Trendy diets annoy me. To my mind, they highlight just how far people are willing to go to avoid the “hard work” of eating a sane, balanced diet. Why is it so hard to understand that diets don’t work for most people? Omitting a few foods groups here and there for a few months every time you regain the weight you lost is likely to do more harm than good in the long run.
In a Chicago Tribune article yesterday, several health experts weighed in on the ridiculousness of the Paleo Diet, which forbids grains, legumes, and dairy. Eating like our cavemen ancestors by filling up on large quantities of lean meats, fish, and seafood along with fruits and vegetables may sound great to some people seeking to lose weight and feel healthier, but it can be expensive and risky.
To start with, whole grains, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), and low-fat dairy are rich, inexpensive sources of key nutrients we need to keep our bodies in working order. It’s also worth noting that the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes grains, along with fruits, vegetables, fish, lean dairy and limited amounts of meat, has been shown to decrease the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.
Dr. Keith Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist at New York’s Albert EinsteinCollege of Medicine, pointed out that non-fat and low-fat dairy are rich sources of calcium and vitamin D, which promote bone health. Grains are an important source of fiber and B-vitamins, especially of folic acid, which helps prevent against neural tube defects. Legumes are a cheap, reliable source of protein that are also rich in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and may help people lose weight by prolonging satiety after eating. Who wouldn’t want all that?
But hey, if sketchy regimens keep making people rich off of book and product sales, I guess they will always be around. Dietitians will also continue to be in demand to debunk these diet myths, so perhaps I should chill out and enjoy the show. Still, with the majority of the American population overweight, these plans designed to help people reach their health goals seem to do just the opposite. It almost seems unethical to me after a while. The Food Pyramid doesn’t seem to have been much help either.
However, the more health care providers can to do empower people to take care of themselves through proper diet, exercise and mental health care, the better. Sometimes I wonder what kind of nutrition therapy I am going to end up specializing in. While I’m curious to see what rotations like renal and oncology will be like, I have a feeling I’ll want to do something more comprehensive once I I’m an RD. I love when you can see someone start to realize what the big picture of their health looks like and how the little pieces of their decisions fit together.
I suppose I’ll have to add the Paleo diet to my little list of diets to understand so I can explain why they’re ridiculous/not sustainable/etc. I should add, though, that if a client has their heart set on following a particular diet, finding out what appeals to them about that plan and figuring out together how to incorporate those elements into their diet plan may help you come up with a customized program that allows them to meet their needs and avoid deficiencies.