With weight related illness and disease costing the NHS an estimated £5 billion plus each year, tackling the UK obesity epidemic is now regarded as a major national priority. The NHS continues to stress that the best way to lose weight for good, is via a healthy, varied diet and regular exercise and not by embarking on expensive fad diets. In fact they recently published a report by the British Dietetic Association (BDA) highlighting the pros and cons of the ten most searched for commercial diets. The top two, the Dukan diet and the Atkins diet, are both versions of the controversial, yet ever popular, protein diet plan.
The protein diet plan at a glance
The protein diet plan promises to deliver demonstrable weight loss by significantly reducing or completely eliminating carbs and replacing them with protein instead. This triggers a condition known as ‘ketosis’, when your body starts to burn fat for fuel and your appetite simultaneously reduces. Whilst this does tend to produce rapid weight loss, especially in the beginning, there are a number of serious drawbacks to this quick fix approach that everyone should be aware of.
These are examined in more detail below.
1) Side effects linked to the protein diet plan
According to the British Dietetic Association, protein diet plans can result in a number of unpleasant side effects. The lack of carbs in both the Dukan and Atkins diet for example, may cause one or more of the following unpleasant symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Dry mouth
Although these might seem like a small price to pay for the dramatic weight loss that often ensues, the long-term impact can have far more worrying consequences for your health and wellbeing.
2) Health risks associated with the protein diet plan
The protein diet plan isn’t just likely to inflict damage upon your wallet. As the diet works by excluding major food groups, it cannot possibly be nutritionally balanced – in fact the dearth of wholegrain, fruit and vegetables in the early stages of the Dukan diet can cause constipation, which is why it relies on vitamin and fibre supplements. Similarly, the Atkins diet lacks healthy amounts of fresh fruit and veg and, perhaps more worryingly, encourages a high intake of saturated fat in the form of meat, eggs and dairy products. As appealing as this may sound, a diet rich in animal protein, trans fats and cholesterol can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer. And the distinct shortage of carbs in the protein diet plan (the Atkins diet does not provide the recommended amount of carbohydrates during any phase) may increase your risk of osteoporosis, with the accompanying threat of bone fractures, spinal collapse and even nerve damage.
3) Poor success rate of the protein diet plan
Naturally the rapid weight loss experienced by many at the start of a protein diet plan can be incredibly motivating. However the chances of keeping this weight off for good are frankly remote. The protein diet plan typically lacks variety, making the risk of quitting in the first stage extremely high. A recent study of the Atkins diet saw a drop out rate of 40% within just 6 months. In fact, the BDA believes that this type of diet is likely to make your weight ‘yo-yo’.
A sensible alternative to the protein diet plan
The NHS is keen to promote safe and sustainable weight loss through making healthier food choices. The bottom line is that most of us are overweight simply because we eat and drink far more calories than we actually need and exercise too little.
Reducing your portion sizes and cutting out processed foods that are high in refined sugars and saturated fats will vastly reduce your calorie intake. You can also take concrete steps to lose weight at a sensible (and sustainable) rate of between 1lb to 2lb per week by:
- Adding a selection of powerful superfoods that are known to trigger weight loss such as raw cacao, coconut oil, chia seeds, acai berry powder, spirulina powder and dried African mango to your daily diet
- Replacing fattening dairy milk with hemp or almond milk
- Swapping normal chocolate for delicious fat and sugar free raw chocolate
- Cutting out sweets and crisps by choosing for healthier snacks such as kale chips, dried superfruits and nuts and seeds instead
- Ditching simple carbs including bread, pasta and potatoes in favour of complex carbs such a raw bread, sprouted crisp breads, greens, brown rice, lentils and quinoa
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