As if counting calories and looking out for E-numbers wasn’t enough, the advent of number diets gives us even more figures to think about! So, what are they, what do they do and which (if any) is right for you?
The 80/10/10 diet is a low-fat vegan diet named after its dietary intake: 80 per cent fruits and vegetables, 10 per cent protein and 10 per cent fat. The diet was developed by Dr Douglas Graham who proposes that this is the ideal ratio of nutrients to support health.
The diet advises eating 80 per cent raw food per meal, as cooked foods can take longer to digest and can clog up our digestive system and arteries. Raw food can be eaten and broken down easily, and provides valuable live enzymes and nutrients. To date, the 80/10/10 diet has shown short-term health benefits for certain constitutions in terms of weight loss, better skin and improved energy. A report published in Food Technology in October, 2012, explained that plant-based diets either significantly reduce or completely eliminate people’s genetic propensity to developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The biggest downside
Eating 80% raw is not for everyone. Some people with certain constitutions and weak digestion cannot handle raw food easily, especially if they feel the cold or have had chronic gut inflammation. While raw food contains more minerals, enzymes and vitamins, a person needs to be able to digest them. Eating raw can be accompanied by digestive problems such as irritable bowel.
You have to be extremely organised, prepared and motivated to follow the 80/10/10 diet! Dr Graham recommends eating 1.8kg of watermelon for breakfast and nearly half a kilogram of leafy greens each day! This large quantity of fruits and vegetables is required in order to achieve the necessary calories. For most, the preparation involved in the 80/10/10 diet is unrealistic, and many find the diet unappetising.
Over-consumption of raw foods can cause imbalances in the body. In addition, a diet with too much of one type of food, which ignores the balance of what your body needs, will catch up with you eventually and lead to cravings.
Although many may see weight loss initially, there are often problems around the two-year mark. I have found people’s health always improves when they increase certain plant food and this is key to good health. However our bodies require a range of foods to stay healthy long term. Initially a high plant food diet will improve a variety of health conditions but for some people, over-consuming fruit sugar and raw foods places a burden on the pancreas (which produces digestive enzymes and insulin) –therefore this kind of diet can actually weaken the digestion. People who don’t include essential proteins and other nutrients found in animal foods can develop weak muscles and other problems developing from nutrient deficiencies like protein, iron and B12.
Fructose malabsorption is another problem on the rise and affects one in three people, although many are unaware of it. The 80/10/10 diet would not be compatible for those with fructose intolerance.
The 5/2 diet is a form of intermittent fasting and involves severe calorie restriction for two non-consecutive days a week and normal eating the other five days. This means cutting calorie intake for the two days to a quarter of your normal level, which is about 600 calories if you are a man and 500 calories for women. During the five days of normal eating calorie control is not taken into account, which means the extra scoop of ice cream is allowed.
The 5/2 diet was initiated by Dr Michael Mosley when he went to America and visited anti-ageing scientists, who had found mice regenerated when they were fasting. The 5/2 diet is less harmful than fad diets if you do not go overboard on the ‘normal’ eating days. The diet has strong benefits for weight loss, with clients generally losing 1kg a week. When our body is not eating it allows the cells to repair. The diet also gives the body a break from processed food and glucose in the blood stream.
Many of the health benefits of the 5/2 diet have been shown on rodents, and studies with severe calorie restriction have been found to increase the lifespan of monkeys.
The biggest downside
Diabetics, pregnant women, athletes and those that are elderly and frail need to be careful on the 5/2 diet. Food is psychological; so dieters can be affected by the 5/2 diet if they deprive themselves. On the flip side, dieters may gorge themselves on the ‘normal’ eating days, which is not healthy for the body either. Generally people respond to this diet better than calorie restricted diets because most of the week they don’t have to restrict themselves, and when they do it’s only for two days.
One challenge with the 5/2 diet is feeling hungry when you first start. Some also experience difficulty sleeping with an empty stomach, suffer from headaches, dizziness, lack of energy, dehydration, lack of concentration or constipation. These symptoms can be detox symptoms or simply getting used to the diet, and aren’t always a bad thing. However, they can interfere with work and it is recommend that any form of exercise or sport takes place on ‘normal’ eating days. This diet involves a lot of planning to work with your lifestyle.
This diet is similar to the 5/2 diet as far as rest and repair for the body. You eat only during eight hours of the day, after fasting for 16 hours. This can be done for as few as three days a week (slower weight loss), or seven days a week (greater weight loss). During those 16 hours, water, coffee or tea or fat-free chicken or beef broths can be consumed as they have zero calories.
This diet offers similar benefits to the 5/2 diet, as it provides for periods of fasting and rests the digestive system. Fasting gives the body a chance to heal and burn off all the glycogen calories stored in the liver.
Studies indicate that short-term fasting can increase longevity, help regulate glucose levels, and help manage symptoms associated with asthma and autoimmune diseases, and cardiac arrhythmias.
The biggest downside
Often people will eat anything they like in the remaining eight hours and go on a binge. The catch is that Zinczenko, the master mind behind the 16/8 diet, recommended that foods from eight groups are still included in the diet –eggs; lean meats; dairy; nuts; beans and legumes; fruits (especially raspberries, other berries and tree fruits), whole grains, and green vegetables. The risk when people head straight for the toxic processed foods is that they shock the body and start undoing all the good work.
Another downside is that fasting with water only can be harmful as there is no input of minerals from vegetables to mop up circulating toxins which can become highly reactive in the body.
This is probably the ‘number’ diet most people do. You eat healthy foods 80 per cent of the time, which allows you to indulge in your favourite treats 20 per cent of the time.
The biggest benefit of the 80/20 diet is that it instils a healthy attitude towards food. Dieters learn to not associate ‘bad’ foods with guilt. The diet involves moderation with the most realistic long-term approach. With fewer restrictions it is easier to stick to a healthy eating plan long term and eat from a range of whole food groups. This means you should suffer from fewer cravings as you will be getting the nutrients your body needs. Another benefit is that many find after five days of eating healthy they do not feel the need to eat as many sugary treats.
The key to a healthy and successful diet is something which people can maintain for life, and for many this diet is achievable long term, as they can stay healthy while still tantalising their taste buds with the occasional sweet pleasure.
The biggest downside
The 80/20 diet does not work for those people who experience food intolerances, allergies or serious health problems. Some people may also feel that if it’s healthy, they can have bigger portion sizes; however, healthy food should still be enjoyed in moderation.
Choosing the right ‘number diet’
The ‘number diets’ are not a one-size-fits-all approach. By their very nature, diets tend to be short-to-medium term plans that encourage weight loss by restricting certain foods or food groups from your nutritional intake. To be truly successful, a healthy eating plan needs to be individualised to your own specific nutritional needs, and be part of a healthy living approach.
Michèle Wolff, B.H.Sc Naturopathy, Dip. Colonics, is a leading health practitioner and a qualified naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and nurse. Her new book ‘Digestive Solutions –101 Proven Methods to Solve Your Tummy Problems Naturally’ is available from bookstores and good online booksellers.
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