5 Fad Diets That May Not Be So 'Healthy'

In today’s age, there are many diet and fitness fads that people follow blindly. They think that these are an easy way to good health. But such quick fix diets can be disastrous

By Luke Coutinho

5 Fad Diets That May Not Be So 'Healthy'

With an increasing focus these days on staying fit, many diet and fitness fads have surfaced. While some people swear by these fads, there are others who think these are harmful to health. All fad diets have two things in common — they’re too restrictive and hence boring; and they may give quick results but may affect overall health. They are only a temporary fix to a long-term eating and lifestyle problem one may have. 

Understanding nutrition

The body is made up of millions of cells that perform important functions. Each cell requires nutrients that are important for its function. For example, cholesterol (fat) is required for maintaining the structure of the cell. So, a diet completely devoid of cholesterol does not help your body cells at all. Some fad diets often neglect micro-nutrients important for various functions like optimal brain function, maintaining the health of the skin or the body cells, while others ignore one of the macro-nutrients such as fats or carbohydrates, also important in their own way in the body.

Why do some people follow a fad diet?

Often, the social stigma associated with being overweight and pressure from peers to be in shape, prompts many individuals to follow a fad diet. Teens and young moms may be vulnerable to this trend.These factors, combined with lofty claims by advertisers that promise weight loss within days, make people opt for fad diets. Fad diets may be popular because they give quick results that are visible. What people miss are the health hazards these diets cause later.

Do fad diets work?

The first question about a weight loss plan should be whether it is healthy or not. With most fad diets, you are likely to lose weight due to the reduction of water and lean muscle, while still retaining excess fat in the body. This is a disaster.

Unfortunately, many fad diets like the high-antioxidant diet, protein bar and protein shake diet, juicing diet, fruit-focused diet and so on, fail in fulfilling the nutritional needs of most people. The resultant signs are muscle cramps, confusion, dehydration, hair loss, lack of concentration, fainting, etc.

5 Fad Diets That May Not Be So 'Healthy'

  1. Juice diet: This diet is popular for quick fix weight loss as calorie intake is restricted. People follow this diet for quick results and the convenience of sipping juices all day with minimal or no solid food intake. If you ask me this is a good idea, the answer is no! Juices will never provide enough healthy fats and proteins required for your body. Omega 3 is a particularly good example, which goes missing in such a diet. This can lead to dermatitis or rough and scaly skin, dull hair, dandruff, lack of concentration and even depression or anxiety in severe cases. Finally, these diets do not provide enough fibre needed for strong gut health, leading to digestive problems.
  2. High-antioxidant diet: This one focuses more on eating fruits and raw eating. While I advocate consuming lots of antioxidants, a diet that focuses only on this substance is not advisable. Such a diet is deficient in proteins and some minerals like zinc, which is crucial for wound healing and breaking down the carbs in the body so that they are not stored as fats. A zinc deficiency can compromise a body’s immunity and make it more prone to infections and diseases.
  3. Gluten-free diet: A gluten-free diet is recommended only for people with celiac disease. But, a lot of other people are also adopting it. Despite not knowing what gluten is, many people go for gluten-free desserts and baked items. Such a meal plan will be devoid of whole grains or anything that is derived from whole grains, which means the body will not get sufficient fibre,  vitamin B complex and minerals like iron and magnesium.
  4. Protein bar diet: Such a diet is high in protein and low in fat. While protein bars can be good on-the-go snacks, it is not a good idea to have a diet based on them. This can lead to consumption of too many calories as most of these are sugary. People go for this diet for either weight loss or weight gain, but the result is a deficiency of B vitamins and healthy fats.  Excessive consumption can lead to an overdose of unhealthy carbs.
  5. Macrobiotic diet: Is ancient and is popular for detox and weight loss. A diet low in saturated fat, this one emphasises on eating whole grains, veggies, legumes and fruits. While this sounds good, people are unaware of the importance of saturated fats in the body. Saturated fats are required in moderate amounts for biological functions like hormone regulation, organ protection and cell signaling. All cells and organs of the body and brain communicate with each other through cell signaling. This includes a sense of hunger, wound healing, immune response, etc. A macrobiotic diet nearly eliminates saturated fat and excludes animal or dairy sources. This can lead to severe vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficiencies. 

There are many such fad diets that focus on some nutrients only to help you achieve your goals faster. However, they remove the focus on other important nutrients. As a result, as you will most likely end up treating and correcting some other nutritional deficiency later.

The author is an expert in integrative and lifestyle medicine, holistic nutrition; exercise physiologist and Founder, Pure Nutrition.

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