Some people can’t eat meat, or can’t eat gluten. Then, there are others who choose not to eat certain foods in order to lose weight or be healthier. Either way, there’s a definite influx of fad diets showing up in which people’s diets reflect the elimination of meats, animal products, or gluten.
However, dieters need to pay a lot of attention to what they eat to make sure they aren’t actually hurting themselves. But if these diets could be dangerous, why do we choose them in the first place?
Why We Choose These Diets
About 1% of the population actually has Celiac Disease and can’t eat gluten, and, though it’s not something you often hear about, meat allergies exist. So there are certain people who always eat gluten free, or who always follow vegan or vegetarian diets. But just because this lifestyle works for them doesn’t mean it works for everyone.
Our trend toward these diets is heavily influenced by celebrities like Beyonce and Jay-Z, who took on a 22-day vegan cleanse diet. Trendy diets are often hard to sustain, but that doesn’t mean we don’t give it the ol’ college try. If the stars got that thin, why shouldn’t we?
Plus, there’s this constant influx of information about what’s actually good for you. It’s hard to keep track: coffee is good, or bad, or red meat is bad, or it’s good in moderation, bread and carbs are bad, no wait, they’re good, wine is awful, no wait, wine’s good. All this constant flip-flopping can be confusing.
Food is Power
Doesn’t that sound intimidating? Well, it should. As a society, we have an obsession with food. We’re obsessed with food porn because it takes us all over the world. Let me share this gem from Psychology Today, “Cooking shows are to food what pornography is to sex.” (Cue that literal food porn series.)
Psychology Today explains that because so many people often diet to reach unrealistic expectations, they’re often hungry, and that may fuel a food obsession. Other causes could be nutritional deficiencies that result from diet or from fewer actual wholesome meals being made (looking at you, restaurants and fast food). There are plenty more reasons, from inactivity to food advertising to eating alone.
Food has become the focus of holidays (think Thanksgiving) — now, we even have holidays specifically for food. It’s all good and fine to celebrate nutrients, but we’re nearly idolizing them. And sure, certain diets have benefits (see below), but there’s a reason they should be a phase and not a lifestyle.
Gluten Free Diet Downfall
Look, a gluten free diet makes a whole lot of sense. Carbs are the addictive enemy, so cutting them out seems like a surefire way to stay healthy. All the foods you’re not supposed to eat are the ones we always take to be too unhealthy. So why is this diet a bad idea?
When you completely remove a huge selection of food from your diet, you’re bound to have some nutritional deficiencies. Specifically, if you supplement your GF diet with refined gluten free foods, these foods are often incredibly low in nutrients and even high in carbs. The products lack essential vitamins and minerals.
If you take supplements, that should help. But don’t assume that just by cutting off gluten, you’ll suddenly be healthier.
Vegetarian Diet Downfall
This is pretty serious. Humans weren’t designed to be vegetarians — unlike cows, our bodies aren’t made to convert plants into energy efficiently enough to have a plant-based diet keep us afloat. Actually, eating meat is what made us human. Some of the nutrients vegetarians miss out on: Zinc, B12, omega-three fatty acids, and more. All these nutrients prevent various health problems.
Is that not bad enough? Vegetarians also tend to have a high-carb, low-fat diet, which is bad for blood sugar and said to make you age faster. They’re also prone to allergies, mental health disorders, and elevated risk of cancer.
Vegan Diet Downfall
Vegans drive to eat what they do may be strong, but their diet is pretty weak. This group suffers the same nutritional deficiencies as vegetarians, and more. Vegan diets actually work better in the short term, because like any diet, it should be a temporary change.
The China Study, which promotes a plant-based diet, has recently been debunked. In fact, there’s been noted health improvements in people who ate more red meat in a newer study (women had a lower chance of cancer and men of cardiovascular disease), also from China.
Vegan diets lack even more nutrients than vegetarian. Our bodies were designed (and we evolved) to eat meat. It seems like we should follow evolution’s plan.
Paleo Diet Downfall
Dwight Schrute would be all over the paleo diet. Basically, its rules are this: eat like the cavemen did. This means you can eat whatever they could back then. Meat, fish, eggs, natural oils, and tubers (potatoes, etc.) are a-okay as long as you eat them raw (baked, steamed, just not fried or anything fancy like that). Grains, sugar, salt, and anything processed is off-limits. There are some paleo alternatives for popular foods that can keep you on track if you miss some of your fave foods.
So what’s the problem with eating like a caveman? The diet is “hard to maintain,” partially because the main mentality is to avoid several foods, which drops a pretty negative association. Another thing? We’re not cavemen anymore — our digestive systems have evolved since the cavemen. We have different needs to stay healthy.
It’s also been criticized as being “founded more on privilege than on logic.” Back in caveman days, they were hunter-gatherers because they had to be. Doctors claim there’s no evidence that Paleo-eaters live longer or are healthier than other people.
What This All Means
It’s simple: moderation (unlike our pal Buddy here). All these diets are good as temporary measures to help shed some pounds or maybe reduce bloating, but they all run the risk of leaving you with serious nutritional deficiencies.
Only you can really know what you need. If you feel sluggish, try a diet for a while and see if it perks you up. Just keep in mind that a diet should be temporary, or at least, you should consult with a nutritionist to make sure you’re staying healthy.