“Which type of diet is right for ME?”

Submitted by Dr Becky Wise

Diets for your Health

“Which type of diet is right for ME?” This is a question being asked by millions of people each and every day. Many of us are looking for an easy way to lose weight, either to enhance our appearance or to improve our overall health. However, many different “fad” diets are being advertised in the media, promoting their miracle-like benefits. But which type of diet is actually sustainable? Which diet is best for my health conditions? Which diet is right for ME?

The best way to find answers to these questions is to take responsibility for your health and become educated. That does not necessarily mean to believe anything and everything you see on television or read on the internet. The best approach is to talk to health care professionals such as your doctor or pharmacist. Not all diets are right for everyone, especially if you are on a blood-thinning medication or have certain medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and others. Obviously, eating healthier is a good idea for most people, but always talk to your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet. A good way to start is by learning the different food groups and which sources of food fall into each category. For example, sources of protein include meats, eggs, cheese, nuts, and peanut butter. Sources of carbohydrates include bread, pasta, sweets, and many others. Sources of fat include butter, oils, animal fat, and others.

“Which type of diet is right for ME?”
“Which type of diet is right for ME?”

Some details regarding notable diets:

The Atkins diet focuses on limiting carbohydrate intake and encouraging protein and fat intake. It is not based on calorie counting or portion control. The rationale for this diet is that limiting or even eliminating carbohydrates causes the body to burn fat as its source of fuel. Normally, when we eat carbohydrates, the body stores them as simple sugars in the liver. This storage of sugar creates a source of fuel which gives us energy during the state of fasting. However, with lower stores of sugar, we must burn fat to fuel the body. This diet prevents large spikes in our blood sugar and is helpful to reduce hunger and cravings. However, the Atkins diet is not right for everyone! Eliminating carbohydrates from your diet is a drastic change which is difficult to sustain. Talk to your physician before starting this type of diet.

The DASH diet is commonly recommended to help patients with high blood pressure. It has been proven to lower blood pressure in studies by the National Institute of Health and boasts the #1 diet ranking by the US News & World Report in 2011-2014. The DASH diet consists of well-rounded meals which are low in sodium, rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat or non-fat dairy, whole grains, fiber, and low to moderate fat. These foods are typically rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. They also contain less “empty” carbohydrates and more protein and healthy fats. This diet is recommended as safe for most people, but talk to your doctor first, especially if you use a blood thinning medication or have Celiac Disease (or any gluten sensitivity).

The gluten-free diet excludes the protein “gluten” from the diet. Gluten is found in whole grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. This diet is a treatment for patients with Celiac disease – an autoimmune disorder where the presence of gluten triggers an immune response that attacks the small intestine. Not only does it cause discomfort, but the damage can disrupt the body’s ability to absorb key nutrients. Other people may have gluten sensitivity or may choose to avoid gluten by personal preference. Allowed foods in this diet include beans, seeds and nuts in their natural, unprocessed form, as well as fresh eggs, meats, fish and poultry (not breaded, batter-coated or marinated), fruits and vegetables, most dairy products, and other products clearly labeled “gluten-free.” Following this diet carries risk of deficiency in certain nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, and B vitamins. Also, it may become expensive when buying all gluten-free products. You should talk to you doctor before starting this diet.

The Weight Watcher’s diet was designed to encourage weight loss. All foods are assigned a point value based on their nutritional content and serving size. You will have a target daily point value which is personalized for you (i.e. 25 points allowed per day). You can choose what you eat; however, you must remain at or under your target daily and weekly point total. Therefore, if you want to “cheat,” for a certain meal, you must compensate by eating lower point value foods for the other meals to stay under your daily goal. This diet typically falls within accepted ranges of protein, carbs, fat and other nutrients. This diet approach may be helpful since it is goal-oriented and driven by the use of an easy-to-follow point system. However, as with other diets, you must talk to your doctor to determine if it is right for you.

Other popular diets:

The Mediterranean diet puts an emphasis on plant foods, fresh fruits, beans, nuts, cereals, seeds, olive oil, cheese and yogurts, moderate amounts of fish and poultry, up to about four eggs per week, small amounts of red meat, and low/moderate amounts of wine.

The Vegetarian diet may carry some health benefits. The majority of people on this diet do not eat animal-based foods except for eggs, dairy, and honey. It can be more difficult to achieve the recommended protein intake.

The Vegan diet prohibits all animal-based foods, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Many choose this lifestyle based on ethical or compassionate reasons and not just for health reasons.

For weight loss, the formula is simple: more calories “out” than “in.” This means you either need to eat less, exercise more, or a combination of both. To battle the feeling of hunger, drink more water and eat more often, but eat small portions each time. Also, allow yourself to “cheat” once in a while. No one is 100% perfect 100% of the time.

For chronic conditions, the formula is not as simple: follow the recommendations as closely as you can, but again, ask about “cheating.” You WILL cheat, so be honest with your physician and ask how often you can cheat without causing much harm. Everyone has cravings for things every now and then. It’s ok to “give in” once in a while, but set it up as a reward for “good behavior” and only do it occasionally.

Always talk to your doctor before starting a strict diet such as those mentioned above. Not all diets are appropriate or safe for everyone. The foods we put into our bodies have a large effect on our overall wellness. They can affect our mood, energy levels, cognition, and many other aspects of life. We must individually find the proper balance in our daily food selections. There are many ways to eat healthy, enjoy what we eat, and feel satisfied afterwards! Talk to your doctor and determine a diet that is right for YOU.

For Further Reading:

1. www.nutrition.gov
2. http://www.webmd.com/diet/atkins-diet-what-it-is
3. dashdiet.org
4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530
5. http://www.webmd.com/diet/weight-watchers-diet

Written by Shawn Sopic, PharmD Candidate, LECOM Class of 2015
Student of Dr. Rebecca Wise

Be Well, Be Wise,
-Dr.Becky

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Dr. Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an assistant professor and ambulatory care specialist at a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinic in Erie, PA.

Soon to be released is Dr Becky’s new website which will address women’s issues, watch for it: www.WiseWordsforWomen.com
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