PEOPLE THE world over are sweating it out in gyms these days in a bid to lose weight and stay in shape. Along with vigorous gymming, there is also a keen focus on what we eat, how we eat and when we eat. Dieting, in fact, takes precedence over exercising for many due to reasons ranging from lack of time to visit a gym to not finding the drive to exercise every day. The good news is, if you are looking to slim down, controlling your diet is more important than exercising. “Exercising is responsible for only 40% of your fitness and weight loss. The rest is dependent upon one’s diet,” says Rahul Sharma, personal trainer, Yoga Chakra, a New Delhi-based yoga studio.
Not surprisingly then, we see the emergence of new diet plans and food trends—‘no-carbohydrate’, ‘high-protein’, Dr Atkins, GM diets, etc—almost every year.
So what’s trending this year? Here is what the experts have to say…
Red meat, the bad guy
“More and more studies have cited that eating red meat can lead to many diseases. Even moderate regular consumption poses many serious health risks,” says Nishi, a New Delhi-based dietitian. She is right, as high consumption of red meat is responsible for high cholesterol, lethargy and several skin-related problems. It’s no wonder then that fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and lower-fat dairy products have taken red meat’s place in many people’s diets. “The high content of saturated fat and cholesterol in red meat is making people avoid/lessen their intake of it,” Nishi says.
Going gluten- and wheat-free
While many people need to have gluten-free food because of health issues like celiac disease, other people, too, these days are cutting out gluten and wheat from their diets to lose weight, even though there is lack of evidence that wheat- or gluten-free food can, indeed, result in weight loss. “There are no benefits as such of avoiding wheat (except in medical cases), but one can choose to reduce the intake for faster metabolism. However, a diet without pulses and grains is harmful, as the protein count can fall,” cautions Saloni Jain, nutritionist, Addiction Gyms and Spas, Jaipur.
There was a time when full-fat milk was the ultimate indulgence when having a cup of coffee. However, thanks to Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Asprey, the question baristas will be posing to customers now is: “One lump of butter or two?” The new trend is ‘bulletproof coffee’, a 460-calorie blend of coffee, butter and oil, which allegedly helps you lose weight, boosts energy and promotes brain power. Asprey, who attributes a daily dose of the oil-rich caffeine concoction for his 36 kg weight loss, came up with the idea while in Nepal, where he was offered yak butter coffee after a long day of trekking. Local experts are sceptical though. “Though interesting, the diet seems highly unhealthy. The first thing we recommend is to reduce the intake of caffeine. This one is a complete opposite,” says Sharma of Yoga Chakra.
Packaged/processed is a no-no
Consumers these days are more aware and want to know what’s in their food. They have finally started reading the small print: the list of ingredients. Experts say foods with lesser or no ingredients—fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds—tend to be healthier. In other words, most foods in our supermarkets, which are packaged and processed, are off the list. “Scientifically, fresh fruits and vegetables or any other grains contain enough proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and other nutrients that our body requires,” says Manisha Kohli, co-founder, Yoga Chakra.
Also known as ‘clean’ eating, it involves eliminating all artificial ingredients from your meals. “There is a stress on eating uncooked or raw foods that don’t lose their nutrients while being cooked. Except boiling, all other methods of cooking make vegetables and fruits lose several of their nutrients,” says Nishi. The benefits are many: clearer skin, better metabolism, better immune system and higher levels of energy, among others. The only drawback, however, is the lack of flavour, but that, too, subsides once your body gets acquainted with the diet.
Invented in the 1920s by a doctor to curb seizures in his epileptic patients, the keto diet is an extremely low-carb, high-fat regime and bans grains, bread and sugar. Dieters can tuck into slabs of meat, nuts, cream and cheese. As per experts, the high-protein diet makes you feel fuller for longer. In scientific terms, when the body is devoid of carbs to burn for energy, it switches to burning fat—a metabolic process known as ketosis. Be aware though, as side-effects can include bad breath and constipation.
You may have heard of stomach stapling, or gastric banding, an operation for weight control. But now, a new and less invasive diet method is gaining popularity: ear stapling. This method involves a practitioner inserting a staple into the inner cartilage of the ear to target a pressure point, which is said to suppress your appetite. “It remains in place for up to two months and claims to take away hunger and reduce sugar cravings,” says Dinesh Makhija, a Mumbai-based nutritionist, adding, “However, it can cause ear infections.”
Everyone seems to be on the coconut oil bandwagon these days. The oil claims to promote heart health, weight loss and boost your immune system. What’s interesting is that till the recent past, we were recommended to stay away from it, as it contains more saturated fat than butter. However, latest studies indicate that more than 50% of the saturated fat in coconut oil is from lauric acid. Even though lauric acid raises your bad cholesterol (LDL), it boosts your good cholesterol (HDL) even more, reducing the risk of heart disease.
For those who suffer from ‘decision fatigue’ at buffets, mono meals could be the answer. Under this, participants are restricted to a single type of food per meal, a regime that is said to eliminate the risk of bad food combinations and lead to rapid weight loss. But before you think you can load up on endless burgers for lunch and pizzas for dinner, you should know that your meal of choice must be either fruits or vegetables. While it will likely restrict your social life, you can find plenty of fellow mono mealers on Instagram (@monomeals), where dieters regularly share photos of their bowls of bananas, berries and melons. “Like the ‘clean’ eating regime, the diet carries the same positives: clearer skin, better metabolism, better immune system and higher levels of energy, among others. However, the lack of grains carries its own set of negatives like limited amount of fibre and protein in the body, which is not good for the bones,” says Makhija.