Fat or fiction? Diet trends explained

WORDS: Rick Brennan PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

It’s important to understand new diet fads without losing the true understanding of what makes any real diet successful.

DIET trends come and go over the years and we generally see headlines promoting the latest trend at the start of the year, capitalising on some of our festive indulgences and how we can get back on track.

In past years, we have had the Cabbage Diet, Keto diet, Carnivore Diet, Vegan diet and as 2022 nears the halfway point, it brings further fads and trends. I think it is important that we understand some of these new diet fads while not losing the true understanding of what makes any real diet successful.

So, in 2022 we have a new list of diets, each proclaiming how their many benefits will help you achieve the ultimate dream results with greater ease and nutritional benefits than the last fad diet.

Here are a few from the class of 2022:

Pegan Diet

High in fruit and vegetables, with around 75 per cent of all calories derived from them alone. While many people consider this diet as having a similar concept to Paleo and Vegan diets, I believe that they are a little less restrictive in nature. This diet consists of reduced quantities of meat, fish, nuts and seeds. While some oils, grains and sugars are not encouraged, they are not eliminated from the diet. I certainly agree there are huge benefits with diets high in green leafy vegetables, however, I try to limit the amount of starch and at times fruit in some people’s diets (except for those who engage in high-intensity sports where the body is requiring larger amounts of carbohydrates to fuel the working muscles).

There are benefits to following this diet, but I would encourage you to receive adequate amounts of protein (amino acids) from wholefoods as they are paramount for the growth and maintenance of tissues while also being the catalyst to producing hormones and enzymes, which are essential to maximising our health.

“The most successful diet is the one that becomes a lifestyle change, not a short-term change.”

Dash Diet

Like the Pegan Diet, this one is rich in fruit and vegetables but includes higher amounts of grains. The main objective of this diet is to help lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension. The diet includes foods rich in magnesium, calcium and potassium and limits foods high in sodium, saturated fat and sugars. With the recent rise in heart attacks, the Dash Diet is quickly growing in popularity as it’s proven to lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) – the cholesterol which is a known factor for heart disease and stroke.

While the diet does recommend lowering sodium intake, it’s important to remember the body requires sodium to conduct nerve impulses, the contraction and relaxation of muscles while helping maintain mineral and water balance. Dairy is not eliminated from this diet however I recommend opting for very low-fat dairy products while limiting lean meats, fish, and poultry to one serving a day. I believe there are plenty of benefits to following this type of diet, especially for those wanting to lower their blood pressure, by decreasing their LDL levels, to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Flexitarian Diet

I expect this diet to establish a huge following in coming years as it’s essentially a flexible alternative to following a much stricter vegetarian regime. This diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts however it does allow for the occasional introduction of meat. When choosing animal proteins, I recommended incorporating organic free-range chicken or turkey, grass-fed beef or wild-caught salmon.

This diet does not involve the counting of calories but encourages the ability to understand your own food requirements and for this reason alone, I believe this diet will grow in popularity. There are plenty of health benefits associated with the Flexitarian Diet which include lowering the risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes – a disease I believe can be prevented by simply avoiding a high-calorie diet and incorporating regular exercise.

Mediterranean Diet

The one diet that has stood the test of time is the Mediterranean diet and with good reason. This diet consists of fish, poultry, dairy, healthy fats, fruit and vegetables. A Mediterranean meal is known as a meal of colour without the consumption of processed foods. The Mediterranean diet is known to lower inflammation while reducing the risk of diabetes.

Here is a brief list of some of the key points I believe are critical for any diet to be successful:

  1. Reduce added sugar
  2. Reduce refined carbohydrates
  3. Eliminate artificial trans-fats
  4. Choose high fibre vegetables (low in starch)
  5. Always look for high-quality whole-food proteins
  6. Reduce vegetable oils high in Omega 6
  7. Choose wholefoods

At the end of the day, the key factor for any diet is calorie balance. A calorie balance is determined through the calories we consume versus the calories necessary for body maintenance, recovery and movement. For anyone choosing to put on weight, a hyper-caloric diet (surplus of calories) is necessary. For those wanting to lose weight, a hypo-caloric diet (deficit of calories) is required.

I have no doubt new diet trends will come and go but the one constant that ultimately determines the result is the amount we do or don’t eat. The most successful diet is the one that becomes a lifestyle change, not a short-term change. It is one you can adhere to which is enjoyable and sustainable long-term. There are plenty of quick-fix diets and from time to time I encourage all of us to try a gut reset or a form of cleansing diet for a brief period (three to seven days). However, for any long-term success, all diets need to suit our goals, lifestyle, medical requirements and in some cases, performance.

* Rick Brennan is a certified personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach and sports nutritionist with more than 25 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry. Rick has helped change the lives of thousands of people through his body transformation coaching and online personal training and nutrition programs.

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