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Trendy Topics in Wellness

A Dietitian’s Perspective

When it comes to wellness trends or the next big diet, it seems like there’s either a push to pick restrictive eating plans or more generalized advice that may not be effective. Is the Mediterranean diet really the heart-healthy secret to living a healthier, stronger life? Does intermittent fasting really help you lose weight quickly and keep it off? Do probiotics help your digestive system?

Lisa Money, RDN, offered details on some trendy nutrition topics, and how to know if they’ll benefit you.

The Mediterranean Diet

“You’ll often see the Mediterranean diet suggested not just by those ‘trendy topics in wellness’ articles in magazines, but also by doctors and registered dietitians, too,” said Money. “A recent update on clinical trials showed the Mediterranean diet is still the best overall eating pattern towards lowering your risk of metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

The Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins like fish and poultry, and also whole grains, but it doesn’t feature added sugars or salt. Those seeking a lower-sodium diet who still want to enjoy eating flavorful foods often find the Mediterranean diet is a great option and easy to adopt using locally available products like beets, sweet potatoes and collard greens.

Money advised her patients to stick with research-based diets instead of trends and look toward combining the Mediterranean diet with healthy lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep, pursuing regular physical activity and staying connected to neighbors and friends.

Intermittent Fasting

“Intermittent fasting, or IF, is a fairly recent addition to wellness trends,” said Money. “Based on religious fasting practices or how one might eat during times of scarcity, it’s sometimes suggested as a way to help obese adults or heart patients reduce their body weight or improve their LDL cholesterol.”

Generally, people following an intermittent fasting plan eat during a specific period of around 6 to 8 hours per day but don’t eat before or after that time. It doesn’t usually involve restricting the specific types of food you eat, just when you eat them.

But what does a registered dietitian have to say?

“A review of 40 studies on intermittent fasting showed that it wasn’t any more effective than traditional weight-loss methods and isn’t any easier to follow,” said Money. “There was no significant improvement in health markers like blood pressure, heart rate or fasting glucose. As a dietitian, I wouldn’t consider IF appropriate for everyone. Some groups, like the elderly or very young, could lose lean body mass, and others may find it leads to overeating or an unhealthy fixation on food. It would be especially risky for those recovering from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.”

Money noted that there could be a benefit to following intermittent fasting depending on individual patients, but research just isn’t clear enough to make it something highly recommended.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

“Probiotics are a kind of bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt, while prebiotics are found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables,” said Money. “Probiotics and prebiotics are considered good bacteria, as they help your body to break down the food you eat in order to get nutrients out of it.”

Probiotics have been a trendy topic in wellness for a reason, as they are often helpful for those who take strong antibiotics or who are eating a very low-carbohydrate diet, as both may make it more difficult for the body to break down vitamins, enzymes and medications.

If you’re interested in eating more probiotics, yogurt, kefir and pickles are examples of fermented foods. Other examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, certain cheeses and sourdough bread. All offer easy ways to get good bacteria into your diet.

Another option, if you’re not a fan of fermented foods, is to focus on a high-fiber diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which has been shown to improve the gut biome and help with overall health.

“Probiotic or prebiotic supplements are also available, and I would suggest that anyone interested in starting a probiotic should speak with their doctor or dietitian, especially if they’re taking medications that suppress their immune system,” said Money. These supplements are not inspected by the FDA, so you are always safer consuming actual food products listed above, rather than supplements.

A recent update on clinical trials showed the Mediterranean diet is still the best overall eating pattern towards lowering your risk of metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

If you’re interested in eating more probiotics, yogurt, kefir and pickles are examples of fermented foods. Other examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, certain cheeses and sourdough bread. All offer easy ways to get good bacteria into your diet

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