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The nutrition and health world is a pretty ‘trendy’ place to be at the moment, with a lot of buzzwords like “clean”, “paleo” and “primal”, among many others, being thrown around. I thought with everyone’s new year’s resolutions in full swing, in this week’s newsletter we should touch on the great debate between the Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Vegan diets- and when it comes down to three doctors debating it, what they have to say.

The Sugar-free Diet
As more of us question how much sugar we eat because of possible connections to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease- the sugar-free approach to dieting has gained great popularity. This approach seeks to reduce or eliminate the fructose component of sugar in the diet, often found in processed food, and can be quite difficult to adopt in the early stages, as you battle the addiction to sugar that your body may have built up over the years.

Fruits, vegetables, dairy products and dairy replacements, eggs, alcohol and nuts all contain sugar, so while a sugar-free diet should not exclude all natural sugars, it should most definitely exclude refined and processed sugars. Our diet needs glucose- but NOT fructose!

The Gluten-free Diet
If you’re one of the many people who don’t actually know what gluten is, or one that pretends to know (like these guys: WATCH), gluten is a mixture of two proteins present in cereal grains, especially wheat, which is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.

While this approach is primarily for those with a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, known as Celiac disease, it has also gained traction with individuals who do not suffer from it. Eliminating gluten from the diet works as a form of treatment by excluding the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale, a cross between wheat and rye. There is no scientific proof that a gluten-free diet has health benefits for its followers without Celiac disease, yet it maintains a strong and ‘trendy’ following despite only 1 per cent of the Australian population having this condition.

Excluding gluten means the avoidance of wheat, which can lead to a reduction in wholegrain intake. Research shows that people with a higher intake of wholegrains have lower rates of heart disease, certain cancers, and are less likely to gain weight. Additionally, many of these grains contain fructans and starches that promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, contributing to a stronger immune system and protection against certain types of cancers and heart disease.

The Paleo Diet
This diet is based on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that existed pre-agriculture. It includes grass-produced meats, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy natural oils such as olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado or coconut. The bottom line of this trendy diet is if it comes pre-cooked, pre-packaged or in bulk- don’t eat it!

The benefit of eating this way is that the unlimited numbers of fruits and vegetables in the diet have a low-glycemic index, assisting in regulating blood glucose and insulin levels. Depending on the fruit and vegetables consumed, this can also help alkalise the body, and the high-soluble fibre and high omega-3 fat content of the Paleo diet helps with the health of the gastrointestinal tract and can help improve inflammatory diseases.

The Vegan Diet
Being Vegan means NO meat, fish, poultry, or animal byproducts such as eggs, dairy and honey. Being vegan includes fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds and legumes. Being free of cholesterol and generally low in saturated fat, the vegan diet may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.

While often critiqued for not possessing the protein other diets gain from animal-based products, there are numerous plant-based forms of protein available to be included in a vegan diet, such as soy-milk, nuts and legumes. Vitasoy have a huge range of plant-based milks and blended milks that can fit within the vegan diet, such as their Soy & Almond Milk and their Oat & Almond Milk.

All possessing their own rules, ambassadors, and loyal followers, it can be tricky to know who to listen to and what ‘trendy’ diet bandwagon you should jump on, if any! For more insight into each of these diets, watch these three doctors debate it out: WATCH