You are what you eat!

LOW CARB, KETO, VEGAN, PLANT-BASED, PALEO……… You’re not the only one who’s confused!

With soooo many “fad diets” constantly being blasted into our eyes and ears it’s hard to know what’s the right thing to do these days.

As with anything to do with your health, it really is important to get the right information for you from a professional, so we asked our Dietitian, Katie Harris to give us an insight into some of the most popular options. Here’s what she said!

The low carb high fat or ‘LCHF’ diet reduces the carbohydrates in the diet to less than 30% of the daily energy intake and replaces them with higher amounts of dietary fats.  So basically you cut back on foods like lollies, ice cream, biscuits, bread, pasta, rice, potato cereals and fruits and increase foods high in fat like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. LCHF diets can be useful in managing medical conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes or to assist with weight loss in certain cases.  Caution should be used in certain medical conditions and for those on medications.  Correct balancing of nutrients to avoid deficiencies is important.

The Ketogenic diet is similar to the LCHF diet however restricts the daily intake of carbohydrates to less than 10% of the daily energy intake with levels of fats around 70-80%.  It can be very restrictive to follow and maintain with possible symptoms that may last weeks including hunger, low mood, fatigue, irritability, constipation and headaches.

Short term benefits such as weight loss, improvements in blood pressure, insulin resistance and cholesterol are seen however when compared with traditional weight-loss diets these results weren’t significantly different.  Possible negative effects of the diet could include increased risk of osteoporosis, kidney stones and gout as well as nutritional deficiencies.  At this stage the research is limited in terms of the long term health effects of this diet and if following this diet it is essential that you are under a Dietitian.

Vegan diets are becoming more popular if followed correctly and planned out they can be safe and nutritionally balanced. All foods consumed are from plant foods only.  It includes fruit, vegetables, breads, cereals, grains, legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds and dairy alternatives.  Nutrients that I often see lacking when I see vegan patients are iron, B12, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids.  It can be possible to get all of these from the right balance of foods or in some cases supplements if required.

Not ready to go full vegetarian or vegan?  No worries! Following a plant-based diet does not mean all animal products need to be eliminated so may be an easier diet to follow.  Plant-based diets focus on foods primarily from plants. Put simply you cut back on the amount of animal products such as meats, fish, eggs and dairy but still include them just less often. Plant-based diets have been linked to lower risk of obesity, inflammation and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.  They are also better for our beautiful planet too by reducing greenhouse emissions, so definitely give this one a try!

One benefit of the paleo diet is that it focuses purely on whole foods in their natural state. It is well known that cutting back on processed foods and refined sugars can have great benefits for our health.  The big concern is that it suggests cutting out whole food groups and foods including dairy, grains and legumes.  The health benefits of legumes and whole grains in the diet have been extensively researched and can provide a reduction in weight, cholesterol, inflammation, chronic disease and cancer risk whilst also providing a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fibre.  The risk of nutritional deficiencies is also high because the diet eliminates all dairy. Meeting calcium and vitamin D requirements can be difficult.

The idea behind intermittent fasting (IF) is that you reduce your energy intake through periods of not eating or ‘fasting’ for extended periods of time followed by a period of eating.  Generally there are no rules around what you eat or how much you eat which can make this style of dieting a popular choice; however, it is still essential to keep your body’s nutritional needs in mind.

Intermittent fasting can produce weight loss results similar to a calorie-controlled diet however some studies suggest it may assist with better maintenance of lean muscle mass.  Other reported benefits include reduced inflammation, improved cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity however despite these benefits current research remains largely inconclusive with a need for further long-term studies.

Closing note:
As with any diet it is recommended that you consult with an Accredited Practicing Dietitian before starting to ensure that the dietary approach will be the best option for you as well as being safe and nutritionally balanced.

LCHF and Keto recipes:

Vegan recipes:

Fasting day recipes:

Paleo recipes: