2014 Healthy Food Trends: Intermittent Fasting and Veganism

Healthy Food

New health eating trends have emerged in 2014. Two that have been particularly prominent in the media are intermittent fasting and veganism. True to the nutrition industry, these "trends" are really things that have been around for quite a while, and have just garnered popular attention from the media lately. Nevertheless, some of the principles promoted by these dietary practices might be useful for people who want to lose weight or improve their health.

Intermittent fasting

With the release of such titles as "The Fast Diet" by Michael Mosley, the "Alternate Day Diet" by Dr. Dr. James Johnson, and "The 5:2" Diet by Kate Harrison, it's clear that Americans (and the UK) are fascinated by fasting. Advocates of intermittent fasting state that it has been scientifically proven to slow aging, increase insulin sensitivity and decrease body fat. Intermittent fasting essentially involves abstaining from food or eating a very restricted diet for a set period of time, ranging from half a day to several days in a week.

Dr. Mosley, who created a documentary for the BBC about the health benefits of fasting, suggests a regimen of 2 days of modified fasting (eating 25 percent of one's normal intake) with 5 days of normal (though non-excessive) eating. Other intermittent fasters abstain from eating for an extended portion of every day, such as 16 to 20 hours.

Skeptics criticize intermittent fasting as just another form of calorie control, and note that fasting regimens walk a fine line between normative dieting and disordered eating. Nevertheless, the practice of fasting itself did not originate from "diet experts." Fasting has actually been a regular practice among many cultures dating back to antiquity.

For example, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and many other faith practitioners incorporate fasting into their ways of life as a way to promote spiritual and physical purification and discipline.

Veganism

Idealizing a whole foods, plant-based diet has been a fixation of the American public since before Dean Ornish promoted a very low-fat regimen in order to combat heart disease. However, veganism has recently experienced an upsurge in popularity, notably among celebrities.

Veganism is essentially abstaining from all animal products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy. While one could technically be vegan while primarily pasta, white rice, and other refined carbohydrates, the healthiest vegan diets often include a lot of fruit, non-starchy vegetables, and whole grains.

According to The New York Times, Colin T. Campbell, professor at Cornell and author of the bestselling book "The China Study," found that veganism is associated with decreased risk of disease, including heart disease and diabetes.

A vegan diet can be healthy, but to be optimally nutritious it should be a primarily whole foods-based diet, and not a processed foods one. There are plenty of processed vegan foods on the market, such as sugary cereals, energy bars, and sweetened drinks, that actually won't help you towards your health goals. A vegan diet based on whole, unprocessed grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and unsweetened almond and soy milks is probably your best bet.

Before considering any adjustment to your eating habits or dietary regimen, be sure to consult with a medical professional.

Sources:

"Eating Advice from the China Study," well.blogs.nytimes.com, 7 January 2011, Tara Parker-Pope, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/nutrition-advice-from-the-china-study/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

"Fast Diet," health.usnews.com, 3 January 2014, http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/fast-diet

"The monk's guide to fasting," bbc.com, 13 January 2014, Tom de Castella, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25592458

"The power of intermittent fasting," bbc.co.uk, 4 August 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19112549

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