DR CABOT: Hello. My name is Dr Sandra Cabot, and I’m talking today with naturopath Margaret Jasinska on the topic of what were the most popular diet trends in 2020.
MARGARET: Hi, Dr Cabot. Thank you so much for having me on.
DR CABOT: Yes, it’s great! It’s so interesting, isn’t it, Margaret? Because we did some research into what people were Googling, and we found that the 3 most popular diets were ketogenic, intermittent fasting and paleo. So that’s really interesting because I’ve noticed with my patients that often they get confused, what are the differences between keto and paleo and intermittent fasting. And what’s going to be the most effective for weight loss. And I was saying to you before, Margaret, most people think that all these diets are low carbohydrate. They think, “Well, keto. Well, that is for sure. Intermittent fasting or paleo are all low carbohydrate ways of eating.” But that’s not necessarily true.
MARGARET: Yes, you’re right. There’s a lot of variability in all of those diets. There are healthy versions of keto. There are not particularly healthy versions of keto. It kind of depends on what your motivation is for going on one of these diets. For most people, losing weight is their main motivator. However, they might have an immune problem, they might have a gut problem or an autoimmune condition. And they may have read somewhere that one of these styles of eating can help their health. Or they may have read a testimonial online. Or maybe one of their friends went on one of these diets.
So, look, young people just want to lose weight. But older people often have health problems, as well as excess weight. So, they’re often looking to just feel better in general and alleviate some of their health challenges.
DR CABOT: That’s true. As you said, the ketogenic diet that has many different applications, from quick weight loss to reducing inflammation. And even has evidence to reduce refractory epilepsy that doesn’t respond to normal treatment. But let’s look at it for weight loss. So, ketogenic comes in different degrees. You can do a really strict ketogenic, where you’re only eating around 20 grams a day of carbohydrate. And that will put you into ketosis, so that you become a fat burner instead of a sugar burner. And you have to burn your body fat to produce energy to keep you alive.
So, how would you explain a good ketogenic diet to people?
MARGARET: Well, your body uses protein mostly for structure and rebuilding and repair. And your body uses carbohydrate or fat for energy. Other uses as well, but predominantly for energy. So, if you don’t eat very much carbohydrate or no carbohydrate at all, then in order to produce energy, your body is going to be forced to use fat. That could be the fat on your fork and the fat on your body. And so, really, ketogenic just means keeping the carbohydrate intake low. Whereas, how much fat you actually ingest can vary. And people who are really wanting to lose a lot of weight, it would be wise for them not to ingest too much fat. Otherwise, they’ll be in ketosis just from burning the fat on their dinner plate, rather than burning the fat on their body. Whereas, people doing a ketogenic diet for other health reasons, who are happy with their weight, can usually get away with eating a lot more fat in their diet.
DR CABOT: Yes. So, portion control to some degree is important with a ketogenic diet. And we have a really healthy keto booklet, which is free on the Cabot Health website.
MARGARET: Yes, it’s been extremely popular. And I think it’s wonderful. So, no wonder people like it.
DR CABOT: It’s delicious, it’s healthy and it will definitely give you an understanding of what a ketogenic diet is.
MARGARET: Absolutely! It makes it easy. It explains things in an easy, simple way.
DR CABOT: Yes. With lots of recipes. So, check it out! Our keto booklet on Cabot Health.
Now, let’s compare the keto to the paleo. I used to think they were very similar, but there’s lots of variations, once again, on paleo.
MARGARET: Yes. Generally, a paleo diet just means a diet that excludes grains and dairy products and legumes. And the premise is that historically, back in time when humans evolved, those foods weren’t really a large component of their diet. If you think about the Eskimos or the Australian Aborigines or Indians in the Amazon rainforest, humans hunted for animals, seafood, birds, and they ate some berries or fruits or nuts or what was available. But dairy products, grains and legumes came later into our diet. And a lot of people originally attracted to paleo because there’s a lot of good research that it can help alleviate some autoimmune diseases and some gut problems. Because grains, legumes, dairy, they’re common aggravators for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or reflux, bloating, gas, problems like that. So, a lot of people find that when they get rid of those foods and they’re eating something like salmon and salad or chicken and bok choy, they feel a lot more comfortable in their gut. And depending on the exact composition of the diet, it can help them to lose weight, also. Because let’s face it, if you’re getting rid of grains and dairy products, that’s a whole lot of unhealthy foods. Pizza, ice cream, hamburgers. Typically consumed foods are a combination of grains, sugar, dairy products.
DR CABOT: And so, when it comes to intermittent fasting, that can be used no matter what type of diet you’re on. Whether it’s paleo or keto or just general low carb or vegetarian or carnivore or whatever.
MARGARET: Or a standard junk food diet. Intermittent fasting just means restricting your eating window. So, eating for fewer hours of the day and not eating for more hours of the day. So, typically with intermittent fasting, what most people do is they skip breakfast and they just have lunch and dinner. So, therefore, they’re fasting right throughout the night and for halfway through into the next day. A lot of people find that handy and easy, because often they’re in a rush in the morning. And eating breakfast can be a bit of a hassle. And they’re not particularly hungry. So, yeah, it’s not too much of a hardship.
DR CABOT: Well, if you miss breakfast, it’s like a 16-hour fast. It’s a long time. You got to keep your water intake up. Maybe put a bit of salt in the water. People get a bit dizzy, if they don’t get enough salt. Particularly older people, you often find that their blood sodium levels very low. So, maybe just put some magnesium, a little bit of sea salt in the water to keep your energy up. But I’m a firm believer in intermittent fasting. I think it helps weight loss and immune system function.
MARGARET: Yes. And also digestive function. Digesting food is hard work for your body and humans were not designed to eat all day. Food wasn’t available all day. We didn’t evolve with refrigerators.
DR CABOT: That’s right.
MARGARET: That’s why we accumulate body fat, because maybe for a few days food was unavailable. So, you’ve got something to draw on. But certainly snacking and nibbling throughout the day can give you unpleasant gut symptoms. And giving your gut a rest, it can be good for autoimmune disease. I’ve found in many of my autoimmune patients, just having 2 proper meals a day can help a lot of health issues, not just weight loss. However, with intermittent fasting, it depends what your last meal was. If, for dinner you had fat-free chicken breast or you had a lentil salad, generally, the next morning you’re going to be ravenous. If, for dinner you had a fatty cut of beef or lamb, like steak or lamb shoulder with some veggies, you’re not really going to be ravenous the next day. So, it depends on the composition of your diet. Whether intermittent fasting is a struggle or whether you feel it comes naturally.
DR CABOT: Yeah, that’s true. People with a high carbohydrate diet, they will tolerate intermittent fasting less.
MARGARET: Absolutely! They can be cranky, irritable, shaky, can’t concentrate, which is a sign of poor blood sugar control and a sign that… an early warning sign that it might be time to do something about that because it seems like you are becoming insulin resistant. And maybe, some time in the future, could get type 2 diabetes.
DR CABOT: Yes. So, intermittent fasting is something that you can use lifelong, or you can use it intermittently throughout your life to help keep your weight down. And it also helps your body to detox because when you fast for over 12 hours, the insulin level drops. And that helps your cells to do a process called autophagy, where they actually clean up the debris or unhealthy cell parts inside of them and replace them with new parts. So, it has many, many benefits, as well as weight loss.
MARGARET: Yes. And so, in practice, seeing patients, talking to customers and people, quite typically a person will go on one of these diets – initially motivated to lose weight – but they notice so many other positive flow-on effects for their health, and that’s what actually motivates them to stick with it. And not necessarily stick with it 100%. You can deviate from your diet, if you want to. The goal is feeling good. And if you can deviate from your diet on the weekend or whatever and you are still happy with your health and your weight, go for it! That’s fine.
DR CABOT: Yeah, everyone’s different. Some people are insulin resistant, some people are diabetic. It can be a genetic thing, diabetes, as well as autoimmune. So, we’re all different. And trial and error is very important.
MARGARET: Yes. And look, as long as you get the results that you want. And if you have a serious health problem or you have a large amount of weight to lose, well, you’re just going to have to be on a stricter version of a healthy diet for longer. There’s no way around that.
DR CABOT: That’s true, you are. And look, you’ll feel so much better. The really good thing about getting off carbohydrates and not eating too often. You know, people snack and really, they don’t need to. They do it out of boredom.
MARGARET: But snacking has become normalized. It’s become normalized. And I say to my patients, “Why do people snack?” I think there are 3 reasons. One, your last meal failed you and it was something like the fat-free chicken breast or the lentil salad. Something…
DR CABOT: Something sugary!
MARGARET: Yeah, just non-satiating food. They have one boiled egg. Well, that’s not enough food for an adult. So, either your last meal failed you or the snack is an emotional event and you’re procrastinating or you’re anxious or there’s something going on and you want a distraction. Isn’t that why people smoke a cigarette? Because they want a bit of a mental escape from their current reality? Or the third reason that people snack is fatigue. Fatigue is a big driver of excessive eating.
DR CABOT: Yes, definitely.
MARGARET: Because life is busy and difficult and people have big commitments and shit they’ve got to get done throughout the day, but they’re feeling exhausted. So, they want… a bit of a snack is a temporary pick-me-up just to get through the day.
DR CABOT: Yeah, well, paradoxically, when you do intermittent fasting, you have more energy. Because there’s more blood going to your brain and less blood going to your gut.
MARGARET: Exactly. But that won’t happen day one. So, it usually takes a few weeks before those kind of benefits become apparent.
DR CABOT: That’s right. You’ve got to hang in there and try. Trial and error, as we said. We’re all different. But, yeah, I hope you found this interesting, listening to what was trending in 2020 for the most popular diets.
MARGARET: Thanks, Dr Cabot.
DR CABOT: Bye!