12 Mar 2018
Plus two that are just hype, and one that actually works
The paleo diet, the Master Cleanse, intermittent fasting, clean eating, and detoxes are common buzzwords in discussions about healthy eating, but do these dieting practices actually work? As much as we try to do our own research, or to take what we can from people’s anecdotes, separating fact from fiction can be an intimidating task – which is why, during a breakfast event for antioxidant supplement, Renovatio, we asked its creator, nutritionist Dr. Vincent Candrawinata, for his take on these trends.
At just 28 years old, Dr. Vincent (as he likes to be called) is an expert on phenolic antioxidants, which work at the cellular level to prevent pollutants from destroying our bodies, and in doing so, reduce inflammation and assist in overall health. Dr. Vincent’s award-winning research also led him to develop the Renewal Diet, which encourages a sustainable diet rich in phenolics, lean protein, good fibre, vitamins and minerals, and good fats.
“People always think of the aim of a diet is to lose weight, which is okay, but the Renewal Diet was not created for that, it was created to make people healthier and an added bonus is that they lose weight,” he says. “Our body knows that being overweight is unhealthy, it can cause diabetes, joint pain, or skin problems, so our body gets healthier it will naturally lose the weight.”
Sure, what he described doesn’t sound as chic as caveman diets or juice cleanses, but to a nutritionist, many of these trends sound more like fads than things you can incorporate into your lifestyle in a sustainable way. So without further ado, here are the diets to avoid, the trends that are just all hype, and the one that you should do instead:
12 Mar 2018
AVOID: The Paleo Diet
In a nutshell: Otherwise known as the “stone-age diet”, going paleo requires you to eat only foods that humans consumed during the Paleolithic Era. No pasta for you!
Dr. Vincent says: “You asked me about the worst diet trends. Because it’s perpetuated by celebrities, the first one is probably the paleo diet. There is a reason why dinosaurs are extinct (laughs). The life expectancy back then was 30 to 40 years. It is so ridiculous to take that diet and implement it now because first of all, we do not run 40 kilometers a day up and down the stairs. We sit in front of our computers. Just because you can adapt one thing out of a lifestyle does not mean you can expect the same result.”
Dr. Vincent went on to share an anecdote about how his sister’s breast milk production stopped after she adopted the paleo diet to shed post-partum weight. Once he convinced her to reincorporate oats, brown rice, and quinoa into her diet, her body bounced back to normal.
“She said it’s a miracle when it started flowing in, but it’s not really a miracle, it’s just scientific. For paleo diet adopters, they really criminalise grains and carbohydrates. But we need carbs the same way we need fat and protein. People think a diet works or that it is good when you lose weight, but it doesn’t work that way.”
12 Mar 2018
AVOID: The Lemon Detox, or the Master Cleanse
In a nutshell: Also known as the Master Cleanse, this “full body detoxification diet” is a ten-day fast where you are only allowed to drink certain liquids – such as concoctions made of lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper – for 10 days.
Dr. Vincent says: “Our bodies cannot go two weeks without food, it’s just impossible. Obviously you will lose weight within those two weeks because you don’t eat anything. Beyoncé used this for her role in Dreamgirls because she needed to be that thin, but we can’t just take something celebrities do [for ourselves] because they’re not doing it as part of their lifestyle. It’s for a role. They get millions of dollars to do that. I would do that too if you paid me $40 million because I know after that I could be healthy. Miranda Kerr takes a tablespoon of coconut oil every day and everyone thinks we’ve got to do that so we can get her figure, but she works out four hours a day. We don’t. We can’t expect the same result by taking one thing out of someone’s daily life.”
12 Mar 2018
AVOID: Intermittent fasting
In a nutshell: Unlike most other diets, this one is more about when you eat than what you eat. “Intermittent fasting” is a general term for diets that require you to cycle between periods of fasting and eating. This can mean anything from restricting your daily eating period to eight hours, to consuming only 500-600 calories twice a week on non-consecutive days.
Dr. Vincent says: “The third worst diet, in my opinion, is intermittent fasting. It can force your body into a ketogenic state [when your body runs out of carbohydrate stores and needs to break down fat for energy], which basically means putting your body in survival mode. You are overexerting your body, because your body has to break down the ketone bodies, which need to be processed by the kidneys. We know this because we have to study biology. But they don't listen to us because we’re not celebrities and because they become thin. Yes, you will lose weight but it puts a lot of pressure on your kidney. In the long term, your health will suffer.
Biologically, scientifically, our body is not designed for [intermittent fasting]. There is a reason why our digestive system works on a basis of 3 to 5 hours. We need replenishment in terms of the blood sugar, calories, every cycle. Diets come and go, but what always remains is breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In every culture. This is something that shows us that this is something that’s important. In some cultures you have morning tea, afternoon tea, in some others you don’t. But what is uniformly and consistently found in every culture all over the world, is breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Because before all the media, all the buzzwords, we ourselves know are “breakfast, lunch, dinner”. Our bodies are very good at telling us what they need. Research shows that people who lack in iron sometimes crave meat. When you are thirsty, you want water. When you are hungry, you want to eat. For intermittent fasting, I’m very impressed that people have the discipline to do it, but that’s not how our bodies work.
12 Mar 2018
AVOID: Juice cleansing
In a nutshell: To do a juice cleanse, you need to drink fruit and vegetable juices (and/or nut milks) while abstaining from solids.
Dr. Vincent says: “If you don’t eat anything and you just drink juice, you will lose weight. It’s only water, and secondly, we’ve learned that the majority of nutrients can’t be absorbed – they need to be flushed out anyway, so you’re putting your body under stress to do extra for nothing. The reason why juice cleansing is popular is that people lose weight fast. Giving yourself salmonella will also make you lose weight fast, but people don’t do that because they understand that it’s dangerous.
When we juice, the main component of juice is sugar. I’m not saying that juicing is bad or that drinking juice is bad. Everything in moderation is good. For example, if you’re faced with the option of drinking Coca-Cola or drinking juice, go for the juice. But, however, if you’re choosing between drinking water or drinking juice, choose the water. Eat your veggies, eat your fruits, drink your water. Tea, coffee, and juice don’t go toward your hydration count. Only water counts.”
Kidneys are our filter. When you drink juice, it’s like you’re filtering impure water. But if you drink that every day without water to flush and cleanse the system, it’s not actually good. The reason they call it a juice cleanse is that these recipes often contain beetroot, lemon, and celery. These are diuretics and have a laxative effect. They think this is a detox but that’s not detox that’s diarrhoea and it’s an indication that your body cannot take it and your body needs to let it go. If it stays in the body, it harms the body. Juice cleansing not only doesn’t make you healthier, but in the future, it makes you sicker. You are overworking your liver and kidney by giving them more things to flush out.
12 Mar 2018
HYPE: Going gluten-free (when you don’t have gluten-related medical conditions)
In a nutshell: People who are on gluten-free diets abstain from food that contains the protein gluten, which includes wheat and some other kinds of grains.
Dr. Vincent says: “This is something which, forgive my words, is very stupid. When you compare people on the gluten-free diet and people who consume gluten, the majority of gluten-free diet people eat more veggies, fresh fruit, fresh food, and exclude the majority of the carbs because they include gluten. It’s not the absence of gluten that makes them healthier, it’s because they’ve totally changed their lifestyle. People with celiac disease cannot eat gluten, that’s fine, that’s proven scientifically. But wheat doesn’t cause bloating. Water is very important. A lot of people feel bloated after consuming a high carb food because their body lacks water. Whatever our body lacks, it holds onto. The first step of digestion is hydrolysis, which is breaking down by water. If you don’t drink enough water to digest these carbs, your body will hold on to every drop of water it can, and you will have bloating, because you can’t go to the toilet.”
12 Mar 2018
HYPE: Drinking alkaline water
In a nutshell: Proponents of “alkalising” claim that alkaline water (which has a pH of above 7, while tap water has a pH of around 7), can help cleanse the body of toxins and neutralise the acid in your body, thus helping you metabolise more effectively.
Dr. Vincent says: “I don’t necessarily believe in alkaline versus acidic water, because everything that goes into your body will pass through your stomach, and your stomach fluid’s pH level is about 2.1, so it doesn’t matter whether you take something with a pH or 7 or 8.5, it will still be normalised when it gets to your stomach. People really like when there’s a thing or something that’s controversial because it’s new, but 90 percent of the time it’s not correct.”
12 Mar 2018
GOOD – WITHIN REASON: Clean eating
In a nutshell: Clean eating means consuming minimally processed, whole, natural, unrefined foods.
Dr. Vincent says: “I love the clean eating trend as long as people don’t go overboard. Clean eating means eating things in the most natural state. Instead of eating potato chips, you eat fruits. Instead of drinking soda, you drink water, or infused water, if you want the taste. To me, that is what clean eating is. Back in the day, we had less cases of dermatitis, eczema etc. If you look at what they were eating back then, based on our standard, it’s not very clean. But how come we have more problems now, with things like allergies? That is because a lot of people forget about the balance. They eat a lot of what they think is healthy…sugar can come in organic form, but if u eat too much of organic sugar too much, you can still get diabetes. It is not just about what’s organic, it is not about what’s clean, it is not about the price of your groceries, it’s about how you incorporate them into your life.”
12 Mar 2018
Final thoughts from Dr. Vincent
"The three bad diets (the paleo diet, the lemon detox, and intermittent fasting) are popular because of two things: one, they’re perpetuated by celebrities and two, you will lose weight.
It’s a hype. I’m not insinuating that it’s hype, I can scientifically, categorically say it’s all hype, it’s a trend. I’m not disputing that people are losing weight, but losing weight is not a sign that you’re healthy.
Let me share three principles for getting healthy. The first is to take action. Learn about something, don’t just jump on the bandwagon, commit to it.
Secondly, be patient. Even ‘instant’ maggi mee needs three minutes to cook. How about changing your life and your body? It takes time. You need to be patient, otherwise you will get bored and jump onto another diet and at the end of the day you’ll have tried a thousand different [components of] diets in one day and that doesn’t work.
Finally, have passion. Have passion, otherwise you will stop in the middle. Once you get to your goal weight, you will say okay, screw it, I will eat anything I want now. I dislike the term 'body goals' because it means there’s an end to the journey. But it doesn’t mean you stop living. For the rest of your life what are you going to do? That’s why you need passion for your own health."