The Top 7 Diet Trends of the Decade
Nutritionist Zoha Matin lets us know which of the biggest diet crazes of the decade are actually helpful and which should be tossed out (most of them!). She posts tips and recipes on her blog @zo.the.nutritionist.
Every week seems to bring a new diet or superfood which promises the ultimate solution to losing weight and miraculously improving your health. From keto to juice cleanses, people are always hungry for the next new thing – usually a ‘quick fix’.
While the low-fat craze was predominant in the 90s, fat has made a big comeback this past decade. In contrast, carbs were public enemy number one! Some diets are actually safe and effective according to health experts, but most fad diets make exaggerated claims with very little scientific backing.
As we enter 2020, let’s take a look at the most popular diets that created a buzz in the last decade.
The Ketogenic Diet
Overall, health professionals are skeptical of this diet as it restricts very healthy disease-fighting foods and nutrients
If you haven’t heard the word ‘keto’ before, it’s safe to assume you’ve lived under a rock. It was originally introduced in the 1920s to treat child epilepsy, but now it’s widely used by adults to lose weight quickly. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein and very low-carb diet.
There is lots of buzz around the health benefits of keto (type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, certain types of cancers) but long-term research proving that keto is safe and effective is currently lacking. Overall, health professionals are skeptical of this diet as it restricts very healthy disease-fighting foods and nutrients.
The carnivore diet gained a lot of followers in the past decade and it claims to be the cure for a number of chronic diseases and to have immunity boosting benefits. It originated from the controversial belief that our human ancestors ate mostly meat, and that high-carb diets are to blame for today’s high rates of disease.
On the carnivore diet, you only eat meat, fish, eggs and certain dairy, while having close to zero carbs. This diet has no fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains – which completely eliminates an array of essential nutrients and fiber from this diet. There is no research to support that this diet is in any way good for your health.
The Paleo or ‘Cave Man’ Diet
While this diet is promising as it reduces sugar and processed foods intake, there isn’t enough research to support the claims that grains and dairy are bad for you
The premise for this diet is to eat foods that were only available during the Paleolithic era. Supporters of this diet claim that we should eat like our ancestors – foods that can either be hunted, fished or gathered. The controversial belief is that modern farming and food processing have evolved faster than our guts and eating the off-limit foods will cause diseases as our bodies are not adapted to eat those foods.
The paleo diet includes meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, while grains, dairy, sugar and any processed foods are off limits. While this diet is promising as it reduces sugar and processed foods intake – not all processed foods are harmful. There isn’t enough research to support the claims that grains and dairy are bad for you and followers of this diet are at risk for certain nutrient deficiencies.
The Intermittent Fasting Diet
If your digestive system is empty for prolonged periods (14-16 hours), it can enhance cellular repair and fight inflammation in the body
Intermittent Fasting (IF) has become an increasingly popular trend for weight loss. There are several approaches to do this diet. For instance, some people can adopt the 5:2 approach which involves fasting for 2 days out of the week, while others can set specific hours to eat (16 hours fasting, 8 hours feeding).
There is research that supports the claim that if your digestive system is empty for prolonged periods (14-16 hours), it can enhance cellular repair and fight inflammation in the body. Some studies also show that it can improve blood pressure, improve blood sugar control and reduce belly fat.
Experts propose that people lose weight on this diet because eating within an 8-hour window causes people to skip one main meal (usually breakfast or dinner) each day, which simply limits the total number of calories consumed in a day.
The Gluten-free Diet
A gluten-free diet only makes sense for people who have a medically-diagnosed gluten intolerance
This diet became extremely popular in 2013, thanks to many celebrity endorsements. The diet claims that gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) is harmful to the human body and should be strictly avoided.
In reality, a gluten-free diet only makes sense for people who have celiac disease or a medically-diagnosed gluten intolerance. For the rest of us, following this diet is unnecessary as it has no weight loss or health benefits! The craze has somewhat dwindled closer to the end of the decade.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet was ranked as the best diet of 2019, and it is a favorite amongst many dietitians and healthcare professionals
The U.S. News & World Report ranked the Mediterranean Diet as the best diet of 2019, and it is a favorite amongst many dietitians and healthcare professionals. It’s not a regimented diet but rather a very balanced plant-based way of eating that promotes lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fatty fish, olive oil and nuts, moderate dairy and limited red meat consumption. Beyond weight loss, it has multiple benefits for heart and brain health.
The Vegan Diet
Eating a plant-based diet is beneficial for a number of health reasons but if you’re not making the right food choices, vegans have a higher likelihood of getting vitamin B12, iron, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies
The Economist called 2019 ‘the year of the vegan’ because of the sharp rise in vegan food options and the immense popularity of the vegan diet amongst millennials and animal lovers. The vegan diet excludes all animal products so no meat, fish, eggs and dairy. It is said to be better for the environment and there is a lot of research to support that eating a plant-based diet (vegetarian, vegan) is beneficial for a number of health reasons. However, turning vegan doesn’t necessarily lead to better health if you’re not making the right food choices, and the diet needs to be carefully planned as vegans have a higher likelihood of getting vitamin B12, iron, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.
I’ll have to admit that, as a nutritionist, I’m generally skeptical of trending fad diets. The reality is that fad diets will help you lose some weight in the short-term, but most of them are unsustainable. Time and time again we see that when people quit their diets and go back to their previous eating habits, they regain all the weight. Some diets may even harm your health in the long-run. My advice – think twice before following advice from celebrities and social media influencers when it comes to your health! I recommend not following diets that cut out entire food groups or impose very strict rules for eating, unless medically advised by your doctor.