Guest Opinion | The Doctor is In: The pros and cons of common diets

The new year is a great time to set new goals like improving your diet.

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Diet changes and weight loss plans often include cutting out carbs, eliminating sweets, and giving up meat among many other strategies. These diets have recently fought for the spotlight in the form of fads. Fad diets are trendy weight-loss plans that promise results quickly, each with their own pros and cons. This article is simply meant to inform you of the four most popular fad diets, not convince you to choose one diet over another.

The ketogenic diet requires carbohydrate restriction and relies on fats and proteins, largely animal products and high-fat vegetables and legumes, to force the body to burn fat as an energy source.

  • Pros: Focuses on weight loss.
  • Cons: Lacks carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fruits that are important to combat health conditions, not just weight loss.

Intermittent fasting  shifts the focus of the diet from what we eat to when eating occurs. This diet is centered on the idea that after many hours of fasting, the body switches from burning carbohydrates to burning fats as a primary fuel source.

  • Pros: Has been shown to improve cognitive function, increase weight loss, and help physical performance. Allows for more freedom with food choices.
  • Cons: Can take 2 – 4 weeks to adjust to the diet.

The Mediterranean diet  focuses on eating foods common to Mediterranean countries such as whole grains, plant-based foods, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Olive oil is the main source of added fat.

  • Pros: Has been shown to increase lifespan and overall reach one’s old age with less chronic disease, also known as “healthy aging.”
  • Cons: Difficult meal preparation because it emphasizes fresh foods and eliminates many foods classically contained within an American diet such as white flour and processed products.

Vegetarian/Vegan eating eliminates eating meat or, in the case of veganism, all animal products.

  • Pros: Animal products have been shown to be the main source of dietary cholesterol in the American diet and have been implicated in heart disease. Many “essential” foods of animal origin such as milk and pork have now been said to be nonessential and contain nutrients that are attainable from plants.
  • Cons: Some nutrients are still easy to miss if the diet is not well planned such as Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Many of these diets are beneficial to health, longevity, and the reduction of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Often, it is not required to go “all in” on one of these diets, but rather take properties of healthy eating that many of them highlight and apply it to your everyday diet. Here are some properties of diets that you should keep in mind:

  1. Eat a colorful plate full of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Calculate daily calories allowed.
  3. Exercise must be paired with a healthy diet.
  4. Sustainability is important. A small change that lasts is better than a large change for one month.

University of Iowa Student Wellness offers free nutritional counseling to students. A dietitian can meet with you online or in-person to discuss nutritional intolerances, healthy eating, or even shopping on a budget.

-Ben Martin and Nathan Seaberg, Second-year physical therapy students

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