Should I cut out dairy? Is that wine gluten free? Am I risking my health by eating hot food? These questions and more have plagued people around the world who are trying to lose weight and boost their health. Almost every week a new diet claiming to be the best hits the headlines, so it's no wonder we're more confused than ever about what to eat.
Whilst some diets do have health benefits, including weight loss and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, some are downright nutty. Dieters around the world have gone to extreme lengths to shed the pounds, stirring butter in their coffee and timing their meals with the sun and moon.
2015 was undoubtedly the year of the Paleo diet, which advises dieters to eat what cavemen supposedly ate, closely followed by the Gluten Free diet. Supermarket shelves stocked increasing amounts of 'Free From' products, and restaurants catering to specific diets started to become popular. Despite celebrity endorsement and published bestsellers, these new diets have created a lot of buzz and controversy over their scientific merits and reported benefits.
Whilst research has slated some new controversial diets, its also found flaws in diets we once thought were healthy, such as the popular low fat diet. With all of the regimes, it's apparent that drastically reducing or eliminating certain food groups can result in deficiencies and problems further down the line.
From weight gain to retinal damage, we've discovered the truth behind the diets that ruled 2015. Read on to find out if your diet is ruining your health...
The Five-Bite Diet
What is it? Created by Dr. Alwin Lewis in 2007, the Five Bite Diet advises slimmers to skip breakfast, eat five bites of lunch and five bites of dinner, with unlimited calorie-free beverages. The claim? You'll stop feeling hungry after three days because the body will learn to feel full on a smaller amount of food. Pros? It teaches the basic principle of portion control, albeit in a very extreme way. You're also allowed to eat whatever food you want, provided you only eat five bites. Cons? Five bites?! Of course weight loss is inevitable if you starve yourself, but it's not sustainable and very unhealthy. Even taking the prescribed multivitamin tablet, the body will not get the nutrients it needs to function. Verdict? Portion control is essential to weight loss, but this diet is a one-way ticket to binge city.
What is it? Popular with women in China, 'sun eating' is the practice of standing in the sun for a prolonged period of time as a replacement for food. The claim? Gazing at the sun reduces your need for food and improves your sleep quality. Pros? Basically zero - while the human body needs sunlight in order to synthesise vitamin D, it also requires calories and macronutrients that we can only obtain from food. Cons? Experts have deemed this an "alarming' health fad that can damage retina and lead to deficiencies in key nutrients. Verdict? Getting a bit of sun on your skin is great, but we'd rather tuck into a nice meal, thanks.
The Werewolf Diet
What is it? There are two strains of the Werewolf diet - the 'basic moon plan' and the 'extended' version. On the basic diet, you must fast during a 24-hour period, strictly adhering to the presence of a full or new moon. The extended plan takes into account all lunar phases - waning, waxing, etc - and allows dieters to consume solids and plenty of water at specific times. Fans include Madonna and Demi Lovato. The claim? The moon affects the water in your body, so timing of the fast is very important. Dieters can expect to lose up to 6lbs in 24 hours. Pros? Weight loss will probably occur due to reduction of food intake. Cons? The science is shaky, and the body has its own 'detox' system without the need for regimented fasting. Any weight loss is likely to be water weight, which will quickly pile back on once you start eating normally. Verdict? This diet is simply daft - follow at your own peril.
The Raw Food Diet
What is it? Only consuming uncooked and unprocessed foods kept below 118 degrees Farenheit, including raw fruits, vegetables, grains. Some raw foodists eat raw meat, eggs and unpasteurised dairy. The claim? Raw food contains more nutrients than cooked food, and the cooking of food increases toxins in the body which cause chronic disease. Pros? As most of the food on the diet is low calorie, weight loss is likely. Also increasing your intake of fruit and veg will provide your body with vital nutrients. Cons? This is one of most time consuming plans, as a lot of what you eat needs preparation (cutting, blending, dehydrating). You'll also be missing out on protein, vitamins B12, iron, calcium and more. Verdict? It's great to up your intake of fruit and veg, but serving everything raw isn't necessary. Cooking is one of the great pleasures of life!
Low Fat Diet
What is it? Consuming foods low in fat and reducing intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. The claim? Fat contains 9 kcals per gram, compared to 4kcal per gram for carbohydrates and protein, so you can eat more food for the same calories. Decreasing your fat intake helps prevent heart disease and obesity. Pros? Reducing calorie intake is likely to result in weight loss. Also, it's a good idea to eliminate processed foods that contain harmful trans fats from your diet. Cons? Research has shown that a low carbohydrate diet is more effective for weight loss than a low fat one. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are important for hormone synthesis and can protect the heart and circulatory system. Verdict? Ditch the greasy junk food, but stock up on olive oil, nuts and oily fish for optimum health.
Gluten Free Diet
What is it? A diet that eliminates the protein known as gluten, which can be found in wheat, barley and rye. People with coeliac disease can't ingest foods containing gluten, as it leads to an adverse digestive reaction. The claim? More and more non-coealics are adopting this diet in the belief that they have an intolerance to gluten, resulting in bloating, fatigue and flatulence. Pros? A gluten free diet dramatically reduces the symptoms of coeliac disease. Non-sufferers may lose weight by reducing their carbohydrate intake and consuming more vegetables. Cons? Many 'free from' products contain additives and cost much more than their gluten counterparts. Also eliminating grains from your diet reduces fibre and beneficial bacteria, which could lead to constipation. It's also been reported than gluten free dieters gain more weight than people eating gluten. Verdict? Necessary if you suffer from Coeliac disease, but otherwise just makes a dent in your bank balance.
Isa Jaward is a journalist from London who has written for the likes of Time Out, The Guardian and Music Week.
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