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Two of the most popular weight management tools used today are “Intermittent Fasting” and “Juice Cleansing” each promising results ranging from weight loss, improved health, waste elimination, better digestion and even sharper mental clarity.
Senior Gastroenterology Dietitian Peter Collins and Senior Surgical and Oncology Dietitian Chloe Jobber broke down each of these methods explaining how they work, considerations people should make before undertaking them and potential dangers of such eating plans.
“Whilst typical ‘diets’ focus on what to eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when or how much you eat. Intermittent fasting first gained popularity in the form of the ‘5:2 diet’ which involves eating normally for five days and on two non-consecutive days during the week restricting eating to 25 per cent of your energy needs,” Peter said.
“The diet has also evolved and now comes in a variety of forms such as the 16:8 diet, where eating and drinking calorie containing foods is limited to 8 hours per day with 16 hours fasted, through to more severe forms of the diet involving total fasts, where only non-caloric fluids are consumed or those who fast on alternate days.
“Intermittent fasting can be an effective strategy to promote weight loss for certain people and research suggests there are broad benefits to manage conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, the evidence suggests this is no more effective than standard calorie restricted diets in achieving weight loss and long-term weight management.”
Chloe explains for some individuals, focusing on when you eat versus what you eat, and only during particular times or days can be mentally more achievable compared to focusing on what you eat every day.
“It is important to ensure you are eating a well-balanced, nutrient rich diet on your eating days or times as a poor diet could prevent any health benefits. Those with medical conditions should seek advice from their doctor or dietitian before commencing on such a calorie restricted diets,” Chloe said.
“For individuals with existing health conditions, such a dietary approach should ideally be done with the support of a dietitian. It is important this is not seen as a magic bullet for weight loss and important that individuals who have suffered eating disorders in the past should refrain from these types of diets altogether.
“For most people there aren’t immediate health risks to trying intermittent fasting, it is recommended to avoid going days without eating. People considering intermittent fasting should ensure their diet is healthy and varied including fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains can further increase the risk of nutrition deficiencies.”
Peter also explains another emerging trend in diet culture is juicing or a juice cleanse whereby meals are replaced or eliminated in place of fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.
“When we juice our fruit and vegetables instead of eating them whole, we end up throwing away a lot of the best bits like fibre. Fibre is important for helping us feel full and to encourage a healthy digestive system,” Peter said.
“It’s a different story if you are adding something like a banana or spinach into a smoothie and not just drinking the juice of it. That would be considered a healthier option because you’re retaining all those nutrients.
“For those trying to manage their energy intake and weight, an important consideration is the energy density of juices and smoothies. For juices the calories are provided in the form of natural sugar and consuming these foods in liquid form can lead to overconsumption. One tip is to consider whether you would eat the ingredients in whole form in a single sitting?”
Chloe also questions how this method would promote weight loss or if it would have any other health benefits.
“These types of diets usually put people into a calorie deficit, so it is common to lose weight while following a juice-only type of diet. However, they are not sustainable for a long period of time and once solid food is re-introduced, any of the weight that has been lost will likely be regained,” Chloe said.
“In terms of health benefits, drinking fruit and vegetable juice would be better than having no fruit and vegetables at all. There are juice cleanse diets out there where people replace some or all meals with fresh squeezed juice. Any time you are relying on just 1 or 2 core food groups instead of all 5 you are putting yourself at risk of micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.
“This can also have some negative side effects as juice is not as filling as solid food so often people can feel very hungry while following a juice cleanse diet. People can drink a large amount of calories from fruit in seconds, whereas if that person were to eat the actual fruit, it would take a much longer and be significantly more satisfying.”
Chloe warns excluding some of our major food groups can result in micronutrient deficiencies and could potentially lead to malnutrition
“A person could be at risk of micronutrient deficiencies, malnutrition and also potentially exclude foods that they enjoy. The best dietary pattern is one that you can follow for a lifetime and that works for you, incorporating as many of the five core food groups as you can. If you are interested in seeking further advice, get in touch with an accredited practising dietitian through Dietitians Association Australia,” Chloe said.
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