What we eat has a big impact on our lives. We all know food can affect our weight and increase risks of illness and disease, but research also shows that our diets can determine how well we sleep, how happy we feel and how long we live. Because of this, more and more people are moving away from choosing foods purely for taste, convenience or tradition and searching for the perfect diet to keep them slim, healthy, energetic and happy.
Have you toyed with the idea of dieting but aren’t sure where to start? Are you experiencing bloating, lack of energy, rashes, weight gain or other symptoms which you suspect might be food-linked? Be easy on yourself - eating a ‘perfect’ diet isn’t realistic, but positive change is possible. Let’s learn about 3 of the most popular and evidence-based diets out there, to give you some ideas of what to try for 2020.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Well, maybe not. Intermittent fasting (IF) has been around on the diet scene for a while and looks like it’s here to stay. Rather than focusing on what you eat, IF adjusts when you eat. The idea is that consuming all your calories within a restricted period each day causes you to run out of readily available energy and dip into your reserves (aka body fat). This trains your body to regulate your blood sugar levels better and helps you trim down. For some, IF looks like just skipping breakfast and eating between noon and 8pm, while others consume all their day’s calories during a 6, or even 4-hour window.
Evidence suggests that intermittent fasting can really benefit your health in a number of ways. It’s a pretty safe bet for losing weight as removing a meal from your day means less total calories. Plus, once you get into the routine of it, it is one of the easier habits to keep up: you still get to eat the stuff you like, just at restricted times of the day. Scientific studies have shown intermittent fasting can improve a range of disease indicators, including insulin resistance, blood fat abnormalities, high blood pressure and inflammation. In patients with multiple sclerosis, intermittent fasting reduced symptoms in just two months. Hear Mark Mattson, Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, talk more about the known benefits of fasting below.
Whole 30 involves cutting out a LOT of foods from your diet. Anything linked to inflammation, in fact, so say goodbye to added sugar, sweeteners, grains, legumes, alcohol, anything processed… sounds fun right? Extreme exclusionary diets are generally frowned upon for being unsustainable but that’s where the ‘30’ comes in: rather than a long-term lifestyle the Whole 30 scheme is a month-long program which strips away anything potentially troublesome from your diet, forcing you to eat ‘clean’ for 30 days. When it ends you gradually reintroduce food groups to “identify triggers of food sensitivities or allergies and calm their symptoms... It’s a time-honored, clinical approach, and certainly can work.” according to Dr. David Katz of Yale University.
The Whole 30 website contains “hundreds of thousands” of glowing testimonials, however there have been no scientific studies on the diet, so probably take them with a pinch of salt. Oft-cited benefits include creating a greater awareness of what you are consuming and encourages cooking of ‘whole’ and unprocessed foods - including plenty of fruit and veg - which can never really be a bad thing. Many claim it helped them to break unhelpful eating habits, such as sugar addictions.
Micaela English of Woman’s Day found it hugely benefited her sleeping pattern, energy levels, skin quality and general mood. During the reintroduction of foods afterwards she could clearly identify gluten as the source of most negative effects on her health. Micaela feels her relationship with food is now healthier, more aware and more intentional than it was before. Sounds worth a try, right? Experts caution that the regime can be risky for those with pre-existing health conditions, so make sure to check with your doctor beforehand if that’s you.
The Mediterranean Diet
Similar to many modern diets, the Mediterranean Diet is all about ditching low-nutrient, highly processed foods in favour of fresh, whole produce. Developed by Harvard School of Public Health and a non-profit food think tank in Boston, the ‘eating pattern’ includes lots of fruit and veg, whole grains, healthy fats, few eggs and a moderate amount of red wide. Essentially, eat like you’re still on that holiday to Corfu all the time: doesn’t sound so bad, does it? The diet works well with a Flexitarian lifestyle as it is largely plant-based, recommending just two weekly servings of seafood and even less poultry or red meat. Find the full Mediterranean food pyramid and ebook guide here.
The U.S. News and World Report ranked the Mediterranean Diet #1 in Best Diets Overall for 2020 for being relatively convenient, affordable and nutritionally sound while boasting a multitude of positive health outcomes. In fact, it’s one of the most scientifically-backed diets out there. Harvard School of Public Health reports that “Research has consistently shown that the Mediterranean diet is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality” while various studies have shown it to reduce risk of diabetes, slow effects of ageing, promote retention of eyesight, reduce risks of cancer, encourage weight loss, improve kidney function and reduce erectile dysfunction. So, if you’d like to not get cancer or diabetes or ED or lose your eyesight, or generally want to live longer... perhaps it’s time to get a bit Mediterranean?
Above all else, how you eat should make you feel good. Cutting out food groups or changing meal times can be challenging - low points and adjustment periods are to be expected - but if following a diet is making you miserable then stop! Your mental health is more important.
We hope this article gives you some inspiration for how you might experiment with changing the way you eat in 2020 but remember there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ diet - our needs and lifestyles are all unique. Try making some changes, see what feels good, eat what works for you, and enjoy it!