Debunking diets

Vegan

What- Veganism has grown in popularity over the last 20 years. A stricter version of vegetarianism, this diet contains no animal products whatsoever; including eggs, dairy products or honey. 

Who- People are choosing to go vegan for many reasons; including animal rights and ethical issues, as well as religious beliefs, environmental concerns and for health purposes. For example, some studies show a link between veganism and a reduced risk of developing chronic conditions, including heart disease. Whether this is due to the diet itself, or a combination of lifestyle choices made by vegans, remains debatable.

Starting it- It’s much easier to adopt a vegan diet than it was 10 years ago! Many restaurants and cafes now cater for vegans on their menus, and supermarkets are stocking a lot more vegan produce. However, it’s important that you plan your diet carefully so that you’re consuming enough macro and micronutrients. For example, vegans are at risk of becoming deficient in calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. As a qualified nutritionist, I would not recommend a vegan diet for pregnant women, children and teens, or the elderly as these groups require additional nutrients compared to the rest of the population. 

Paleo

What- The paleo diet requires us to eat the way our ancestors ate. Essentially, this means avoiding all processed foods and alcohol, and instead adopting a whole food diet; so far it sounds sensible and intuitive, right? However, the paleo diet also asks you to shun dairy and grains, which is not something I would normally recommend as a qualified nutritionist.

Who- Like the vegan diet, pretty much anyone can adopt the paleo diet so long as they plan it well. This is a great one if you’re looking to lose weight as whole foods tend to be more filling, nutritious and lower in calories than their processed counterparts. However, I would advise against children, teenagers and the elderly from adopting a paleo diet due to it lacking in dairy and grains, which are important food groups for these populations to consume. 

Starting it- Start by clearing your cupboards of any processed food that’s high in sugar, salt and added ingredients. Then, go to the supermarket and shop like a caveman; think meat, fish, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Check the ingredients list and, if there’s anything you can’t pronounce, put it back on the shelf! 

Keto 

What- Keto is thediet de jour. However, the concept is nothing new. The keto diet encourages you to avoid carbohydrates in favour of a high-fat, moderate-protein diet. Sound like Atkins? Well; in a nutshell, this is what it is. The idea is that by removing carbs (your body’s preferred source of energy), your body will shift to using fat (including body fat) instead.

Who- The keto diet can be very affective for weight loss. However, this is a difficult diet to follow for anyone who likes the odd slice of bread or a bowl of porridge, and it’s very unsustainable in the long-term! Vegetarians also struggle with keto as their diets are naturally slightly higher in carbs than omnivorous diets. This is also not a good diet to try if you’re an athlete or regular at the gym; carbs are super important for maximising athletic performance so don’t be surprised if you’re no longer able to smash your PB! 

 Starting it- Like paleo and vegan diets, a keto diet needs careful planning to ensure you’re not missing out on important micronutrients; this time, the key ones being B vitamins and fibre; or overdoing it on others; for example, saturated fats and iron. Fill your shopping cart with plenty of lean white meat, eggs, fish, and green veggies, as well and quark, Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds.

Autophagic

What- Autophagy is a natural regeneration process that occurs within the body. A combination of fasting, high-intensity exercise and carbohydrate restriction can enhance this process, and has been hailed as the new way to lose weight and reverse aging. 

Who- This is one to try if you’re looking to live longer or reduce the likelihood of developing chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons Disease. It’s a hard-core way to live and requires long-term commitment so is not one for the faint-hearted, and should not be attempted without supervision from a qualified nutrition professional or doctor. 

Starting it- Seek advice from a registered nutritionist before you begin. Visit your GP to ensure you are also fit to take part in high intensity exercise and intermittent fasting.