No surprises here: health and wellness have been at the forefront of many of our minds in 2021.
We’re coming off of a truly earth-shattering couple of years that changed the way that many of us think about our bodies and longevity. So it’s no surprise that many of us are trying to find ways to be at our happiest and healthiest through diet and exercise interventions.
Here are the biggest diet trends we’ve seen in 2021, plus how they impact our metabolism and hormones.
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2021’s Biggest Diet Trends
1. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has been in the headlines for several years now as one of the top dieting trends in the health and wellness world, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. This eating pattern takes a close look at the timing as well as the quality of your diet and involves restricting your calorie intake for a certain period of time.
Luckily, it’s not just another fad diet with dubious claims - as it turns out, intermittent fasting could actually be beneficial for both your fitness goals and your overall health.
Here’s how intermittent fasting can help your goals: when you’re in a “fed” state and not fasting, your body has plenty of carbohydrates (in the form of glucose) circulating around to be used as energy. As a result, your body releases more insulin to get those glucose molecules into your cells.
Unfortunately, if you have an excess amount of carbs in your system, this means that they are stored as fat, and the elevated insulin levels can make it hard for your body to burn that extra fat.
But when you’re in a fasted state, you don’t have any circulating glucose, and that means that your insulin levels are at their lowest. As a result, your body can now burn through your “fat” stores for energy in a caloric deficit. Essentially, fasting for a certain period of time can put your body in a state that is more responsive to burning fat, and that means weight loss!
This harnessing of your insulin levels is good for other things as well, with scientists finding links to intermittent fasting and healthier body weight, as well as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and even Type 2 Diabetes.
Like anything, though, it’s important to do intermittent fasting right if you’re going to do it at all. Restricting your calories to an extreme could put you into “starvation mode,” where your body tries to conserve energy to make it to the next meal and is therefore much more reluctant to lose any valuable fat stores. So if you try IF, make sure that you’re still getting enough calories during your eating period to avoid an unfortunate and potentially dangerous backfiring.
2. Celery Juice
Celery juice has been enjoying its time in the spotlight this year with proponents claiming that it does everything from cleansing to detoxifying.
This claim is thought to originate with Anthony Williams, a self-proclaimed “Medical Medium” who claims that celery contains “sodium cluster salts” that can kill harmful “bugs” in your gut. Unfortunately, these claims aren’t rooted in science, and many nutrition experts and scientists
agree that these claims are unfounded.
However, there are plenty of benefits that can come with the celery juice craze. Celery is a nutritious veggie with a very high water content, so drinking your greens can come with the added benefit of helping you hydrate (something that many of us need!). It’s also low in sugar, which could make it a better choice than other fruit and veggie juices. Finally, juicing your celery could be a helpful way to get more of the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in celery if they aren’t eating enough vegetables to begin with.
But these are all benefits that can also come from eating celery and other veggies. In fact, since juicing removes valuable fiber from the equation, eating your celery whole is probably even better.
So yes, celery juice can absolutely be worth adding into your routine: just take those “cleanse” claims with a grain of salt.
3. The Flexitarian Diet
Veganism and vegetarianism are gaining a lot of traction these days, and for good reason. Raising livestock and producing animal-based food products like meat and dairy both emit huge amounts of carbon, a greenhouse gas that’s a major contributor to global warming. So as the grim realities of climate change become increasingly apparent, more and more people are making the switch to more eco-friendly plant-based diets to minimize their carbon footprints.
The “Flexitarian” diet is the perfect solution for people who want to reduce their animal product consumption without eliminating it completely. As the name suggests, it’s a flexible option - there are no “hard and fast” rules here. The aim is simply to minimize your meat and dairy consumption wherever possible, without eliminating it completely whenever the craving for a burger should strike.
And what about health benefits? As it turns out, eating less meat can do your body a whole lot of good.
Plant-based diets have been proven to be better for your heart health
. Significantly cutting your meat (and dairy) consumption means cutting down on your intake of saturated fat! Plus, eating more plant-based fare like nuts, whole grains, and veggies means adding on to your fiber intake, which is great for your cardiovascular system.
Because of the decreased fat, higher fiber, and overall lower calorie intake, plant-based diets have also been found to be associated with healthier weights
4. Keto Lite
You’ve definitely already heard of keto. This hugely popular but controversial diet involves close macronutrient tracking with the goal of slashing your carb intake while increasing your dietary fat. The idea is that eating so few carbs puts your body in a state of ketosis: without its preferred energy source (carbs) readily available, your body starts to burn its stored fat stores for fuel instead. Bam, weight loss!
But if you’re following keto the way it’s meant to be, it’s strict. The classic macronutrient breakdown for keto
is 55-60% fat, 30-35% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. So it’s no wonder that so many people find keto to be an unrealistic (not to mention unsustainable) eating pattern.
Now, introducing its less-extreme little sister: “Keto Lite.” It also goes by a different moniker, “lazy keto.” As the name suggests, it’s a much more relaxed approach to keto. Rather than counting every single macro for the day, you put most of the focus on minimizing your carb intake. In other words, you want to follow the general guidelines by increasing your fat intake where possible and cutting out the carbs, but Keto Lite means that you don’t necessarily have to track it all.
Essentially, it’s another iteration of a low-carb diet. It can lead to weight loss, but it can also affect your hormones.
If you have a thyroid condition, Keto Lite might not be for you. Even though it’s not as extreme and regimented as Keto Proper, you’re still decreasing your carb intake, which can lead to a subsequent decrease in certain thyroid hormones
that regulate your metabolism.
On the positive side, Keto Lite could mean good news for your insulin levels. By limiting your carbohydrate intake, you could decrease the amount of insulin your body produces, which could help you lose weight as well as address any insulin resistance. However, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re sticking to keto for the long run: a study
on rats found that the positive effects on insulin during a keto diet were quickly reversed when the rats returned to a higher-carb diet.
In a world where we’re juggling WFH duties, short attention spans, and a whole lot of stress, it’s no wonder that adaptogens have become so popular. Adaptogens, or adaptogenic substances, are natural plants and herbs that are taken to help maximize your brain power, increase your focus, and boost your memory.
How this works: adaptogens are thought to act directly on your adrenal glands, or the gland that produces important hormones like cortisol, your stress hormone. Adaptogens help you manage your stress response, and in a world where we’re constantly overworked and overstressed, this can make a big difference in your cognitive abilities.
So adaptogens can play a role in reducing your cortisol levels, which can leave you both less stressed out and a little more focused. The herb ashwagandha, for example, has been found to reduce your cortisol levels and is especially useful for anyone suffering from the burdens of chronic stress and fatigue!
Because elevated cortisol levels are also linked to weight gain, especially around the belly, you could also use adaptogens in conjunction with a healthy and balanced diet. They are not weight loss supplements by any means, but their positive effect on your stress hormones could help.