Diets debunked: What works and what doesn’t

Courtney Nalivka
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Courtney Nalivka NNRH clinical dietitian

Atkins Diet. Whole30 Diet. Weight Watchers. The HCG Diet. Lemon Juice Diet. Paleo, Jenny Craig, Military Diet, Souping, Juicing, and Brothing. The list can go on and on. It can be overwhelming to translate the information we have access to on the internet for the latest diet fads, but do they really work? Or are they a fad that won’t last longer than a gallon of milk left in the car during the month of July?

At the beginning of 2017 a group of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and other nutrition experts ranked 38 different diets or diet programs and compiled it into a report for U.S. News and World Report. Criteria included in the review process included feasibility/ease to follow the diet, effects on short term and long term weight loss, safety and nutritional adequacy, and how the diet can help prevent chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Costs and exercise associated with the diet or program were not part of the analysis.

Here are six of the 38 diets reviewed that might clear up some of your questions about whether the diet program you are interested in would be worth looking into or if you would be better off avoiding the diet all together.

1. The WHOLE30 Diet

a. Claim to fame: This diet gives your body a chance to restore its natural balance in 30 days. It improves digestion, mental health, sleep, brain function, and skin health and can result in weight loss.

b. How it works: This diet is broken down into two phases. In Phase 1 added sugars (natural and artificial), legumes, grains, dairy, alcohol, additives such as MSG and sulfites, and baked goods or junk foods (even if made with WHOLE30 approved foods) are eliminated. There are no cheat days allowed and no weighing during this period. It is designed for three meals per day and no snacking between meals. Foods allowed are meats, seafood, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and natural fats. In Phase 2 you reintroduce foods in the following order: Gluten-free alcohol, legumes, gluten-free grains, dairy, and then all other grains. During this time you will evaluate whether the foods cause any negative side effects.

c. Pros and Cons: This diet Improves self-awareness, promotes grocery shopping with a list and planning weekly menus. The recipes can be added to any healthy meal plan even if the diet isn’t followed. The cons are that this diet eliminates many foods that provide essential nutrients for 30 days or indefinitely, it can be hard to follow for a month, and it lacks strong scientific evidence at this time. It…

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