Diet trends come and go. Many are too good to be true. But sometimes we try them anyway, always eternal optimists when it comes to quick fixes and health. This month, I bring you some diet and health trends that really are good for you—and there’s science to back them up!
Move Over, Meat!
People leaning towards plant-based eating is nothing new, but this trend it seems, is here to stay! Meatless Monday, Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat (and coming soon, Faux Fish!) have inspired even the most entrenched meat-eater to give it up at least a few days a week. Eating more veggies is always a good thing, especially when it takes the place of more processed foods.
Some recent science about plant-rich diets:
- February is Heart Month; the American Heart Association says that eating more plants and less meat decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 Diabetes, and many cancers. But they caution against indulging too much in “vegan junk food”; after all you can follow a completely vegan diet and still eat a very unhealthy diet.
- A large observational study in Singapore found that people who more strongly adhered to a plant-rich diet such as the alternative Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet or three other similar eating patterns, were 18-33% less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with the least similar diets. The number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple in the next 20 years.
- A study done on mice from UT Southwestern in Dallas, showed that when the typical “mouse diet” was enriched with pectin, they were better able to fight off a bacteria similar to the sometimes deadly E. coli. Pectin is a naturally occurring soluble fiber found in fruits and, to a lesser extent, vegetables. Foods highest in pectin include apples and oranges.
Intermittent Fasting: We all probably know someone who has tried interment fasting or IF. There are two ways of doing it—either restricting eating times to a 6 or 8 hour window; or the 5:2–having just one moderate-calorie meal on 2 days a week. A recent article from Johns Hopkins University shows that IF can cause similar weight loss as just eating less, but with a few extra health benefits. The metabolic “switch” that happens when the body is in an extended fasting mode increases resistance to stress and suppresses inflammation. It also decreases blood pressure, blood lipid levels and resting heart rates. Other studies show that IF is better at improving insulin sensitivity and reducing belly fat than a typical weight loss diet. Preliminary research shows that IF could offer cognitive benefits too.
Better than Java?
Tea is taking a higher position in the hierarchy of morning beverages. I’m a tea drinker so I’m very happy to report there are reams of research on the benefits of being a regular tea drinker! Fortunately for those who love green tea—it seems to have more health benefits due to having the highest amount of polyphenols and retaining the most antioxidants. Also the more tea you drink per day, the better!
- Drinking tea has neuroprotective effects including reduced risk of cognitive impairment and lower likelihood of depressive symptoms.
- There is some evidence, though not conclusive, that bioactive components in tea can help with fat loss and weight loss. (One study even shows promise with decreasing abdominal fat and triglycerides, when combined with moderate exercise.)
- Matcha, a type of green tea powder that’s hyped as a super food, really is. It’s said to have more than 100 times of some antioxidants compared to steeped green tea. It’s said to prevent liver damage and test tube studies show that the compounds in matcha may inhibit cancer cells.