Everyone knows there’s a dark side to every diet – Atkins and his fat, the liquid-only maple syrup diet, and the mood-swing-central cookie diet (far more brutal than it sounds). But seemingly healthy alternatives can also have their downsides. Turns out your body needs balance – who’d have thought? We look at three current fads with top Dubai nutritionist Stephanie Karl from XY Clinics to find out how effective – or dangerous – they are.
Claiming to help participants lose inches in just 14 days, the popularity of diets publicised by cereal manufacturers tend to increase in the run-up to summer. The diets are simple, favoured for their quick results and the fact you don’t need to spend a fortune in the supermarket buying exotic products. The idea is to have a measured amount of cereal for two meals each day, along with a third balanced meal (grilled chicken or fish, vegetables and a small amount of carbohydrates). The result is a heavily calorie-restricted diet, and the need for a great deal of willpower to overcome hunger pangs.
Stephanie says: ‘A diet based on fat, protein, vegetables, dairy, fruit, nuts and seeds is sustainable for the best health, happiness and ongoing health. Cereals have tended to dominate peoples diets since the ’70s and fats have taken a back seat, with the result being a dramatic increase in metabolic disorders. Calorie restriction is not the answer to weight loss.’
Similar to the Atkins diet thanks to its elimination of carbohydrates, Dr Dukan’s diet has three phases. The first is an ‘attack’ phase, where everything except protein is eliminated, but you can eat as much protein as you like. Unlike Atkins, fat is not allowed. The second phase sees certain vegetables reintroduced, while the third phase brings back carbohydrates in the form of certain fruits and vegetables, though you must continue to eat a protein-only diet for one day of each week.
Stephanie says: ‘This diet does not support good balance or encourage an efficient metabolic cycle. It is low in fibre, fat, fruit, calcium and most vitamins and minerals that ensure all metabolic pathways are operating effectively. Restricting foods in the diet affects your metabolism, which will fire you into catch-up mode when it is allowed, leading to weight gain. However, it does reduce inflammation and kick-start fat oxidation. Restricting fat is not the key to good health, skin, hair condition, hormones and DNA. The real key is to reduce inflammation, which is caused by starchy carbs and sugar, and take carb choices from alternative starches and sugar such as fruit, vegetables, dairy, pulses, nuts, wholegrains and seeds. While this diet may cause weight loss for overeaters, it will do very little for others. Some people can tolerate a higher intake of protein, while others will end up accumulating nitrogen in the gut, which leads to increased digestive symptoms and discomfort.’
Raw food vegan diet
This diet consists of unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouts, nuts and seeds, herbs, raw spices and seaweeds – none of which can be heated above 46°C. It has become increasingly popular recently, and though many major cities around the world are now home to raw food restaurants, Dubai is yet to get one. Fortunately for enthusiasts, there is a community group here, offering raw food preparation lessons and tips (see www.loving-it-raw.com).
Stephanie says: ‘Raw foods are a great addition to a healthy diet, but adhering to a raw diet for a long period tends to reduce the ability to digest cooked foods. Many raw food followers finally become tired of the restricted eating and lack of variety. A vegan diet is also quite a challenge as no animal products are allowed. Distinct deficiencies do occur, and a vegan dietary plan needs to be well understood to include foods with essential proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. The diet can be heavier on carbohydrates rather than proteins, as choices are restricted to foods such as nuts and seeds, soy products, spirulina, pulses and cereals. It’s rare that you’d find a vegan bodybuilder or highly muscled athlete.’
One-off session with XY Clinics Dhs500; programmes with multiple visits, diet plans and GP access from Dhs1,000 per month. Al Wasl Road, www.xyclinics.com (04 380 7554).
A healthy diet
Stephanie Karl explains it’s not ‘one size fits all’…
‘A good diet is one that supports your personal metabolic needs and allows you to perform well. It’s different for everyone, which is why humans are such marvels. They can eat across all food groups, and adjust if that menu is not available. Consider the diet of the Masai, who eat milk, blood, meat and maybe the odd berry; and the Eskimos, who eat meat and fat, yet have a healthy life compared to city dwellers, who often eat a low-fat, high-carb diet and lots of processed food.’