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Do Diets Work?

In the ever-evolving world of nutrition, it’s easy to get swept up in the latest trends and fads promising quick fixes and miraculous results. From intermittent fasting to gluten-free diets, everyone seems to have an opinion on what’s best for your health and weight loss journey. So how do you separate fact from fiction and, even more importantly, determine the best way to eat for your body, your needs, and your lifestyle? 

In this blog post, Corinne Zaffarese Elbourne – Miverbo’s expert nutritionist and fitness coach – takes a closer look at some popular nutrition trends and offers a balanced perspective to help you make informed choices for your well-being.

Intermittent Fasting: Is it for you?

Intermittent fasting (IF) isn’t about what you eat; it’s about when you eat. It involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, allowing your body to burn through sugar stores and switch to fat-burning mode. This practice taps into our ancestors’ ability to thrive without food for extended periods. 

By restricting eating to specific time windows, IF offers potential benefits such as weight management, improved cognitive function, heart health, and reduced risk of chronic diseases. Little wonder, then, that IF has created waves in the health and wellness world over the past few years, with so many proponents extolling its virtues. 

So, what’s the catch? Well, it isn’t all rosy as there are some concerns that IF could lead to binge-eating and unhealthy relationships with food. 

Quick case study: Different clients have had different experiences with IF. Some clients thrive on it. ‘Jane’, for one, coped well with this simply because she disliked eating breakfast and preferred to skip it. By doing so, she naturally entered a calorie deficit while ensuring she still met her energy needs with the right balance of macronutrients for optimal energy levels. Other clients, on the other hand, have found that IF is detrimental to their health and weight loss goals. ‘Mark’, for example, struggled with low energy levels and hunger pangs, which led to increased snacking and even occasional binging during his feeding window.

The verdict: There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Individual preferences and needs play a significant role in IF success.  There are those that report hypoglycemia, dizziness, and weakness, and proper nourishment is essential especially with regards to protein intake to avoid muscle wastage.

Low-Carb Diets: The Carb Conundrum 

The low-carb diet school of thought is to reduce carbohydrate intake in favour of increasing protein and healthy fats. This shift encourages the body to tap into its fat stores for energy, leading to potential benefits like weight loss, stabilised blood sugar levels, and lowered heart disease risk. 

But here’s the thing: it’s essential to remember that not all carbohydrates are equal. Proponents of low-carb diets often overlook the fact that there are both good and bad carbs. Good carbs – found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – are nutritional powerhouses. Rich in fibre and essential nutrients, they provide sustained energy and promote satiety. In contrast, bad carbs – often present in sugary snacks and processed foods – cause quick spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to energy crashes and cravings. 

Quick case study: One of Miverbo’s clients believed carbs were to blame for her weight issues – a belief that originated from a lack of evidenced-based information. Once that belief was turned on its head, and the focus switched to portion sizes and portion control, she embraced carbs with open arms (and a happy tummy!).

The verdict: Carbs are your body’s primary fuel. Consumed in a balanced diet, they don’t inherently cause weight gain. The key is to ensure quality carbs and portion control. Ultimately, a balanced approach always wins.

Veganism: Balancing Plants and Animals

A vegan diet is a plant-based dietary choice that excludes all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. It hinges on consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. 

Veganism has gained popularity for its potential to improve heart health, lower cancer risk, and reduce environmental impact. Yet, nutrient deficiency is a concern. Why? Because protein, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc, iodine, and selenium can all be adversely affected. They’re just a little too easy to miss in an exclusively plant-based diet.

That’s why adopting a healthy vegan diet – one that you can sustain long-term without detrimental risks to your well-being – requires greater awareness of and mindfulness about nutrition. 

The good news is that with the right knowledge, it’s absolutely possible to thrive and avoid nutrient deficiencies if you’re vegan! 

Quick tip: The trick is to eat a diverse diet, as a wide variety of foods can help provide a range of nutrients. It’s also important to regularly consult with a nutritionist or doctor to monitor nutrient levels and take vitamin supplements if necessary.

Quick case study:  A vegan client of Miverbo’s was struggling to bring enough variety to her meals and come up with a good mix of nutritional dishes. Together, we worked on creating a wide, balanced range of easy-to-follow recipes to suit her lifestyle, and now she enjoys cooking and eating from a diverse menu of delicious (and colourful) meals that provide her with just the nutrition she needs. 

The verdict: Balance is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. If you’re not dedicated to veganism for ethical reasons, consider incorporating both plant-based and animal-based proteins. This not only ensures that you get a wide range of nutrients, but also supports your fitness and body recomposition goals.

Gluten-Free Diets: Navigating the Hype 

A gluten-free diet is a nutritional choice that excludes foods containing gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This diet is essential for individuals with coeliac disease – an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten consumption. 

Thankfully, managing a gluten-free diet is not as difficult as you may think. Avoiding wheat and choosing gluten-free products is a given, but that doesn’t mean you should only stick to store-bought food items! Fruits and veggies don’t contain wheat, and there are plenty of other grains suitable for coeliacs that can be incorporated into a gluten-free diet, such as potatoes, soya, corn, rice, and quinoa. 

Of course, the biggest headache for coeliacs is eating out. 

Quick tip: Be extra cautious about the possibility of cross-contamination and ask in advance whether the kitchen is equipped properly to cater for coeliacs. And always pay close attention to the labels of all prepacked food!

Quick case study: When one of Miverbo’s clients was diagnosed with coeliac disease, she thought it would be impossible to manage and feared that her life was going to change drastically. She was extremely scared, but we worked together to overcome her fear and establish a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. I’m thrilled to report that she is now living her best life while maintaining healthy weight loss!

But you may be thinking: what about those who adopt gluten-free eating because they perceive it to be a healthier choice? Should everybody – including those who don’t suffer from coeliac disease – go gluten free? 

The verdict: Unless you have gluten intolerance, there’s no need to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. In fact, many gluten-free products are lower in fibre and higher in sugar, which could, potentially, lead to weight gain if not managed effectively.

The Final Word

When it comes to nutrition, it’s crucial to approach trends and fads with a critical eye. While intermittent fasting, low-carb diets, veganism, and gluten-free eating have their merits, they’re most certainly not one-size-fits-all solutions. 

Your body is unique and deserves to have its needs met with a thoughtful and balanced approach – regardless of what social media may have you believe. 

So, the next time you encounter a nutrition trend, remember to consider your individual preferences, consult with experts, and prioritise a well-rounded, sustainable approach to your dietary choices that fits your body and your lifestyle. Your health is worth the effort!

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