Just the Facts: Pros and Cons of Popular Diet and Fitness Trends Profiles of Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Detox, Cleanse, HIIT & CrossFit

In Diet, Fitness, Health by Maggie Callahan

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If 2015 is the year you promised yourself you’d run a marathon, lose that gut, or reverse your pre-diabetes, we’ve got the kick in the ass you need to get these goals on track. To help you start eating the right foods and working out for your body, we’ve stacked up this year’s biggest trends in diet and fitness so you can find the perfect combination for you.

Paleo

The Caveman Diet is still going strong. Popularized by Paleolithic nutrition expert Loren Cordain with his book “The Paleo Diet” in 2002, this diet advocates eating like our ancestors did about 10,000 ago, a time before processed foods and the ailments junk food caused. To go full-on primal is to eat mostly meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and some oils. Carbohydrates are limited, so this means little to no grains, beans, and certainly no modern-day processed foods. Dairy is also a no-no, but some Paleos eat butter, even though it’s not really Paleo. According to U.S. News and World Report, it breaks down to about 38% protein, 39% fat and 23% carbs.

Pros:
  • Essentially removes all processed foods, promoting successful weight loss
  • Can reduce ailments and inflammation
  • Relatively easy to follow, with no major calorie-counting
  • Nutrient dense and high in Omega-3s if you’re buying pasture-raised meat
  • Can increase energy
  • Claims to reduce male infertility, increase testosterone, and improve erectile dysfunction
Cons:
  • For some, like people with kidney problems, this amount of protein is too much
  • If eating conventionally raised animal products, you won’t see many different results than a typical Western diet
  • With so few carbs, you might feel yourself getting sluggish or having trouble working out.
  • Limiting carbs like whole grains and fruits also means you miss out on the nutrients they offer.
  • Really high in fat
  • Not many long-term studies to back up all the claims

Bottom line: Paleo is worth a shot if you’re looking to lose weight and reverse modern day health problems, like diabetes. These benefits are probably mostly due to the elimination of refined sugars and processed foods. You can reap the most from this diet if you follow the organic/pasture-raised mantra. People with ailments like kidney problems should probably proceed with caution or just skip it.

Vegan

Maybe you can’t imagine a reality without the occasional steak, but these plant-eaters swear this style of eating is the key to health. These herbivores don’t just cut out the red meat, either. They eschew all animal products, like meat, dairy, eggs, and even honey. Think lots of beans, grains, fruit and veggies. Many typically meat-containing dishes are made vegan with soy substitutes like tofu. Being free of animal products is really the only rule, meaning that those double chocolate brownies – provided they are dairy and egg-free- are totally acceptable.

Pros:
  • Claims to lower blood pressure and lower incidence of cancer
  • High nutrient intake if most calories come from fruits, veggies, grains, nuts and seeds.
  • Potential for weight loss, if refined foods are kept to a minimum
  • Can increase energ
  • Easy to understand, with no calorie counting or rules for portion control
Cons:
  • Increased energy doesn’t seem to last that long; people report feeling sluggish in the long-term
  • Nutrient shortages, like anemia or B-12 deficiency can start to wreak havoc on your health
  • Many processed, sugary foods are still considered vegan, so are up for grabs.
  • Vegan diets can be heavily reliant on soy sources of protein, leading to estrogen dominance.
  • May cause lower sperm count, according to a study at Loma Linda University.


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