What fad diet really works?

By Anna Lam | Guest Columnist

Most of us are aware of the impact our personal dietary choices have on our overall health. We hear things about getting our five fruits and vegetables a day and cutting down on refined sugars, and we know to avoid junk food.

In our digital age especially, most of us have had plenty of contact with fad diets, or ogled pristine Instagram photos of spiralised zucchini salads and avocado toast. Everyone and their mother seem to be an expert on nutrition; everyone has an opinion, and this sometimes makes it difficult to sort out the pop science from the consensus of health professionals. Social media made healthy eating a desirable goal for a lot of us, and we all should be eating more fruits and vegetables. However, when it comes to a health perspective, it’s best to look at what the credentialed experts are saying rather than food bloggers and Instagrammers.

So what are the experts saying is the healthiest diet? Should we go vegan or paleo? Atkins or keto? Should we or should we not detox?

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) basic concept for a healthy diet includes a variety and balance of plant-foods with limited free sugars, industrial trans fats and sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans jointly published by the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends a “healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.”

Overall, recommendations are similar to those of the WHO, including a variety of vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy and a variety of wholesome protein sources.

Much of the data would suggest that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables improves health and decreases risks for certain diseases. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, plant-based diets have improved health outcomes such as lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.

It can be easy to get swept up in some of the puritanism of fad diets, but that doesn’t change the science. As long as one focuses on incorporating plenty of fiber-rich, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables into daily meals, it’s easy to maintain a healthy diet. Rather than focus on fad diets, there are plenty of good reasons to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables. All of us can appreciate the positive effects it can have on our daily lives and health.