Popular Diets

and what to look out for

διαιτα

It is true that there are many nutrition websites on the Internet, which are not backed and therefore do not serve the role of Dietitian-Nutritionist, providing vague nutritional advice, ready-made diets, misleading information and certainly pose a risk to the health of anyone who follows them!

There are many nutrition titles on the internet, such as Dietitian-Nutritionist, Health Wellness, Nutrition Coach, Diet expert, Nutritionist, Nutrition therapist, Nutrition Consultant a.s.o. It is important to understand the difference between these titles when you are looking for a professional who will help you change your lifestyle and thinking by improving your eating habits. In Greece, the official title of a graduate dietitian from a Technical University (ATEI), or a Recognized School and those abroad is "Dietitian-Nutritionist" with a license to practice the profession, who can work in a hospital, restaurant, community, industry, privately and so on. They may compile personalized diets, evaluate clinical cases, educate, inform and contribute to the treatment of various diseases or conditions.

Beware of fashion diets for rapid weight loss

A fashionable diet, also referred to in English as a fad diet, is a type of diet program in which a person follows a strictly low calorie diet with limited food intake and types or an unusual combination of foods for a short time. Often, the person following a fad diet loses weight very quickly. However, most people cannot follow it for a long period of time, resulting in deprivation syndrome and thus lead to the consumption of larger amounts of food (binge eating episodes), choosing less healthy foods and exponentially increasing their body weight.

Many of us would like to lose a few extra kilograms easily and quickly. However, you should not be tempted by the growing range of diet options in the form of "fast weight loss" (express diet), but also "diet for localized weight loss", "zone diet", "blood group diet", "alkaline diet" etc. These make unrealistic promises of weight loss with minimal effort, while they have no scientific evidence and can cause irreversible consequences to your health!

How to Identify Bad Nutrition Tips

It is essential to recognize the deceptive weight loss diets so that you do not end up wasting time, effort and money, or endangering your health. For this reason, stay away from diets that:

  • Promise a magic solution, ingredient or product to solve your weight problem without having to change your lifestyle in any way
  • Promise rapid weight loss over 1 kg of body fat (not total kilograms) per week
  • Recommend foods for burning fat (e.g. the grapefruit diet) or hidden ingredients in foods (e.g. the caffeine diet)
  • Promote the avoidance or strict restriction of whole food groups, such as dairy products or staple foods such as wheat, without any medical reason, and suggest their replacement with expensive alternatives, such as special products or large doses of vitamin supplements and minerals
  • Mainly promote the consumption of a one-dimensional food (e.g. cabbage soup, chocolate or eggs), or avoid all cooked foods (homophagic diets)
  • Recommend eating only certain combinations of foods based on your genes or blood type
  • Claim that increased body weight is associated with food allergy or yeast infection
  • Suggest "detox diets" or avoid foods in certain combinations, such as eating fruit with main meals
  • Offer no evidence other than a celebrity with a personal success story
  • Are based on claims that we can survive without food or by consuming only liquid meals
  • Focus only on your appearance and not on benefits to your health
  • Sell food products or supplements
  • Offer recommendations based on a single study (or even without literature at all - always check the source of the information)
  • Suggest the same diet for everyone without taking into account specific needs, such as taking account of individual medical and nutritional history
  • Are based on a "secret" that doctors have not yet discovered
  • Do not be fooled by the claims that celebrities follow some of these strange and bizarre plans.
  • They can often have personal trainers, beauticians, stylists and chefs and their photos are almost always "reworked" (photoshopped) to give you the impression of a perfect body that does not exist in reality!
  • Beware of people who claim to be nutrition specialists but have limited knowledge and offer no protection to the public.
  • You should be wary of self-professed unskilled health professionals who may offer unproven techniques for diagnosing and treating eating problems.
 

Let's look at some of the famous diets in recent years that are gaining more and more followers:

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is a diet developed successfully by Russell M. Wilder in 1920 to treat children with epilepsy. It is based on the reduced intake of carbohydrates with high percentages of natural fat consumption (60-90% of the total daily energy intake), maintaining a normal protein intake. In fact, some studies show that it has benefits in various metabolic disorders, such as type II diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease.

Kathy McManus (RD), head of the Harvard Nutrition Department, has stated that the ketogenic diet appears to have short-term effects on weight loss, with cross-referenced studies, but we do not yet know if it is effective in the long term or if it is safe. 

Increased fat intake and reduced carbohydrate intake lead our body to use a different fuel (instead of glucose), called ketones, while this condition is called ketosis. Therefore, our body instead of using the carbohydrates (glucose) of food (whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables) uses the ketone bodies as its main fuel, which our liver produces from fatty tissue.
Glucose is the main source of energy for all cells in our body, as well as for the brain. In ketotic conditions, the brain uses ketone bodies to meet its needs, as opposed to glucose, and since it is an organ with increased needs without being able to store glucose, it needs constant feedback with glucose or ketones during prolonged fasting or reduced glucose uptake.

    Types of ketogenic diet:

  • Standard ketogenic diet: Very low in carbohydrates, moderate protein intake, very high fat intake (75% fat -e.g. olive oil- 20% protein, 5% carbohydrates)
  • Cyclical ketogenic diet: Includes periods of high carbohydrate intake (5 days ketogenic diet and 2 days high carbohydrate diet)
  • Targeted ketogenic diet: A person can include carbohydrates close to their workout days.
  • High-protein ketogenic diet: Similar to the standard ketogenic diet, but contains more protein (60% fat, 35% protein, 5% carbohydrates)

 

Prerequisites:

The idea that our body burns fat to lose weight may seem ideal to most. However, for our body to enter the process of ketosis requires a period of adaptation with various metabolic processes taking place:

  • Requires reduced carbohydrate intake <20-50 g / day (consider that a moderate banana has about 27 g of carbohydrates)
  • It takes a few days until the body is in ketosis (in the first days our body blocks glucose from glycogen stores and if it is not replenished through food, it uses the body's amino acids derived from muscle catabolism)
  • Excessive protein intake can affect ketosis
 

Advantages

  • Weight loss (when there is a caloric deficit in the diet)
  • Improvement of blood glucose levels and insulin resistance (e.g. diabetes II, polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • Beneficial action in case management with epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease
  • Greater weight loss in the first 3-6 months compared to other types of diet
 

Impact:

The ketogenic diet, when not properly planned, can lead to high intake of saturated fats, which are associated with cardiovascular disease. Some other effects are:

  • Deficiency of nutrients such as magnesium, selenium, B vitamins and vitamin C, phosphorus (due to reduced intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains).
  • Liver disorders (due to increased production of ketone bodies)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Constipation (due to reduced intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and therefore reduced fiber intake)
  • Other symptoms include dizziness, headache, nervousness, irritability, hunger, tiredness, fatigue, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, muscle cramps in the legs.
 
 

Unit diet

The unit diet is a new fashion diet (Fad), which became known through the Internet, of course, without any scientific background or research results. This diet is based on the measurement of units corresponding to specific foods regardless of quantity. In fact, it claims that you can eat an "unlimited amount" of a food and lose weight! This is not only beyond the laws of biophysics and chemistry, but also leads to adverse effects on the health of the individual!

The choice of units differs depending on the gender and depending on the weight that the person wants to lose. Specifically, women must consume 6-7 units per day, which means that if they want to lose up to 12 kg they will consume 6 units, while if they want to lose more they will consume 7 units. On the other hand, men should consume 7-8 units (7 for weight loss up to 12 kg and 8 units for greater weight loss). In case the person does not lose any more weight, then it is recommended to reduce the units, without ever being less than 5 in a day!

Each food corresponds to 0 or 1 unit. Foods that have 0 units belong to free foods, as the person can consume them in unlimited quantities during the day. This category includes fruits (except some of the 2nd category), vegetables (except potatoes, corn, beetroot), vinegar, lemon, sugar-free soft drinks, spices, coffee, and cocoa. In the 2nd category, i.e. the foods that are 1 unit are melons, watermelons, figs, grapes, bananas, tropical fruits, meats, fish, seafood, pasta, rice, honey, tahini, 1 serving of alcohol which a person can consume within 1 hour, otherwise they will have to calculate another unit.
ATTENTION: All foods that yield 1 unit are counted by type, that is, if we eat two types of cheese we calculate 2 units.

As you can see, such a diet goes against the pattern of a balanced diet, although its proponents claim that weight loss can occur by consuming foods in moderation and always counting units. In other words, whether you eat an orange or eat 1 kilo of oranges, it counts as 0 units! In addition, watermelon, meat or oil do not give all three separate 1 unit, as they are very different foods in terms of composition and nutritional analysis and value.
Additionally, other questions have not been answered:
Are there any contraindications to this diet?
Can practically everyone follow it?
That is, can people with anemia, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes or other metabolic disorder follow it without any impact on their health? 
In conclusion, the unit diet is not based on any scientific background, it does not promote a balanced diet, while the individual is required to formulate a diet plan by simply counting units, without calculating the frequency of food intake or the proportions of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, trace elements) needed to meet daily needs!

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a fairly popular diet pattern, with a large number of supporters applying it in their daily lives. According to its proponents, this method can lead to weight loss, improve blood sugar metabolism and slow down aging.

There are several models with the best known being:

A) Intermittent fasting 16:8 (hours)

This plan is divided into 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feeding (food consumption). During the 8 hours the person can include 2, 3 or more meals, depending on their lifestyle. Usually, in this model the person completes their last meal at 21:00, so that the next meal is lunch at 13:00, skipping breakfast. During the 16 hours of fasting, water, drinks and coffees (without sugar / milk) can be consumed freely. Then it is followed by an 8 hour margin when food can be consumed. It is very important for the person to follow a balanced diet plan in the space of the feeding window that will promote health and will meet his daily needs for energy and macro- and micronutrients. If the person is aiming for weight loss, then a negative energy balance is a necessary condition to achieve his goal. This method is also known as the Leangains protocol and was popularized by gymnast Martin Berkhan.

Β) Intermittent fasting 5:2 (days)

The 5:2 diet states that the person's energy intake for 5 days a week is what will lead him to an energy balance (i.e. maintaining body weight), while for 2 days a week the person limits his energy intake to 500 or 600 Kcal / day (women and men respectively). This diet is also called Fast Diet and was spread by British journalist Michael Mosley, while it is the harshest form of intermittent fasting. For example, the person can eat normally every day of the week except Monday and Thursday. For these two days, the person will consume 2 small meals of 250 calories each for women and 300 calories each for men. The truth is that there are no studies on the 5:2 diet that have studied this pattern, while there is more scientific data on some benefits of the 16:8 diet. Finally, this regimen is contraindicated for high-risk groups, such as children, adolescents, pregnant women, nursing mothers, but also people with metabolic disorders or some other health problem (SD, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disorders, etc.)

In conclusion

There are studies in humans that show that intermittent fasting can be safe and effective if properly designed and supported by a qualified Dietitian. However, there is no clear evidence that this diet is superior to a balanced diet that does not limit the amount of time consumed by food. In addition, the benefits of this diet have been observed when the feeding window fluctuates in daylight, with the last meal being early in the evening (8-9 pm) and not when eating starts late at noon till night or throughout the night.

This is because our body synchronizes with daylight through the circadian system, and even through the central clock located in the hypothalamus of the brain. Therefore, this has the effect of synchronizing our other functions through the central clock for the proper functioning of our body (e.g. secretion of hormones, action of digestive enzymes).

Also, our body is synchronized in the light-dark cycle, so that it receives its food during the day and sleeps at night, while the consumption of food late at night has been associated with a high risk of obesity and diabetes. Therefore, some scientific evidence suggests that the practice of intermittent fasting, when combined with a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes. However, people with advanced diabetes or who are taking diabetes medication, people with a history of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not follow intermittent fasting.

In conclusion, a number of studies show that the fasting period, but also the feeding window, is the key and can make Intermittent Fasting an effective approach to weight loss. It is also regarded as a means of prevention of diabetes, although the same can be achieved and with a balanced diet plan based on a more vegetarian pattern. Such a dietary pattern would be the Mediterranean diet, with increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and an emphasis on eating fish and white meat, instead of red meat.

Alkaline diet

The Alkaline Diet is a diet that, although it has been applied from time to time with several variations, became even more famous in 2013 when Victoria Beckham announced her diet plan. This diet claims that the consumption of certain foods can affect the pH value (measurement of acidity or alkalinity) of our body.

Regulating the pH levels of our body, i.e. the concentration of ions, is a necessary condition for the optimal functioning of our body. However, it is important to note that pH values vary significantly in our body. Some parts are acidic and others are alkaline.

For example, our stomach is very acidic, having a pH of 2-3.5, which is necessary for some enzymes (hydrochloric acid) to work and be digested, while our small intestine is alkaline in order to reduce the acidity of gastric fluid and for the pancreatic enzymes secreted during digestion to be functional. Human life requires a strictly controlled pH level in the blood serum which is about 7.4 (slightly alkaline range 7.35 to 7.45) to survive. When our blood pH drops below normal, it can be fatal to our body if not treated immediately.

The alkaline diet claims that you can regulate the pH of your blood, as well as reduce your body weight and the risk of diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Specifically, according to this diet, the foods that are encouraged to be consumed, as their metabolic wastes are considered alkaline and therefore seem to regulate the blood close to normal, are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. While the foods whose metabolic wastes are more acidic, and therefore make the blood more acidic are meat, eggs, fish, dairy, cereals, alcohol and all basic products.

What is really happening to our body?

After eating food / meal, the digestion process follows in order to break down the large molecules of the food (e.g. carbohydrates) into smaller molecules (e.g. glucose). Inevitably, during this process some by-products of our metabolism are released, which can be alkaline, neutral or acidic.

Proponents of this diet claim that metabolic wastes can directly affect the acidity of our body. We know, however, that the disturbance of the pH in the blood can lead to death and therefore our body has homeostatic mechanisms to remain within normal limits. If the pH of our blood dropped below normal, it would mean the end of cell function and consequently cell death, if this was not treated immediately. For this reason, your body has many effective ways to narrowly regulate your pH balance. Our kidneys, and the liver, are key organs involved in our body's detoxification process.

In fact, it is almost impossible for the food we consume to change the pH of the blood in healthy people, although small fluctuations may occur within the normal range (7.35-7.45). However, food can change the pH of our urine, as the excretion of acids in our urine is one of the main homeostatic mechanisms by which our body regulates the pH of the blood to the constant value we mentioned.

For example, if we eat a certain amount of meat (e.g. a large steak) our urine will be more acidic a few hours later as our body removes metabolic waste. In addition, the pH of the urine can also be affected by factors other than our diet.

What do we conclude?

Alkaline diet is a diet that encourages high intake of fruits, vegetables and healthy plant foods, while limiting processed foods and meat, while it can have a positive effect on chronic metabolic diseases and illnesses. Research so far suggests that increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and fiber has many beneficial benefits for our health anyway. On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet also emphasizes the consumption of these foods, for which we have more studies and meta-analyzes for its health benefits.

However, the idea that diet enhances our health due to its alkalizing foods is questionable. These claims have not been substantiated by reliable studies in human models. Alkaline diet is generally considered healthy because it is based on whole and unprocessed foods. There is no reliable evidence that it has anything to do with blood pH levels. Finally, it is worth noting that an acidic renal load is associated with the formation of kidney stones and requires special care.

Mediterranean Diet

In recent years, the rapid development of the nutrition industry has brought to the fore new studies and research data with various dietary patterns taking place. However, it seems that the standard of the Mediterranean Diet is associated with many benefits for human health, exerting a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases, both in Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean populations.

These properties may depend in part on its positive effect on cardiometabolic risk, reducing the risk of developing diabetes mellitus 2 and metabolic-related diseases, and there is also evidence for the possible prevention of certain types of cancer. In fact, a higher focus on the Mediterranean diet, also referred to as the Med Diet Score, appears to be associated with a lower risk of mental disorders, including cognitive impairment and depression.

What does the Mediterranean Diet include?

  • Whole or minimally processed food
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Olive oil
  • Reduced consumption of fast food, sugary drinks, processed products or energy-dense foods
  • Moderate consumption of white meat and alcohol
  • Reduced consumption of red meat

Interest in the Mediterranean diet began in the 1960s with the observation that coronary heart disease was associated with fewer deaths in Mediterranean countries, such as Greece and Italy, than in the US and Northern Europe. Subsequent studies have found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Today, the Mediterranean diet is considered a standard of healthy eating and is recommended by the American Dietary Guidelines for the Promotion of Health and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases.

Current evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet is effective in improving both glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes and should therefore be considered in the overall management strategy for people with diabetes. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet can reduce the chance of developing diabetes by 19-23%.

All the diets that have a protective effect on our health, including the vegetarian diet, have many similarities with the Mediterranean diet, as they are based mainly on plant foods and include high consumption of whole grains, unprocessed foods and fruits.

Best Focus points of the Mediterranean Diet:

  • Adequate intake of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats)
  • Adequate intake of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace elements)
  • Inclusion of good fats in our diet (olive oil) versus saturated fatty acids (e.g. butter, coconut oil)
    ATTENTION: Olive oil offers adequate energy (1 g yields 9 Kcal), so it can easily lead us to a positive energy balance, and in the long run to increase our body weight, so it is recommended to consume it in our diet in moderation, but it must remain the basic oil we use in the preparation of food.
  • Reduction of saturated fatty acids, as they are associated with disorders of the lipid profile (increased cholesterol and LDL and low HDL). Choose low-fat or plant-based products.
    CAUTION:
    “Light” products have calories too and can often have elevated values in simple sugars, so always check the food label and ingredients of the product.
  • Consumption of fruits and vegetables (at least 3 servings of fruits and 4-5 servings of vegetables per day with a variety of colors and always in season)
  • The consumption of 2 servings of fish per week, one of which should be oily fish (sardines, trout, mackerel, and sea bream, salmon). Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fatty acids, and is an excellent source of protein of high biological value for the human body
  • The consumption of legumes as an alternative form of protein (good source of protein, carbohydrates and fiber, low in fat). Frequent consumption (> 3 servings / week) is recommended for people with high cholesterol.
  • Eat lean meats, with an emphasis on skinless white meat such as chicken and turkey (2-3 times a week)
  • Reduction of red meat consumption to 1 in 10 days, as well as reduction of processed meat (turkey, salami, ham, etc.) to 20-25 g / week (= 2 slices)
  • Choice as a way of cooking, boiling and baking, instead of frying.
  • Μειωμένη πρόσληψη απλών σακχάρων (ζάχαρη, μέλι, μαρμελάδα, χυμοί, αναψυκτικά, επεξεργασμένα δημητριακά)
  • Reduced salt intake (up to 1g per day (<5 g)
  • Reduced alcohol consumption
  • Use of spices in cooking (pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, paprika, thyme, etc.)
  • Limit snacking during the day

 

 

 

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