Diets are the new status symbol. Everyone’s on one, and the one you choose says a lot more about you than how much you weigh. Still, in the end, what’s the point of being fashionable if none of your clothes fit, you blow that promotion, and your kidneys are shot?
Here, a panel of top nutrition and weight-loss experts explains which of today’s trendiest diets you should sport, and which ones you should toss:
The Paleo Diet
“I’ve seen the most dramatic results from the Paleo Diet,” Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. “But I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.” That’s because, although it does a good job of cutting refined carbohydrates and processed foods—which is why people on it do tend to lose weight—it also bans healthy foods like whole grains, dairy, beans, and legumes. That puts you at risk for deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, not to mention intense cravings, he says.
Still, the Paleo Diet loses most of its points for being so difficult to follow, Hyde says. With such a long list of taboo foods—ranging from canola oil and agave to all grains and coffee—eating out is difficult, and cooking is a complicated and pricey affair, he says. It’s not full-Paleo, we know, but you’d probably be better off just eating fewer refined foods and calling it a day.
“This one can either be really good or really bad, depending on how you do it,” says Holly Herrington, R.D., L.D.N., a registered dietitian in the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine. That’s why, while research presented at the Obesity Society’s 2013 meeting shows that people who follow a vegan diet lose more weight than do those who eat meat (even if they consume the same number of calories, mind you), a 2014 PLOS ONE study shows that people who cut out meat have higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders than do the omnivores among us. After all, simply subtracting meat, eggs, and dairy from your plate aren’t going to do much for you if you swap them out with junk.
The diet should be just as much about eating plants as it is about not eating anything animal-related, Delbridge says. However, even if you are loading up on fruits and veggies, and not replacing your meat with processed faux meats or refined carbs, following a vegan diet still puts you at risk for nutritional deficiencies, most notably low B12, Herrington notes. According to a 2014 meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition , up to 86 percent of adults following a vegan diet are deficient in B12, which can cause poor energy levels, anemia, depression, cognitive decline, and rapid heartbeat.