From keto to carnivore, fasting to FODMAP, trying to decode what a fad diet really entails is next to impossible. So, when you hear about a trendy new diet, your instinct might be to throw some terms into Google — even though you know you should probably talk to your own doctor or a registered dietitian to figure out if it’s right for you.
Today, Google announced its Year In Search, which includes the most-googled diets of the year. Some of these diets are ones you’ve definitely heard of before, while others are pretty whacky.
The bottom line to keep in mind is that any structured eating plan or “healthy eating plan” that puts excess stress on daily food choices or demonizes whole food groups is a diet, and can fall into the disordered eating realm. And more importantly, most diets don’t work, meaning they don’t lead to sustained weight loss. Instead, they tend to do more harm than good, and perpetuate the idea that in order to be healthy you also have to be thin.
At a time when Instagram bloggers are doling out nutrition plans, and Whole30 is ubiquitous, many of us are just trying to make informed decisions about our health. Given that, here we’ve broken the most popular diets of the year down from least to most popular to exactly what you need to know — and everything you don’t.
The Shepherd’s Diet
If you thought the Paleo diet was wildly restrictive and outdated, wait til you hear about the Shepherd’s Diet. Created by author Kristina Wilds, The Shepherd’s Diet is a “biblically-inspired” program that uses “God’s guidelines” to determine what to eat. Surprisingly, this diet entails more than just loaves of bread and fish, and is apparently a high-fat low-carbohydrate plan. It’s unclear if this is actually a real thing, but most Amazon reviewers seem vehemently skeptical about it.
Like many fad diets, the FODMAP diet began as something that dietitians suggested in a clinical setting for patients with irritable bowel syndrome. FODMAP stands for: fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Basically, foods that contain these specific carbohydrates (including broccoli, milk, mangoes, and apples) tend to draw more water into the intestines, which can lead to increased gassiness, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If you’re sensitive to FODMAPs, reducing your consumption (with the help of a registered dietitian) could relieve these uncomfortable symptoms.
Intermittent fasting, the idea that you should fast for set periods of time was hugely popular this year, because a few small animal studies suggest it could slow aging, reduce inflammation, and lower your risk of heart disease. But promising research aside, there’s no telling what impact this approach would have on people’s relationship to food long-term. For this reason, many registered dietitians are not sold on fasting. “I would not recommend this approach to my clients as I don’t think it’s sustainable for the long term,” Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, CSSD, assistant professor in nutrition and exercise science at Central Washington University told Refinery29. “You have to ask yourself: Do I want to follow this plan for the rest of my life? If the answer is no, then it’s not a sustainable approach to weight loss or healthy eating.”
Dr. Gundry diet
Steven Gundry, MD, is a cardiologist and heart surgeon who is known for his celebrity-endorsed diet, called The Plant Paradox. This controversial diet entails removing lectins — proteins found in beans, nightshades, eggs, and grains — from your diet in order to combat immune system issues. But, the thing is, there’s little to no evidence that eating lectins will harm humans. Oh, and Dr. Gundry is also a contributor for goop. Go figure.
Optavia is a classic mail-in prepared foods diet program, that specializes in sending you several small meals to eat throughout the day in order to lose weight. (The “Cake Boss” apparently lost a lot of weight using this program.) The kits cost between $392 and $446, depending on the length of time, and users also get connected with a “coach.” While some people might find this delivery concept convenient, food is more than just nutrients — it’s an experience that’s supposed to be enjoyed. Research has shown that when you eat food that you enjoy, your body absorbs the nutrients better. And it’s just hard to believe that sticking to a rigid prepared food diet could be enjoyable.
People have been hyping the Mediterranean diet for many years now, because it emphasizes eating plant-based foods, healthy fats, fish and poultry, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains. Studies suggest that a Mediterranean diet can lower people’s risk of heart disease, which is one reason why it’s so popular. The Mediterranean diet also encourages drinking a moderate amount of wine, so there’s that, too.
Why would anyone go on an all-meat, all-animal products diet? Great question. Some proponents of the “carnivore diet” (like psychologist Jordan Peterson) claim that it can cure serious health issues like arthritis and even depression. Strangely specific anecdotal evidence aside, there’s no scientific proof that consuming only meat will be good for your health. Following any restrictive eating plan that only allows you to eat one food is not sustainable long-term.
Once dubbed “Weight Watchers for millennials,” Noom is a weight-loss app that’s supposed to help you establish healthy habits through a “proven psychology-based approach.” In addition to tracking your meals, exercise, and blood pressure, you also have to take quizzes on a variety of health and nutrition-related topics and connect with a health coach about your goals. While a “millennial-approved” app sounds like catnip for most people, it is definitely not for everyone.
In October, former Real Housewives of Orange County star Heather Dubrow and her husband, plastic surgeon and Botched host Terry Dubrow, created their own diet called The Dubrow Diet — because why not!? It’s basically a twist on intermittent fasting, which they’re calling, “interval eating.” Dr. Dubrow told Bravo that this is “not a fad,” and “not even a diet,” but it sure seems exactly like one.
Ah, yes. The ketogenic diet was the most-googled diet of 2018, which is incredibly ironic considering it was originally invented in the 1920s as a way to prevent seizures in epileptic patients. The whole crux of the keto diet is eliminating carbs so that the body goes into a state of ketosis, Melissa Matteo, MS, RD, LD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Cleveland Clinic, told Refinery29. “In the state of ketosis, your body is burning its stored fat as a source of fuel, and it’s only going to do this in the absence of carbs,” Matteo said. Although tons of celebrities — from Kourtney Kardashian to Vinny Guaganino — adhere to this diet, it’s extremely restrictive (you’re mainly eating protein, fat, and non-starchy vegetables) and should only be done under medical supervision.
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