Thursday, September 3, 2015

Diet 101: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What do you think about when you hear the word “diet”? Do you think it refers to limiting or restricting certain macronutrients? Does low calorie or calorie restriction come to mind? The word diet should actually refer to what you eat on a daily basis, it is a lifestyle. All over the internet there is “Try this diet,” “no try this diet.” “Carbs are good for you,” “No they are not!” Because there are so many fads and “diets”, I will be focusing on the “diet” that most people think of. This post will help you weed through the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you can decide for yourself.

1. Low Carb:

 Yes, I am totally going there! Carbohydrates are not your enemy. Not all carbs are created equal (more on this later).  Low carb diets consist of less than 20% of calories from carbs or 20 to 60 grams per day.  The recommended % of carbs for the average person is 40 to 60% of total calories while athletes may need slightly more. Popular low carb diets such as the Zone or Atkins Diet, are generous with fat and protein. During this diet the glycogen stores are depleted. There is an initial weight loss but people usually plateau in weight loss early or gain it back within 6 months.

 Your body breaks down carbs as the primary source of energy, but carbohydrates are the ONLY fuel source for your brain and red blood cells. Restricting your carbs can be very detrimental to your body and have long term safety issues. When your carbohydrate intake is lacking, body protein is pulled as energy in the form of amino acids from the blood, from muscles, and tissues like your heart, liver, and kidneys. The amino acids from these proteins cannot be used to make new cells, repair damage, support the immune system, or perform any of their other functions. Over a prolonged period of time, irreversible organ damage can occur.  The body also seeks an alternative source of fuel for the brain and begins to break sown stored fat in a process called ketosis, which produces ketones. Ketones are acids and can cause the blood to become acidic, leading to ketoacidosis. The acidity of the bloods interferes with bodily functions, causes the loss of lean muscle mass, and damages many body tissues. Severe ketoacidosis can lead to coma or death.

 Common complaints: headaches or constipation

Associated with deficiencies:

                vitamin A
                vitamin C
                vitamin E

There are simple sugars found in enriched flour products, candy, packaged goods, etc. Simple sugars are short chains of sugar. Complex sugars are long chains of glucose which break down more slowly. They are  found in whole wheat/grain products, legumes, beans, etc. You also have to factor in the food’s glycemic levels. Foods with a high glycemic level break down quickly leading to a spike in glucose levels. Foods with low glycemic levels are digested more slowly and cause a small glucose increase. For 7 reasons why whole grains are good for you check out this earlier post or for more information about the glycemic index of foods/how carbs are beneficial for athletes go here.

2. High Protein:

A lot of people love this diet because it keeps you feeling full longer than a high fat or high carb diet.  High protein intake can contribute to bone loss for certain individuals (minimal chance of risk for healthy individuals), since it increases calcium excretion.  Metabolizing the amino acids makes the blood more acidic and calcium is pulled to buffer the acids. High protein diets may increase the risk for kidney disease in people who are more susceptible such as diabetics.

 A moderate increase could help weight loss.

 3. High fat:

A high fat diet is the densest. This makes it harder for calorie balance to achieve weight loss. It also has a lower thermogenic effect than a high protein diet which means. There is less satiety than a high protein or carb diet so you may become hungry faster, which involves eating more. Excess dietary fat is easily stored as fat.

4. Detox Diets:

Ah the detox diet… I caution against these for several reasons. Yes, you may lose weight but the cons out weigh the pros. “Dieters” can lose 5 to 10% of their weight in the first months of the diet, BUT more than 60% of people regain the weight they have lost. Detox diets can interfere with drug and nutrient interactions. Because they are so restrictive they fail to bring long lasting lifestyle changes. It  is easy to “fall off the wagon” and  may contribute to long term psychological issues of dependency and self-efficacy decreases after unsuccessful attempts. Detox diets are also costly. They should not be relied upon to treat chronic diseases.

5. Commercial Diets:

Commercial diets consist of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and several other online programs. What I love about theses diets are that they offer support, accountability, and encouragement and include real foods. I am not a big fan of shakes, bars, or supplements which some companies may promote, since meals should consist of real food and not meal replacements. As long as you eat balanced meals, these “diets” have a high rate of long term success.

Your body was designed to have all of the macronutrients in balance to be able to function properly. All of them play a vital role. Having a balanced diet is important for optimal health.

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