Health Blog

Atkins diet

What is it? The Atkins diet is a low carb-high protein diet aimed at rapid weight loss. The central premise of the diet is that we have two fuel systems: one that burns sugars (requiring insulin), and one that burns fat. If you consume too many starches (common in processed foods, grains and fruits), then the excess energy causes a drain on your insulin production, adrenal glands and cardiovascular system, resulting in obesity and a multitude of modern illnesses. By eating less sugar-based food, the body regulates its insulin levels better and minimises cravings. Like the Dukan diet, it has several phases which see a gradual increase in the re-introduction of withheld foods, though a maintenance of low-carb philosophy remains with Atkins, while the with the Dukan diet it does not. The Atkins diet aims to help people lose at least 6-7kg in the first two weeks, tapering down to 1-2kg per week over the subsequent phases. The first phase (2 weeks) of the Atkins diet includes high amounts of protein and fat, with minimal vegetable content (and no starch foods). Unlike the paleodiet, Atkins allows dairy in the form of cream, cheeses and yoghurt. The next three phases (weeks to months) gradually allow an increase in vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruit and some starch (rice, pasta etc.) until a balance point is found where weight can remain stable. So to summarise: Pros: Rapid weight loss Diabetes control The unlimited volume, dairy and meat content appeals to men in particular Cuts out processed carbs and alcohol Cons: Can lead to body odour, bad breath and constipation Lack of emphasis on plant foods, leading to nutritional deficit Excessive emphasis on fats and meat, which may be harmful

Paleo diet

What is it? The paleo diet is an attempt to envisage what our pre-agricultural ancestors (hunter-gatherers) would have eaten, and to shift our food choices to reflect this way of eating. The premise is that we have lived as hunter gatherers for millennia and that our bodies are adapted for that type of diet. Since the advent of agriculture, we have shifted our diet into one of consuming grain, legumes, dairy products and nowadays, processed, refined and additive laden foods. By returning to our ancestral eating patterns, we may normalise our digestive function, and with that, cure diseases and improve our health and vitality. The problem with paleo diets is that there is no simple formula to replicate the diet of our ancestors- for whom we have very little data from the archaeological record. Even modern hunter gatherers live very diverse lifestyles, and food choices vary widely (consider the variation in options between Eskimos and Kalahari Bushmen). This has led to some bizarre and possibly detrimental variations of the paleodiet- for example, some purists only eat raw meat, claiming that cooking is a form of processing and therefore not acceptable. Others claim that beans and legumes are unacceptable because they are the product of agricultural modification. But perhaps most unhelpful are the recipe sections of most paleodiet books that seem to romanticise the hunter-gatherer lifestyle by advocating meat in virtually every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Clearly hunter-gatherers didn't get lucky with their bows and arrows that frequently. In fact, little mention is ever made of fasting in paleodiet books, which is strange, given that our species has been on the edge of starvation many times throughout history, as most hunter-gatherers remain to this day, in a constant search for food. Empty bellies are more realistically paleodiet than meat three times a day. That being said, there is much to commend a return to natural, unprocessed foods and a general disposition to the concept of paleo-eating is certainly a positive step in losing weight and recovering your health. So to summarise: Pros: They eliminate processed, industrialised food and return to natural animal and plant based whole foods They eliminate grains, which lack nutritive value, interfere with digestive processes and present the body with excess starchy calories They eliminate dairy, which is a food that is increasingly being shown to have detrimental rather than beneficial effects on long term health They encourage diversity in both the meats and plant foods you consume Can help you lose weight quickly Can help manage many of the diseases of affluence (such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, etc.) Cons: There is a wide variation in philosophies as to what to exclude and what to include Meat intake can be excessive It can be hard for some people to make the shift into an entirely different eating philosophy  

Dukan Diet

What is it? The Dukan diet is a four phase plan that is essentially a variation of the low-carb and high protein diet philosophy. There is no limit to the volume you can eat during the four phases, as long as you stick to the foods prescribed on the plan. In phase 1 (the attack phase), you undergo a strict, lean protein diet comprised of animal meats, fish, eggs and low fat dairy foods. Some allowance is made for fibre by allowing 1.5 tablespoons of oat bran per day. This phase runs for 5 days and is meant to shed weight quickly. Carbs are off limits. The difference to the Atkins diet is that Dukan bans all vegetables and seriously restricts fats in phase 1 Phase 2 (the cruise phase), non starchy vegetables are re-introduced every second day. This phase is meant to last as long as it takes for you to reach your goal weight (weeks or months). Phase 3 (consolidation phase) sees the re-introduction of fruit, cheese some starch foods and the occasional treat Phase 4 (stabilisation phase) allows you to return to eating whatever you like, as long as you keep one day per week as a high protein, no carb day. To summarise: Pros: Can shed weight very quickly No need to count calories No restriction on how much you can eat, so long as you stick to the plan Cons: The first few weeks are not nutritionally balanced and can lead to deficiencies (hence the requirement for supplements) Can lead to constipation early on (hence the oat bran) Doesn't change the long term nutritional food balance of the individual (i.e. returns to "normal" eating) The focus on high amounts of animal protein are not healthy over the long term  

5:2 Diet

What is it? The 5:2 diet became popular in 2012, and is based on the idea of intermittent fasting. This means that you eat normally for 5 days a week and then restrict your intake of food for two non-consecutive days a week (less than 500Cal or 2100KJ for women and 600Cal or 2500KJ for men). A simplified way of describing the diet is "feast and famine". It is claimed that this diet helps in weight loss, reduces the risk of mental decline (such as Alzheimers) and aids longevity. There are also claims it can help in diabetes. The idea of fasting in our culture is usually tied to religious reasons, but biologically, our species has a long history of surviving hunger and deprivation. It may be that many of our diseases are caused by excessive eating and constantly full bowels, so it makes sense to allow some "purge time" to allow the bowels to empty. However, the problem with this diet is the other 5 days of "normal" eating, which can undo the benefits of the fast days. If your diet is otherwise unhealthy then the long term benefits of the fasting days may be neutralised. So with the 5:2 diet it is critical to make sure that you are not overeating on your feast days, nor eating unhealthy foods. However, given its simplicity, this diet may be suitable for people who otherwise eat well and just that little extra boost for weight loss. To summarise: Pros: Fairly easy to do Self-administered Can have wider health benefits Cons: There is no guidance or restriction on feast days (relies on common sense) Can lead to overeating on feast days Short term fasting side effects such as headaches, light headedness and dehydration can be a problem

Garlic Prawns

Ingredients: Australian fresh tiger prawns (peeled, deveined, tails intact) Fresh chopped parsley Glass of dry white wine (optional) Freshly chopped garlic Extra virgin olive oil Freshly chopped chili or dry chili flakes Method: In the pan add olive oil ,fry gently chopped garlic, add prawns, glass of white wine, chili. Keep stirring for 3-5 min. Remove from heat and add chopped parsley. Spoon prawns into serving bowls and enjoy with crusty bread as a dipper or on its own! Makes a great seafood entre, especially in winter.

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