- Popular Diets
- Functional Foods
- Surgical Weight Loss
Diet Trends and Health
In the past, health was regarded merely as the absence of illness. However, a growing understanding of the human condition’s complexity and potential has prompted a new way of thinking about health. Today, we focus on the idea of wellness, which involves a great deal more than just not being sick. Wellness is a state of optimal well-being that enables an individual to maximize their potential. This concept includes a host of dimensions—physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental, and spiritual—which affect one’s quality of life. Striving for wellness begins with an examination of dietary choices.
Dietary Food Trends
Hundreds of years ago, when food was less accessible and daily life required much more physical activity; people worried less about obesity and more about simply getting enough to eat. In today’s industrialized nations, conveniences have solved some problems and introduced new ones, including obesity and diabetes. Fad diets gained popularity as more North Americans struggled with excess pounds. However, new evidence-based approaches that emphasize more holistic measures are on the rise. These new dietary trends encourage those seeking to lose weight to eat healthy, whole foods first while adopting a more active lifestyle. These sound practices put dietary choices in the context of wellness and a healthier approach to life.
Many people seek out foods that provide the greatest health benefits. This trend gives rise to functional foods, which help meet basic nutritional needs and are reported to fight illness and aging. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), functional foods may reduce disease risk or promote optimal health. AND recognizes four types of functional foods. They are conventional foods, modified foods, medical foods, and special dietary use foods.
The first group, conventional foods, represents the simplest form of functional foods. They are whole foods that have not been modified. Examples include whole fruits and vegetables (which are abundant in phytochemicals and antioxidants), yogurt and kefir (which contain natural probiotic bacteria that can help maintain digestive system health), and moderate amounts of dark chocolate, made with 70% or more cacao (which contains antioxidants).
Modified foods have been fortified, enriched, or enhanced with additional nutrients or bioactive compounds. Foods are modified using biotechnology to improve their nutritional value and health attributes. Examples of modified foods include calcium-fortified orange juice, bread enriched with B vitamins, iodized salt, cereals fortified with vitamins and minerals, margarine enhanced with plant sterols, and energy drinks that have been enriched with herbs (ginseng or guarana) or amino acids (taurine). It is important to consider that some modified foods’ health claims may be debatable or entirely fraudulent. Check with a health professional regarding the effects of modified foods on your health.
Medical foods are created to meet precise nutritional requirements. These foods are designed to pass through the stomach undigested and be broken down in the intestine. Examples of medical foods include liquid formulas for people with kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, or other health issues. Medical food is also given to comatose patients through a gastronomy tube because they cannot eat by mouth.
Special dietary use foods do not have to be administered under a doctor’s care and can be found in various stores. Like medical foods, they address special dietary needs and meet the nutritional requirements of certain health conditions. For example, a bottled oral supplement administered under medical supervision is a medical food, but it becomes a special dietary food sold to retail customers. Examples of special dietary use foods include gluten-free foods, lactose-free dairy products, and formulas and shakes that promote weight loss.
The concept of functional foods represents initiatives aimed at addressing health problems. Certain diet plans take this concept one step further by striving to prevent or treat specific conditions. For example, it is widely understood that people with diabetes need to follow a particular diet. Although some of these diet plans may be nutritionally sound, use caution because some diets may be fads or be so extreme that they actually cause health problems.
Before experimenting with a diet, discuss your plans with your doctor or a registered dietitian. Throughout this section, we will discuss some of the more popular diets. Some fall under the category of fad diets, while others are backed by scientific evidence. Those who fall into the latter category provide a good foundation for building a solid regimen for optimal health.
The DASH Diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, focuses on reducing sodium intake to either 2,300 milligrams per day (recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) or 1,500 milligrams per day for certain populations. The DASH diet is an evidence-based eating plan that can help reduce high blood pressure. This plan may also decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
DASH tips to lower sodium include:
- Using spices instead of salt to add flavor
- Reading sodium content on processed or canned food labels and choosing low-sodium options.
- Removing some sodium from canned foods (such as beans) by rinsing the product before consumption
- Avoiding salt when cooking
DASH dieters are recommended to consume various whole grains and high-fiber fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and heart-healthy fish. Also, DASH limits the use of saturated fats to less than 7 percent of total calories and limits sweets and alcohol consumption. The DASH diet also calls for consuming less added sugar and drinking fewer sugar-sweetened drinks. It replaces red meat with fish and legumes and calls for increased calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Also, even though some people on the DASH diet may find it lowers their HDL (good) cholesterol along with their LDL (bad) cholesterol, it still has a positive cumulative effect on heart health.
The Gluten-Free Diet
The gluten-free diet helps people whose bodies cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. One of the most important ways to treat this condition is to avoid problematic foods, which is not easy. Although following a gluten-free diet is challenging, it is prescribed for patients with gluten intolerance and celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder with a genetic link. People who have celiac disease cannot consume gluten products without damaging their intestinal lining. Eating a gluten-free diet means finding replacements for bread, cereal, pasta, and more. It also means emphasizing fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods without gluten. However, it is important to note that the gluten-free trend has become something of a fad even for those without a gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is a relatively rare condition found in only 1 percent of the population. Therefore, a gluten-free diet should be followed only with a physician’s recommendation.
Low-Carb Diets / KETO
Low-carb diets, including the Keto, Atkins Diet, and the South Beach Diet, focus on limiting carbohydrates—such as grains, fruit, and starchy vegetables—to promote weight loss. The theory behind the low-carb diet is that insulin prevents the breakdown of fat by allowing sugar in the form of blood glucose to be used for energy. Proponents of this approach believe that because limiting carbs generally lowers insulin levels, it would cause the body to burn stored fat instead. They believe this method brings about weight loss and reduces the risk factors for several conditions. However, some studies have shown that people who followed certain low-carb diet plans for two years lost an average of nearly 9 pounds, which is similar to the amount of weight lost on higher carbohydrate diets.
This kind of diet benefits includes an emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods and a de-emphasis of refined carbohydrates, such as white flour, white bread, and white sugar. However, there are several downsides. Typically, the first two weeks allow for only 20 grams of carbs per day, which can be dangerously low. Dieters using the low-carb approach consume twice as many saturated fats as people on a diet high in healthy carbohydrates. Low-carb diets are also associated with higher energy intake. The notion that “calories don’t count,” which is prevalent in this kind of diet, is not supported by scientific evidence.
The Macrobiotic Diet
The macrobiotic diet is part of a health and wellness regimen based on Eastern philosophy. It combines certain tenets of Zen Buddhism with a vegetarian diet and supports a balance of yin and yang’s oppositional forces. Foods are paired based on their so-called yin or yang characteristics. Yin foods are thought to be sweet, cold, and passive, while yang foods are salty, hot, and aggressive.
Whole grains make up about 50 percent of the calories consumed and are believed to have the best balance of yin and yang. Raw and cooked vegetables comprise about 30 percent of the diet and include kale, cabbage, collards, bok choy, and broccoli daily, along with mushrooms and celery a few times a week. Bean or vegetable-based soups and broths can make up 5 to 10 percent of daily caloric intake. Additionally, the diet allows small amounts of fish and seafood several times a week, along with a few servings of nuts. The macrobiotic diet prohibits certain foods, such as chocolate, tropical fruits, and animal products, because they are believed to fall on the far end of the yin-yang spectrum, which would make it difficult to achieve a Zen-like balance.
The macrobiotic diet focuses on low in saturated fats and high in fiber, which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Proponents of this diet also believe that it may protect against cancer. However, many nutritionists and healthcare providers express concerns, particularly if the diet is followed strictly. Extreme macrobiotic eating can be low in protein, low in calories, and pose a risk for starvation. Also, the diet is deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.
The Mediterranean Diet
The traditional Mediterranean diet incorporates many elements of people living in Greece and southern Italy. The Mediterranean diet focuses on small portions of nutritionally-sound food. This diet features food from plant sources, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, bread and potatoes, and olive oil. It also limits processed foods consumption and recommends eating locally grown foods rich in micronutrients and antioxidants. Other aspects of this eating plan include consuming fish and poultry at least twice per week, eating red meat only a few times per month, having up to seven eggs per week, and drinking red wine in moderation. Unlike most diets, the Mediterranean diet does not cut fat consumption across the board. Instead, it incorporates low-fat cheese and dairy products, and it substitutes olive oil, canola oil, and other healthy oils for butter and margarine.
More than fifty years of nutritional and epidemiological research has shown that people who follow the Mediterranean diet have some of the lowest rates of chronic disease and the highest longevity rates among the world’s populations. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet also significantly decreases excess body weight, blood pressure, blood fats, blood sugar, and insulin levels.
The Raw Food Diet
The raw food diet is followed by those who avoid cooking as much as possible to take advantage of foods’ full nutrient content. The principle behind raw foodism is those plant foods in their natural state are the most wholesome for the body. The raw food diet is not a weight-loss plan; it is a lifestyle choice. People who practice raw foodism eat only uncooked and unprocessed foods, emphasizing whole fruits and vegetables. Staples of the raw food diet include whole grains, beans, dried fruits, seeds and nuts, seaweed, sprouts, and unprocessed produce. As a result, food preparation mostly involves peeling, chopping, blending, straining, and dehydrating fruits and vegetables.
This eating method’s positive aspects include consuming foods that are high in fiber and nutrients and low in calories and saturated fat. However, the raw food diet offers little protein, dairy, or fats, which can cause deficiencies of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Also, not all foods are healthier uncooked, such as spinach and tomatoes. Also, cooking eliminates potentially harmful microorganisms that can cause foodborne illnesses. Therefore, people who primarily eat raw foods should thoroughly clean all fruit and vegetables before eating them. Poultry and other meats should always be cooked before eating.
Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Vegetarian and vegan diets have been followed for thousands of years for different reasons, including spiritual practice, respect for living things, health reasons, or environmental concerns. For many people, being a vegetarian is a logical outgrowth of “thinking green.” A meat-based food system requires more energy, land, and water resources than a plant-based food system. This may suggest that the plant-based diet is more sustainable than the average meat-based diet in the U.S.By avoiding animal flesh, vegetarians hope to look after their own health and that of the planet at the same time. Broadly speaking, vegetarians eat beans, grains, and fruits and vegetables and do not eat red meat, poultry, seafood, or other animal flesh. Some vegetarians, known as Lacto vegetarians, will eat dairy products. Others, known as Lacto-ovo vegetarians, will eat dairy products and eggs. A vegan diet is the most restrictive vegetarian diet—vegans do not eat dairy, eggs, or other animal products, and some do not eat honey.
Vegetarian diets have many benefits. Well-balanced eating plans can lower the risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. They also help to promote sustainable agriculture. However, if a vegetarian does not vary his or her food choices, the diet may be insufficient in calcium, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin B12. Also, if people who follow these diets do not plan out their meals, they may gravitate toward foods high in fats.
The Pros and Cons of Seven Popular Diets
|Raw Food Diet||
|Vegetarianism and Veganism||
Surgical Weight Loss Methods
You’ve probably seen advertisements for weight loss surgery. However, this is only recommended for severely obese patients with a BMI of 40 or greater or a BMI of 35 with other chronic diseases such as Diabetes. Most people who have undergone these procedures lose and maintain 45-90 pounds of weight loss depending on surgery type. However, surgical weight loss is a “surgery,” and with all surgical procedures, there are associated risks, and many people die due to complications from the surgery. Additionally, people who have undergone bariatric surgery require monitoring for the rest of their life. When they are unproperly monitored, it can lead to complications and death.
To learn more about bariatric surgeries, visit the link below.
- Explain the importance of healthful eating and physical movement in chronic and acute disease prevention and identify the nutrient adjustments needed to support optimal health throughout the lifecycle. (MCCCD Competency 4)
- Evaluate the merits of functional foods. (MCCCD Competency 6)
- Locate, evaluate, and use credible sources of nutrition information. (MCCCD Competency 3)