As the new year gets underway and the countdown to spring break begins, many students are looking to popular diets as a part of their quest to be in top physical shape.
According to Sheena Gregg, a registered dietitian nutritionist with UA’s department of health promotion and wellness within the UA Student Health Center and Pharmacy, the three most popular diets students adopt are the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting and Whole30. Gregg believes these three have gained notoriety among college students because of their marketability on social media, perceived track record of quick results, convenience and cost-effectiveness.
Gregg recently discussed each diet and a few positives and negatives to keep in mind if you decide to move forward with one as your diet of choice.
The ketogenic diet, better known as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The goal is for the body to break down fat for energy, which is known as ketosis, in order to lose weight.
“One thing people need to realize about the ketogenic diet is that it was originally created for medical therapy purposes, not necessarily for weight loss,” said Gregg. “It was created for those with epilepsy issues and researchers found weight loss was also achievable with a ketogenic diet.”
A positive of the keto diet is that it provides a structure and reason to eliminate carbs, which means less caloric intake as many individuals tend to have a high intake of refined carbohydrates. But Gregg warns that eliminating carbs can have negative effects.
“Keto calls for removing carbs and replacing those with high-fat foods and protein,” said Gregg. “But if we were to look at the individual’s family medical history, the keto diet might not be a positive thing long term.”
Intermittent fasting has gained traction in recent years because of its focus on when you eat, not so much what you eat. While intermittent fasting has several variations, the most popular is what is known as the 16:8 that requires you to eat meals in an eight-hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
“A positive about intermittent fasting is that it’s easy to follow because it’s very specific to a time structure and reduces the number of hours a person eats,” said Gregg. “A negative would be that the eating timeframe might not coincide with a person’s natural hunger and fullness ques, which can cause disruptions in overall weight management.”
The Whole30 diet provides a very specific structure for increasing the amount of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which is viewed as a positive. But Gregg warns that what you give up actually benefits the body.
“The problem with Whole30 is that it’s very particular about eliminating entire food groups such as grains,” said Gregg. “Eliminating those food groups can cause someone to miss out on a lot of key vitamins and minerals.”
Go for Overall Health
Regardless of what diet you choose, Gregg recommends keeping the following in mind:
- Avoid diets that call for little exercise and eliminating entire food groups.
- Be familiar with your family health history, which can include any issues with cholesterol and blood sugar.
- Make sure the diet benefits your overall health, not just weight loss.
- Choose a diet that best fits your lifestyle.
- Focus on what you can add, such as water, sleep and exercise, rather than what you take away.