Diets can be like a foreign language; with confusing words and ratios being bandied about and special tools/knowledge required to make sense of them.
A lot of this is down to how lucrative a popular diet fad can be. People are desperate to discover some miracle formula for achieving whatever body weight ideal they're fixated on and shiny books authored by "doctors" are the materialistic token of this desire.
That said, diet and nutrition is extremely complex, with thousands of scientific theories each containing elements of the truth. However, diets are often contradictory on a fundamental level, which can make choosing a particular eating plan an extremely confusing process.
Therefore, it's worth getting to grips with the basic principles behind some of the most widely recognised diet theories; so as to broaden your understanding about how what you are eating is affecting your body.
Remember to always seek professional advice regarding changes to your diet, as you can end up doing more harm than good.
Atkins is one of the most famous examples of a low-carb diet, which works on the premise that increasing fat/protein intake whilst lowering, or completely cutting out carbohydrates leads to effective weight loss.
This concept has a lot of scientific backing to support it and is heralded as being relatively risk free. In fact, most studies have shown a number of health benefits connected to limiting carbohydrate consumption. This includes water weight reduction, reduced appetite and lowered insulin levels.
The 5:2 diet is based on intermittent fasting; you eat normally for five days of the week, then cap your calorie intake to 500 on the remaining two days.
Fasting on a regular basis is often advocated by nutritionists and some spiritual practices for it's scientifically proven health benefits. On the most basic level, giving your digestive tract a break, as long as you do this in a healthy way, can help to cleanse and reboot the system.
This is one of the most talked about diets at the moment. The theory behind it is, that while what we eat has seen a drastic transformation over the course of our existence, our digestive systems and biological requirements have not and therefore modern diet is the root cause for increasing disease and weight gain in society.
That means, for optimum health, we are advised to resort back to eating foods that we would have done as a hunter-gatherer species in the Paleolithic era, hence why it is sometimes referred to as the 'caveman diet'. It involves eating a lot of lean meat, fish, non-starchy vegetables and certain fruits, whilst cutting out all processed foods, dairy and sugar.
The Alkaline Diet is concerned how a body's acidity level affects it's propensity for contracting disease. All food has a pH level, which, when burned as an energy fuel in the body produces ash that is either acidic or alkaline. The theory is that the more acid residue in our system the more liable we are to harbour disease, which is only able to exist in an acidic environment.
The science behind this theory, however, is fundamentally flawed and while following this diet may well produce positive effects, for the fact that it is comprised of whole foods and lots of vegetables, alkalinity isn't thought to be the cause. For example, fatty acids and amino acids are essential for optimal wellbeing.
This diet has it's roots in Zen Buddhism, which believes that food contains either a yin or yang energy, which can be used to bring balance to the body and therefore protect against disease. It's worth noting here that the scientific grounding for this diet is lacking somewhat.
Emphasis is placed on the materials used to prepare food (favouring wood and glass) and the way in which it is consumed; involving mindful chewing and meditation. Meals are mostly comprised of whole grain cereals (e.g brown rice), vegetables (excluding nightshade varieties), beans and fermented soy.
The Ketogenic diet is derived from low-carb theory, but is specifically concerned with creating a state of ketosis within the body. This happens when the body begins fuelling itself using fat, not glucose. To achieve this, a strict diet of high protein foods, such as fish and cheese, must be adhered to.
This diet has been linked with numerous health benefits that includes; increased energy levels, sharper mind, reduced appetite, sustained physical/mental performance and a calmer digestive system (no gas and cramps). However, as with any drastic diets, it can be dangerous if implemented in the wrong way, or continued for too long.
Remember to always check with a medical professional before conducting any major changes to your diet.