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Nutrition News: Is There a Good Diet?

Charlyn Fargo on

Dieting is nothing new to the U.S., but various diets come in and out of vogue. Remember Atkins, South Beach, the Zone, "eat for your blood type" and that recurring cabbage soup diet? Some of the diets making headlines now include paleo, ketogenic, intermittent fasting ... and the list goes on. So what makes a diet stick around, and, more importantly, how do you know if a diet is safe and effective?

With a new diet or weight loss pill on the market seemingly every day, it's important that you know how to spot a gimmick. If the website is selling something to help you with weight loss, there's probably a financial motive rather than a health motive. We Americans spend billions of dollars each year on the weight loss industry, including products that are nonscientific with unproven claims. If the headline promises a 10-pound weight loss in a week, rest assured, it's too good to be true and that weight loss is probably water weight. The general rule? Cutting 3,500 calories in a week (that's 500 a day) will likely result in a 1-pound weight loss per week.

So how do you know if a diet is good? First, do some quality research. Remember that not everything you read on the internet is true. I teach a university-level nutrition course, and I have my students review articles in peer-reviewed journals, not simply on social media platforms or .com (commercial) domains, which may have hidden agendas or be of opinion only. Look for websites with the most credible domains: .gov (government agencies) or .edu (educational institutions). An effective diet is one that has shown positive health outcomes and safety in the long term. Proving it requires multiple large studies, not just one or two small studies.

Here are some red flags: a promise of a quick fix, elimination of a certain food or an entire food group or a diet backed by celebrities rather than credible health organizations. Beware of diets that list "good" and "bad" foods. All food should be able to fit into an eating plan, but you may need to limit the frequency and amount you take in. That's called portion control. As we age, we need fewer calories, so we need to cut back on our portions.

My advice? Don't look for a diet. Look for a healthy lifestyle you can maintain for the rest of your life. Go back to the basics -- lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and plenty of water. All foods -- in the right amounts -- can fit into a healthy lifestyle plan.

Q and A

 

Q: Do we need fat in a meal for the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin D?

A: Absolutely. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. The beta-carotene (a precursor for vitamin A) in a salad is much better absorbed when regular or low-fat dressing is used versus non-fat dressing, or when avocado (a healthy fat) is included in the salad. If you take vitamin D in the morning, add some cream to your coffee to help with absorption. In both of these examples, it doesn't take a lot of fat to help with absorption. Small amounts are effective.

RECIPE

I recently picked up a jar of everything bagel seasoning at the grocery store -- a perfect seasoning to add flavor and crunch. Here's a recipe to try it on, from EatingWell magazine.

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