Dieting Dilemmas and the newest fad diets

Dieting Dilemmas and the newest fad diets
FOLLOWING the latest fad diet may sound appealing, but the news isn't good when it comes to results, since most just don't deliver on their promises.

People often ask me whether following the newest dieting fad is going to help them lose weight. After checking the diet out, however, I usually have to tell them the evidence for healthy, long-term weight loss isn't there.

Fad diets typically appear in the latest women's or gossip magazines and come with a promise of losing weight fast. Some use 'before and after' photographs or celebrity endorsement to prove their effectiveness, and they often talk about severely cutting back, or completely removing, whole food groups.

They usually promise success for everyone rather than tailoring the diet to an individual's needs and rarely include exercise or lifestyle changes in their plan for reducing weight. A good rule of thumb is 'if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is!'.

An example of a fad diet, now waning in popularity, is the low-carb diet. Every scientific study shows that carbohydrate restriction may cause water and muscle loss in the first few weeks or months, but it doesn't help you loose those extra kilos in the long-run.

The scientific and nutritional evidence, and their failure to work over time, is no doubt the reason many popular magazine and celebrity-endorsed diets are now turning back to carbohydrates as an essential part of healthy dieting.

Carbs for good health

Science shows carbs are no more fattening than other foods, and are actually essential for a balanced and healthy diet, so including carbohydrate foods in your diet really is the best way to lose weight - and keep it off.

For healthy weight control, fill up daily on essential and nutritious foods like bread, cereal, rice, pasta, legumes, fruit and vegetables. All these foods contain carbohydrates but are also packed with essential proteins, vitamins and minerals that are crucial for vitality and wellbeing.

Remember, however, there are other carbohydrate foods such as cakes, donuts, lollies, sugary biscuits and soft drinks, that contain few nutrients and these should only be eaten occasionally as a treat

"Foods like bread are not fattening. Carbohydrates have the same kilojoules as protein, and half the kilojoules of fat"

Wholegrain foods like wholemeal and mixed grain breads and crisp-breads, wholegrain breakfast cereals, oats and legumes can also help protect against diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. There's a raft of scientific research, over many years in many countries, showing this to be true.

Grains are also very low in fat, and most of the fat they do contain is the healthy 'unsaturated' variety.

If you want to feel more satisfied for longer, then high-fibre carbohydrate foods are the way to go. Wholegrain breads and cereals can help with weight control because they take longer to digest and create a 'full' stomach feeling, which discourages overeating.

Separating Dieting Fact from Fiction

Fiction: Carbohydrates put on weight
Fact: Carbs provide half the energy value of fat and the same energy as protein. Total energy (kilojoule or calorie) intake is the most important factor in weight control. If you eat too much of any food, and exercise too little, surplus energy is stored as fat.

Fiction: To lose weight, you must avoid carbohydrates

Fact: Losing weight means eating less of everything and increasing your physical activity. Carbohydrate foods provide essential protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and other health-promoting factors - so don't cut them out. These foods include bread, breakfast cereals, crispbreads, pasta, rice, fruit, vegetables, and pulses (legumes).

Fiction: Low-fat diets don't work

Fact: Some people say low-fat diets don't work because the population is still gaining weight even after years of being told to eat less fat. Wrong! The percentage of fat consumed may have fallen slightly, but our total energy intake has increased. Australians are still not eating less fat.

Fiction: Sacrificing carbs for protein and fat is a healthy way to diet

Fact: Replacing carbohydrate foods with fat - especially saturated fat - has well-established links with obesity and other serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Trish Griffiths (BSc, DipNutrDiet, GradDipCommM, MPH, APD) is Executive Director of Go Grains Health and Nutrition

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