We talk to three NoVA nutrition experts about the which of today’s popular diets are most effective.—Angela Bobo
The Paleo Diet
This lifestyle plan is rooted in the belief that humans should eat the way our ancestors did during the Paleolithic period: protein and plants.
Do: Meat (red meat, poultry, fish), leafy greens, fruit
Don’t: Grains, refined sugars, cheese, dairy, legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts)
“The Paleo diet’s focus on fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of fiber, and exclusion of processed foods, which are often high in fat, sugar, salt and low in nutrients, are beneficial dietary changes. However, the emphasis on animal protein and exclusion of grains, dairy and legumes likely results in a food intake that is high in saturated fat and protein, low in carbohydrates and possibly deficient in important vitamins and minerals. This diet will not work for vegetarians who rely on legumes for much of their protein intake, and moreover, given the cost of animal protein it is likely expensive.”— Elizabeth Shipley-Moses, MS, RD, CDE, Clinical Nutritionist at Kaiser Permanente’s Falls Church Medical Center
Some people have inherited an irregular metabolism—Metabolism B—that causes them to be unable to lose weight through traditional methods. Utilizing degrees of carb restriction will rev up metabolism and counteract over-storage of excess fat.
Do: Lean proteins, healthy fats, leafy greens, vegetables, reduced fat cheese, eggs, organic peanut butter
Don’t: Bread, pasta, rice, cereal, granola, potatoes, grains, legumes, sweets, carrots, corn, beets, yogurt
”The Metabolism Miracle program encourages some useful strategies for weight loss—choose healthy carbohydrate foods and spread them throughout the day, drink plenty of water and aim for daily activity. However, there is no research to support the claim of two types of metabolism. In addition, some of the recommendations, in particular the carbohydrate recommendations in step one and step two, do not reflect those of the government or health organizations. Finally, there is no miracle when it comes to weight loss—it requires making changes in food choices, portion sizes and activity.” —Elizabeth Shipley-Moses
Cleansing and detoxifying the body by foregoing solid food for fruit and vegetable juices for a series of days. Many companies (Blueprint, Organic Avenue, Ritual Cleanse, Gouter) offer custom and seasonal juice cleanses.
Do: Look for juices made from raw fruits and vegetables.
Don’t: Cleanse with juices that are high in sugars to prevent crashing and sluggishness.
“We believe tonic/juice cleanses are important because we need to give our bodies a break from constantly digesting and breaking down food, which can often result in acidic environments due to processed foods, coffee, alcohol, dairy and meat we all consume. We usually recommend a minimum of three days to really feel the effects of the cleanse. Seven days is the longest we’ll suggest. Because we’re providing cleanses for people who are still having to go to work, taking care of their families and in general just going about their daily routines, we want to make sure they have enough energy to sustain their lifestyle, which is why we offer different cleanse levels.” —V & Steve, Owners of Gouter Raw Tonic Company
The Virgin Diet
Weight gain is the result of inflammation from food intolerance to seven food groups that can cause bloating and fatigue. Cut out these food groups for 21 days and then slowly reintroduce to discover which foods are “reactive” for you.
Do: Leafy greens, brown rice, quinoa, almond milk, raw nuts, lean protein, healthy fats, legumes, fruits
Don’t: Gluten, dairy, peanuts, corn, soy, eggs and sugar/artificial sweeteners
“While eliminating foods that you truly have an intolerance to (different than food allergies) may help with symptoms of food intolerance (diarrhea, rash, nasal congestion, etc.), there is no solid evidence that food intolerances lead to weight gain. Most people who eat only fruits, veggies and lean animal foods with a little brown rice and healthy fats are likely to lose weight, but there is no room for actually looking at moderation. Those who think they may have true food intolerance might do better seeking out a medical professional trained to diagnose actual food intolerance. This seems like the Paleo diet revisited with a different hook.” —Lise Gloede, RD, CDE, Owner of Nutrition Coaching, LLC, Arlington
The DASH Diet
The acronym stands for ‘Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension’ and was developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to lower cholesterol/blood pressure by increasing intake of fiber, minerals and protein.
Do: Vegetables, fruits, fat-free dairy, lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts and legumes, whole grains
Don’t: Sweets/artificial sugars, processed foods
“The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and has been ranked best overall food plan/diet by a panel of health experts in US News and World Report. It is nutritionally complete (not lacking in fiber, vitamins/antioxidants, etc.), is safe (as won’t lead to gout, constipation, etc.) and has been shown to help prevent and control diabetes. Various calorie levels and portion sizes as well as dairy free and vegan options are given to help make this way of eating manageable. I highly recommend this food plan and I have personally seen many of my own patients in my practice have excellent results and not feel deprived.”—Lise Gloede