I’m not a big fan of diets but I know summer has arrived which means the gossip mags will once again be promoting the fad diets to ensure you are…I don’t even want to say it… ‘bikini ready’. But before you jump onto the fad diets that they are likely to promote check out the truth behind them…
The Alkaline Diet
I know not everyone likes to spend their evenings reading ‘Human Physiology and Biochemistry’ so I can see why it is easy think there is a lot of sense behind the alkaline diet. The diet claims that eating highly acidic foods cause ‘chronic acidosis’ in the body which acidifies body tissues. This can ‘choke off oxygen’ within bodily cells and lead to all sorts of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke as well as nutrient deficiencies. By following the alkaline diet which is high in alkaline foods you will be cleansing your body, flushing out acidic waste and begin to shift your body’s pH and oxygenate your body. And don’t forget that ‘Every little step towards a more alkaline diet is an improvement towards a healthier way of life’.
Ok so it sounds reasonably logical but lets set the facts straight. Check out this brilliant article about why the alkaline diet is actually far from logical (warning it does contain course language). It’s definitely worth the read but I have summarised the key points:
Different body parts have different pH levels: the stomach is acidic with a pH of around 2, blood slightly alkaline with a pH 7.4 and our mouth’s pH lies around 5.5 – 7. The stomach is highly acidic so it can start breaking down food, even if you eat a tonne of ‘alkaline foods’ your stomach will remain acidic. Once the food leaves your stomach and travels through your gut, secretions will neutralise the food which will make it more alkaline. While all of this is happening your blood pH levels remains in a very narrow range, not altering more or less than 0.4. The blood is maintained in this very narrow range by things called ‘buffers’ and if you are outside this range you’re are critically ill or dead. Acidosis of the blood can occur through illnesses such as diabetes, liver failure, cancer and not purely by eating acidic foods.
Scorecard: There is no evidence to back up the premise of this diet. Eating certain foods will not change the pH of your body. The only good thing about this diet is that most of the ‘allowed’ foods are actually quite healthy – which is why if you were to follow this diet you might start to feel better, not because you have become more alkaline. Score: C.
The Lemon Detox Diet
I like to think of the creator of the Lemon Detox Diet as an evil genius. Evil because what the diet consists of and a genius because they could actually get people to follow the diet and make money from it! There are many different varieties of lemon detoxes but they all have the same claims of detoxification, weight loss, boosting energy, glowing skin and the diet can even improve your self confidence and self esteem.
The diets consist of drinking 6-9 glasses of the lemon detox mixture for 10 – 14 days. But wait there’s more!!! Well actually no there isn’t, not this time! That’s it. The end. No food what so ever. Just the drink which contains water, syrup, pepper, and of course the magic ingredient lemon juice. Each day you will be consuming around 600 calories and will not be meeting requirements for pretty much any vitamin, mineral or macronutrient. I’m not sure how this will ‘nourish’ your body when it is clearly malnourishing it. This is pretty much a starvation diet. As Matt’s article clearly explains you will lose weight on this diet because you are starving your body of calories but you will also be diminishing muscle protein which will have a negative impact of your metablosim. Check out Matt’s you-tube clip to see exactly what you are in for if you were to follow the diet.
Scorecard: A diet that promotes malnourishment. F. No, actually it is un-gradable.
The Raw Food Diet
The raw food diet as the name suggests is eating raw, unprocessed, uncooked, ideally organic foods. The raw foodies proclaim that eating this way will result in weight loss, more energy, better digestion, and significantly reduce your risk of chronic disease. They say that raw foods contain essential enzymes that are destroyed if food is heated to over 47 degrees celcius. Cooked food clogs up your digestive system and arteries with partially digested protein, fats and carbohydrates.
There is some truth to the claims but as usual they have been blown way out of proportion. Tim’s blog explains in detail about the vitamins and enzymes lost through the cooking and eating of foods. In a nutshell (a raw one of course!) plant enzymes are destroyed through cooking but if eaten raw the enzymes wouldn’t last much longer anyway – they don’t make it past the acidic environment of the stomach. And if you are concerned about the nutrients lost by cooking (mainly water soluble vitamins) simply alter your cooking style and storage of fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to keep in mind that cooking can actually enhance the nutritional value of some foods and of course make them safer by killing bacteria – raw chicken with salmonella anyone?
The raw food movement has led some people to believe that the word ‘raw’ in front of food means it’s a healthy choice – Raw double choc salted brownie, oh yes please ill take 2!
Scorecard: Most people eat way too much processed foods and way too little fruit and veg. So decreasing processed foods and increasing consumption of fruit and veg whether it is raw or not is definitely a good thing. But simply eating raw food and shunning cooking – I think not. Score B.
The Blood Type Diet
The blood type diet is based on the theory that you should follow a certain diet and exercise regime depending on what blood type you have:
A: Vegetarian with hiking, swimming or yoga
B: High consumption of dairy as well as hiking, cycling and tennis
AB: No meat only eggs and fish with a combination of A & B exercises
O: High animal protein with vigorous aerobic exercise
Not only will your body work better when following the diet and suggested exercises you will also be warding of chronic diseases and increasing energy and wellbeing.
Without getting into specifics, our blood type is determined by certain molecules that are located on the surface of red blood cells. These certain molecules have absolutely no impact on the way we digest or process certain foods. Will the blood type diet work? Oh yes it probably will because surprisingly none of the diets tell you to eat chocolate, chips and cakes each day and they all encourage physical activity. Regardless of what blood type you have you will be prescribed a diet with lots of unprocessed foods and limited processed foods which means you may lose weight and increase energy. But this has nothing to do with eating according to those molecules on your blood cells and everything to do with just eating healthier foods and being more active. According to this article Dr. Victor Herbert, a hematologist who studied blood and nutrition once said of the theory linking blood type and diet that it is “pure horse manure. It has no relation to reality. The genes for blood type have nothing to do with the genes that handle the food we eat.” Good one Victor.
Scorecard: The theory behind this is ‘horse manure’. But the fact that you can actually eat food and it encourages exercise, I will give this diet a C+.
If you feel you must do a diet do the mindful diet – be mindful of the types of food you are eating, be mindful of how much and when you are eating and be mindful of how much you are moving. Score A+.