What’s hot, what’s not and what actually works
Summertime in the Texas heat brings the thought of wanting to look and feel our best in cooler, smaller clothing. With more people searching for effective health solutions, it’s easy to get confused by all the information available. We caught up with nutrition expert, Carol Wolin-Riklin, MA, RD, LD, to learn more about today’s health trends and if they are worth testing out.
The Paleo Diet
Also known as the “caveman diet”, the Paleo diet is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals. Advocates say we should eat the way we ate as hunters and gatherers: animal protein and plants.
•Pros: Helps people return to a diet based on naturally occurring foods and eliminates the purchase of processed and fast foods. Meals are lower in salt, refined sugar and carbohydrate.
•Cons: Requires planning meals ahead of time and cooking more at home.
•Recommendation: There are no studies to provide evidence that the Paleo diet will help to decrease heart disease and diabetes rates. Limiting carbohydrate and refined sugar in any diet will help to promote weight loss. The Paleo diet is low in Vitamin D and dairy products, so consult your primary doctor for nutritional supplement needs when starting this diet.
Gluten-free diets forbid grains like wheat, barley, rye and foods processed where those grains are present. Gluten is a combination of proteins that are bound together by a carbohydrate in grains.
•Pros: Initiating a gluten-free diet is a way to become more aware of what it is that you are actually eating. A gluten-free diet encourages a more natural style of eating with less processed foods, convenience foods and refined carbohydrates.
•Cons: Gluten-free foods can be expensive and more time consuming to find and purchase. Gluten-free diets tend to be lower in nutrients due to the limitation of enriched grain. Be aware that just because a food is gluten-free does not mean it is healthy.
•For those who do not need to be on a strict gluten-free diet for medical reasons like celiac disease or gluten intolerance, is it safe to follow?
It has become more popular to follow a gluten free-diet, but avoiding gluten for non-medical reasons does not provide any extra health benefits. Although this diet does help the user become more aware of the ingredients and nutritional content of foods, the most important consideration while on a restricted diet is to eat a variety of foods and consult with your doctor regarding multivitamin and calcium supplementation needs.
Made by blending green raw leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, celery, parsley and broccoli with fruit(s) such as oranges, kiwis, apples, strawberries, pears, and bananas, and water or ice.
•Pros: Low in calories and high in fiber.
•Cons: Low in protein. Will be difficult to drink if you do not like the taste of green vegetables.
•Recommendation: These are not to be used as a meal replacement shake. Green smoothies will provide vitamins and fiber as a supplement to your diet.
Farmers Market Foods
Buying from a farmers market gives you a direct contact to a local food producer. Farmers markets are a great way to access fresher, more flavorful food.
•Pros: Purchasing these foods is a way to support local farmers and vendors. Farmers market foods are not processed or engineered with chemicals, additives or preservatives like their commercial counterparts, which results in tastier fresher food.
•Cons: May be costlier to obtain. Foods from farmers markets are not as readily available as supermarket food, so one must plan ahead.
•Recommendation: Become a locavarian and find out where your local markets are to support your community and maintain a fresher diet.
Bacteria known as probiotics are becoming popular in the quest to promote our health. Eating foods with probiotics or taking probiotic supplements helps to put good bacteria back into our digestive system.
•Pros: Probiotics help to restore digestive health. The good bacteria that are in probiotics are often lost as food is processed and packaged.
•Cons: Probiotics can cause gas and bloating.
•Recommendation: Read food product containing probiotic label before purchasing. The product should contain 2 billion microorganisms. Store the food as directed on label to preserve integrity of probiotic.
Coconut Concentrates and Oils
Coconut concentrates and oils are natural food products promoted as offering up a variety of health benefits. There is no scientific evidence to support these health benefit claims.
•Pros: May be used to give a tropical flavor to foods.
•Cons: Adds additional calories to the diet. No significant evidence is available to support health claims that these products will boost metabolism, support immune system or lower cholesterol.
•Recommendation: Use for flavoring purposes only.
Skipping meals to save calories or due to a lack of time is not an effective tool to promote weight loss or weight maintenance.
•Pros: Very short term solution to reduce caloric intake.
•Cons: Skipping meals can lead to an increase in caloric intake due to impulsive food choices made when extremely hungry. This is a weight loss myth.
•Recommendation: Three balanced meals daily will promote health and weight loss/maintenance more effectively than skipping meals. Skipping any meal is a risky weight loss behavior that may actually lead to weight gain.
Stimulant drinks marketed to produce increased endurance and performance. These drinks and claims are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration.
•Pros: Individual may perceive an increase in alertness, endurance or performance.
•Cons: Can be dangerous if mixed with alcohol. Increased acidity of the drinks will promote loss of enamel on teeth. Can be high in sugar. Possible increased risk of caffeine toxicity.
•Recommendation: Avoid energy drinks and especially never mix them with alcohol. Do not use these stimulant drinks to provide a quick energy “boost” during the day as they are no substitute for adequate sleep and a balanced diet.
Information courtesy of Carol Wolin-Riklin, MA ,RD, LD, metabolic and bariatric nutrition coordinator at UT Physicians’ Minimally Invasive Surgeons of Texas and
nutritionist III in the department of surgery at UTHealth Medical School.
Make sure to check out all of the healthy features, resources and web links in the new Get UTHealthy section located in The Workplace tab.