The ins and outs of some of America’s most popular food fads
Really, what the hell even
is gluten? It seems like wherever we turn there is a new diet trend that claims to be the best and most efficient way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. When fit guys in white lab coats with doctoral degrees in health and nutrition are all encouraging alternative ways to eat and lose weight, it has become increasingly hard to determine how to achieve the best results. However, like high-rise shorts or thick-rimmed glasses, some trends are at least worth giving a shot.
Similar to the more well-known Paleo Diet, the Primal Blueprint is basically a way of living that embodies a return to the human beings’ way of life from over 10,000 years ago.
According to Livestrong.com, the diet consists mainly on high quality sources of protein, colorful (and locally grown) fruits and veggies, and fats found in nuts, avocados, coconut, butter and olive oil.
According to Mike Sisson, creator of the Primal Blueprint, the diet itself throws away the standard FDA food pyramid and claimed the government’s idea of healthy eating is completely wrong. A prime example of this is the fact that in the FDA food pyramid, bread, cereal and rice are supposed to make up the majority of our daily intake. In contrast, such carbs are not present in the primal meal plan.
There are some holes in the design that are not all that primal-y.
“There’s bacon on there; people in Paleolithic times did not eat bacon,” Alison Borkowska, nutritional science professor at Penn State University, said. If people want to really eat like a caveman, “they should go outside kill a squirrel in their backyard and eat it raw,” she said.
The Primal Blueprint claims to reward those who strictly follow it with boosted energy, weight loss and better sleep. However, the huge change in day-to-day diet makes it difficult for many people to loyally follow it.
Why would someone willingly subject themselves to a life where eating is less tasty, more difficult and more expensive than it has to be, if they didn’t seriously need to be gluten free?
Gluten is a protein present in cereal grains, especially wheat. Those who need to cut it out of their diets do so to prevent damage caused by Celiac Disease, which, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, is an “autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.”
The disease affects about one in 100 people worldwide, yet in January 2013, a survey done by consumer market research company NPD Group found that gluten-free living appeals to more than 30 percent of the American population. This means most people giving up gluten are not doing so for medical necessity.
The common belief is that cutting gluten out of diets will help people eat better or lose weight. It won’t necessarily do either. According to the healthy lifestyle magazine Prevention, gluten-free products can be “high in calories, fats, and carbohydrates and some people who do go gluten-free actually gain weight.”
Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University in Australia, recently led a study that found if you do not suffer from Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity is probably just in your head. These findings confirmed Borkowska’s statement, “This whole carb phobia and staying away from carbs … It’s not actually benefitting people the way they think it is.”
The quinoa seed is a vegetable-like grain native to South America that is known for its significant nutritional value. It is filled with eight essential amino acids and a long list of vitamins such as magnesium, calcium, iron and B12. Additionally, quinoa’s ridiculously low calorie count (which is 172 calories per serving, according to fitday.com) paired with its ability to
quickly satisfy hunger has had people buzzing about this newly Americanized weight-loss secret.
Last January, the quinoa seed received a lot of flak from the media, and from an article in The Guardian in particular. The writer of “Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?” claimed that since quinoa had gained popularity in the U.S., the seed became too expensive for farmers in South America to afford themselves. However, further investigation from people such as Emma Banks for the Andean Information Network showed that these farmers have actually prospered from the increase in demand.
For those who aren’t on board with the Quinoa craze, there are similar options that are produced on U.S. soil.
“You can eat black rice, you can eat whole grain rice that grows right here in the United States,” Borkowska said. “Or you could eat bulgur wheat; it’s another one nobody eats, but it’s easily available and it’s cheap.”
Fasts and Cleanses
Dangerous diet fads include options such as the “Every-Other-Day Diet” designed by nutritionist Krista Varady, for which dieters eat whatever they want one day, then consume only 500 calories the next.
Irresponsible juice cleanses and fasts that have become popular in Hollywood can also be dangerous. In an interview with NBC, holistic nutritionist Julie Eltman said, “They can really dehydrate you or rob your body of potassium and other electrolytes.”
Exercise-free weight-loss schemes do not result in healthier bodies, according to Borkowska.
“Any fad diet that is not reducing your calories and not increasing your exercise is bogus,” she said.
Taryn Cordani is a freshman integrated marketing communication major who knows how to handle her gluten. Email her at [email protected].