are enriched with vitamins and minerals. Have your dietitian evaluate your daily intake of these key nutrients: fiber, iron, calcium, niacin, folate, thiamin, and riboflavin.


Thank you for this unbiased review piece of some of the current diets out there. I see a lot of RDs attack the Paleo diet, but as you said, it has a lot of positives. The hcg diet is definitely one to avoid, though. I don't follow a Paleo diet exactly, I still eat dairy, but since I was put on a gluten-free diet by my GI doc for sensitivity, I follow a lot of Paleo bloggers and have read some of their books for the great recipes and tips. My favorite is Chris Kresser's new Personal Paleo Code because he DOES allow dairy, legumes, and grains, if they are traditionally prepared, and after they have been eliminated for 30 days to 'reset' the body and see if it can tolerate them with reintroduction. It's like Paleo meets Elimination diet. I would definitely recommend that to my patients with IBS/IBD issues. I did eliminate Dairy and Gluten during my elimination diet, but added Dairy back and felt well, so continued with it. Added gluten back, and felt horrible, so went gluten-free. This was all under the supervision of my doctor, though, and I think that's important to recognize. Thanks again for the great article!
Cohen Ilan said…
Thanks, very informative.

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