SINGAPORE: Those who have ridden the fad diet bandwagon will be familiar with names like paleo, vegan and ketogenic - and their purported ability to shed kilos.
However, many of such self-prescribed diets or those found on the Internet are highly restrictive, said Jaclyn Reutens, dietitian from Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants. They can lead to a sense of deprivation, causing the dieter to end up bingeing instead, said Reutens.
If the new year has inspired you to do something about your weight, here’s what Ms Reutens says about the five top diets Singaporeans have been following.
1. PALEO DIET
This diet is based on the belief that our caveman ancestors had very few ailments because of the whole and natural food they ate.
Pros: Highly processed and sugary food and drinks like sausages, potato chips, cookies, cakes and sodas are eliminated. In their place, fruit and vegetables are encouraged.
Cons: The removal of carbohydrates, which are needed to fuel your body, especially your brain. Starchy carbs - from beans and legumes that also provide protein and soluble fibre - are also missing from this diet. Dairy products that are sources of calcium are eliminated as well.
With the low intake of soluble fibre and starchy carbs that add bulk to the stools, it is not surprising that a common side effect to this diet is constipation.
2. VEGAN DIET
Proponents of this diet eschew animal-based food for a strict plant-based diet. They believe that food derived from animals are unhealthy and can lead to diseases.
Pros: You’ll have a good intake of dietary fibre. Plus, the diet includes cholesterol-free food and possibly, food low in saturated fat, depending on the oils that you use. One thing to note though: Coconut oil is high in saturated fat.
Cons: You can have too much of a good thing, in this case, fibre. This can result in bloat, loose stools and possibly constipation, if your fluid intake cannot keep up with your fibre intake. Eating too much fruits and vegetables - especially those high in carotenoids - isn’t a good move either. A diet high in carotenoids can lead to carotenemia, where the person develops orange pigmentation in the skin.
The diet also lacks Vitamins B12 and D, and possibly protein. Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell production which affects how oxygen is transported throughout the body. Vitamin D boosts bone health and helps to prevent osteoporosis in the long term. Eating only plant-based foods can also make you run the risk of a low protein intake, if you don’t plan your meals carefully.
3. ALKALINE DIET
According to believers, the body’s acidic nature is what makes you prone to diseases such as arthritis, kidney and liver disorders, diabetes and cancer. The goal is to neutralise this acidity by consuming alkaline foods and drinks.
Pros: The diet does get you to drink more water, that is, alkaline water. And that is a good thing because many people are not well hydrated. Alkaline foods tend to be fruits and vegetable, while red meat and processed foods are mostly acidic. So you’re likely to meet your daily recommended servings of greens.
Cons: There are many charts that classify foods according to their pH levels, but there is no proper clinical research on them. It also gets confusing when you eat out; is a dish acidic or alkaline if there are two types of acidic foods and two alkaline foods in it?
Moreover, your body controls its pH levels extremely well and there is no need to adjust the acidity level through the food you eat. In fact, regardless of the food’s initial pH level, it will become acidic in the stomach, owing to the presence of hydrochloric acid that breaks down food into digestible substances.
4. KETOGENIC DIET
The belief is that if you remove carbohydrates from your diet, you’ll force your body to burn fat for energy instead, and hence, help you to lose weight.
Pros: You’ll get a higher intake of monounsaturated fat as avocadoes and olive oil are consumed often in this diet.
Cons: The low carbohydrate intake can reduce the brain’s serotonin production, which can lead to poor sleep, irritability and mood swings. This diet is also typically high in saturated fat - the bad fat that increases your cholesterol levels and risk of hyperlipidemia, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Plus, the low fibre intake can lead to severe constipation.
5. INTERMITTENT FASTING
There are a few variations to this eating pattern rather than diet. Some advocate eating within an eight-hour period, for instance, from 9am to 5pm, then fast for the next 16 hours. Others follow the 5:2 format, where you eat normally for five days (that doesn’t mean junk food though), then restrict your calorie intake to 400 to 600 calories a day for two non-consecutive days.
Pros: There is no restriction on any food or food groups.
Cons: The drastic swings in calorie intake will lower your metabolism. Moreover, the repeated sense of food deprivation is not healthy as it can lead to cheat days or meals – a concept not encouraged when you’re trying to lose weight as it can lead to severe weight fluctuations.