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Fad or Trend? Eat Clean, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Low-Sugar or Paleo

I am sure you have seen many jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon or religiously swearing by the Paleo diet. If so, what does that mean for them? Here we look at three other trends, so you can see how they impact active adults. (As in all circumstances, a registered dietician (RD) can and should help guide choices for those considering a new way of eating).


Clean Eating

The Basics: Eat natural, whole, unprocessed or raw foods. Avoid refined food. (These followers many also favor organic, non-GMO, and sustainably produced foods.) They avoid additives, preservatives, and high-fructose corn syrup.

The Science: Generally speaking, replacing processed foods with fresh, natural foods is great. Go for it. However, experts are reluctant to label foods containing preservatives as “unhealthy” and foods without them as “good for you.”

What You Need to Know: Eating clean may be difficult to sustain and expensive to follow. However, if done properly, it can improve your nutrition intake, since processed foods often are less nutrient-dense than whole foods.


The Basics: Not eating any foods containing wheat, barley, rye, or potentially oats, due to cross-contamination.

The Science: Those with celiac disease or other gluten issues may notice reduced symptoms of bloating, skin rash, headaches, and fatigue. Those without gluten issues report weight loss and increased energy, but experts say it may be due to overall healthier eating.

What You Need to Know: A gluten-free diet can aid in weight loss, but followers need to be careful: Some gluten-free processed foods have more calories than the original version (e.g., breads). Some athletes report an increase in energy, while others feel fatigued due to low carb intake.

Low-Carb Low-Sugar

The Basics: Not eating foods high in carbohydrates, including white flour, refined sugar, starchy vegetables (such as corn and peas), and some fruits and juices.

The Science: A low-carb diet may aid in weight loss and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

What You Need to Know: A diet that’s too low in carbs can result in low energy, fatigue during endurance running, loss of lean body mass, poor performance, and poor recovery, particularly for elite athletes.

The Paleo Diet

The Basics: Eat only fresh fruits and vegetables, wild-caught game and fish, and free-range products. Avoid flour, refined sugar, salt, processed foods, legumes, beans, and dairy foods.

The Science: Small, short-term studies found that the diet resulted in weight loss, lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, and improved insulin sensitivity.

What You Need to Know: Going Paleo can help people reduce their intake of sodium, saturated fat, and refined sugars—all good things. On the downside, the diet’s low-carb profile can lead to reduced exercise performance. Also, too much of certain red meats can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Final Verdict: Everyone should try as far as possible to observe clean-eating. If you have proven intolerances or allergies, by all means, omit certain things from our diet. Otherwise, consider carefully that you might be doing something just for the heck of it. Because the trend sounds cool . In the end, if you are a hardcore athlete, or an endurance runner, you need to consider that pros and cons carefully. Certain diets might be ideal for a yogi, but not for an ultra-marathoner!

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