There’s always plenty of diet talk around in the lead-up to summer. While diets are often given a bad rap, the truth is that we all eat a ‘diet’ of some sort, and diets don’t have to be restrictive. Rather, the right diet for the right person can ensure you’re on track with both your weight and health goals.
Keen to drop a few kilos before Christmas? Here are some of the most popular diets of the moment, and who they’re best suited to.
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The ‘keto‘ or ketogenic diet has been around for many years, previously used clinically to manage some neurological conditions.
An extremely low carbohydrate approach, with carbohydrates making up less than 10-20 per cent of overall intake (as little as 20-50g), keto eating induces a physiological state called ‘ketosis’. Here, the body burns ketones from fat stores for energy rather than glucose from carbohydrate stores.
When carbohydrate intake is low enough to induce ketosis, weight loss can be relatively quick with losses of up to 2-3kg a week.
The downside is that it’s not that easy to achieve ketosis, as eating a diet that is 70-80 per cent fat and includes very little fresh food is challenging, especially long term. For this reason, keto is best for those who have relatively large amounts of weight to lose (20+ kilograms), or for those who are managing a specific medical condition such as diabetes under the direction of a medical doctor or dietitian.
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There are a number of fasting regimes promoted for both their health and weight loss benefits, including the 5:2 (two low calorie days each week), as well as the 16:8, or all daily calories consumed within an eight-hour period.
Exposing the body to prolonged periods of time without food, or with minimal calories has been shown to help reset some of the hormones that control fat metabolism. Fasting regimes are also known to have a number of other long-term health benefits, as a result of the body’s cells working more efficiently after calorie deprivation.
While fasting is mentioned for its weight loss benefits, the weight loss associated is incidental, at most 1-2kg a month. For this reason fasting is a fantastic option for health long term, and you may get some weight loss, but it is unlikely to achieve sustained losses of ½-1kg each week as some programs will.
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Among the low-carb ‘It’ diets are Paleo, the Dubrow, Dukan and the latest offering from CSIRO. These regimes usually involve consuming anywhere from 20-45 per cent carbohydrates overall.
Here, refined grains, fruit, starchy veggies and cereals are likely restricted for larger amounts of protein-rich foods and low-calorie fruits and vegetables.
Low carbohydrate diets will generally work well for most people initially. Here, weight losses of 1-2kg a week are experienced as the body’s stores of carbohydrate are depleted. Weight loss over time though tends to slow as the body reduces metabolism to compensate for the lack of readily available fuel.
If the goal is quick weight loss, low carb diets are a good option. Once weight loss slows though, you will be better to increase the carbohydrate over time or adopt a more sustainable regime such as fasting or the Mediterranean diet.
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Voted the one of the healthiest diet options, eating a Mediterranean diet means that you will naturally load up on plenty of fresh food and lean protein, while significantly reducing your intake of processed foods.
For many, this will result in weight loss but the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle approach rather than something to follow to see instant reductions on the scales. Rather this approach is an ideal one to adopt once you have lost a few kilos and are looking for a healthy way to maintain this loss.
Plant-based diets are the current flavour of the month, and indeed ditching all animal food in favour of extra grains, cereals, fruits, legumes and vegetable will reduce calorie intake overall.
The key thing to know is that while vegan diets may be perceived as healthier, this is not always the case, as processed vegan foods can be as calorie dense as regular foods. For this reason, a plant based or vegan diet will not guarantee weight loss long term and is a lifestyle choice as opposed to an option that is specifically adopted for weight loss.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.
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