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Traveler's Food

Quick facts

Weight loss
  • Not the goal
Choice of foods
  • Limited depending on destination
In practice
  • Can be complicated to apply depending on the destination
Attention
  • These recommendations are even more important for people at risk because the health of these travelers can deteriorate during a diarrhea with dehydration. People at risk are :
    • Infants
    • Pregnant women
    • Elderly people
    • People with immune deficiency
    • People with gastrointestinal problems (inflammatory bowel disease or gastric hypoacidity)
    • Diabetes
    • Renal insufficiency
  • People with an unbalanced thyroid gland, those suffering from iodine hypersensitivity or pregnant women should not consume water disinfected with iodine.

The origins

In some countries and tourist destinations, hygiene may be deficient and contaminated food or water may represent a health risk for the traveler. The health problem that most often affects travelers to developing countries and other destinations is traveler's diarrhea, also known as "tourista".  It affects between 20% and 50% of international travelers. Most of the time it is of bacterial origin, sometimes it is viral and much more rarely parasitic. It is generally not dangerous but can ruin several days of travel. 

The main principles

The purpose of this food guide is to advise travelers so that they can make choices without risk to their health. As "tourista" is caused by various micro-organisms transmitted when consuming contaminated water or food, a few hygiene precautions reduce the risk of suffering from it.

Basic food recommendations:
  • Cook, boil, peel or avoid foods.
  • Eat only well-cooked food that is still warm, as food served cold may have been handled and carries the risk of oral-fecal disease transmission.
  • Avoid uncooked foods, especially shellfish, sushi and salads.
  • Do not drink water that has not been boiled or disinfected with chlorine or iodine.
  • Avoid any food that comes in contact with local water or has been in contact with local water, such as washed lettuce, that is not cooked or boiled.
  • Drink sealed commercial bottled water and use ice cubes made with purified water.
  • Soft drinks, including beer, are generally safe.
  • Use purified or bottled water to brush your teeth.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Avoid food from street stands where cleanliness conditions are often poor.
  • Always wash your hands before eating and drinking or using a sanitizing solution.
  • Avoid swimming, bathing or washing clothes in polluted or contaminated water.
    • Chemical water disinfection methods are available, such as iodine and chlorine. 
    • Water can be injected into melons to increase their weight.
The traveler usually experiences fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Symptoms usually disappear after a few days without any treatment. The basic treatment is rehydration with drinks containing electrolytes and carbohydrates. Here is a homemade recipe for a rehydration solution:

Ingredients And Quantity

Purified water
  • 1 liter (4¼ cups)
Salt
  • 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon)
Sugar
  • 30 ml (6 teaspoons)
There are also preparations on the market such as Pedialyte® Gastrolyte® or Adiaril ® that you can find in pharmacies and dissolve in water.


Travelers with food allergies must be even more careful with their diet. Here are some additional tips to avoid increasing your risk:
  • Carry a picture of the allergenic food in cases where you are not comfortable with the language of the country you are visiting.
  • Carry a card explaining the allergy in the language of the country you are visiting.
  • Find out before you leave about food labeling, which foods can be cleared through customs, the main words to use in the local language, and the foods served on the plane and in other modes of transportation.
  • Prepare your own meals whenever possible (campground, cottage or apartment/condo).
  • Always carry your auto-injector. Carry a letter from your doctor authorizing an auto-injector on board the plane.

A typical day's menu

Morning
  • Omelette with vegetables + 1 peeled apple + 1 piece of toast + 1 coffee
Morning snack
  • 1 peeled mango + 1 sealed bottle of water
Noon
  • 1 hot soup + chicken rice served hot + 1 tea
Afternoon snack
  • Nuts + 1 sealed bottle of water
Evening
  • Spaghetti with cooked seafood sauce + cooked vegetables + 1 glass of wine

Mechanisms of action

Alleged

Adequate hand hygiene and the choice of foods that respect the above principles would theoretically reduce the risk of contracting Travellers' Diarrhea.

Demonstrated

According to a 2005 review of the scientific literature, it appears that the risk of contracting Traveler's Diarrhea cannot be significantly reduced by simply teaching basic hygiene and appropriate food choices. In the 50 years that "tourista" has been studied, it has always been accepted that personal hygiene precautions can prevent or reduce the likelihood of developing travelers' diarrhea. However, 7 of the 8 studies specifically addressing this issue showed no correlation between the type of food chosen and the risk of developing traveler's diarrhea. The eighth study showed a correlation between some dietary errors and a decreased risk of contracting traveler's diarrhea. The authors conclude that either the rules are not sufficient to decrease the risk, or the ability of travelers to follow the rules is very low. Also, the fact that 30% of travelers who have not made any poor choices or dietary errors contract traveler's diarrhea suggests that the current rules may not be sufficient.

In addition, recent studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii, may protect against traveler's diarrhea. Multi-strain products (which contain several types of bacteria) would be the most effective. Although their use seems promising in the prevention of traveler's diarrhea, the use of probiotics in prevention is controversial. However, since its use remains safe, the mechanism of action is beneficial and contraindications are rare (immunosuppression or immunodeficiency), probiotics seem to be a good way to reduce the risk of contracting traveler's diarrhea without neglecting the other basic food precautions mentioned above.

Studies also show a decrease in the incidence of traveler's diarrhea with the use of bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol® not marketed in France). Indeed, taking 2 tablets or 2 ounces 4 times a day would reduce the incidence of traveler's diarrhea by 60 to 65%. The use of bismuth subsalicylate should be avoided by people allergic to aspirin, suffering from gout or renal insufficiency or taking an anticoagulant, probenecid (Benuryl), high-dose aspirin, methotrexate (Methotrexate) and by children suffering from viral diseases associated with a risk of Reye's syndrome. In addition, Pepto-Bismol is not recommended before the age of three or for more than three consecutive weeks. Check with your doctor for possible drug interactions.

Advantages and disadvantages

Satiety and well-being

By respecting the principles of a basic balanced diet, this way of eating while travelling can be satiating and meet our energy needs. It is important not to skip meals, to stay well hydrated (minimum of 2 liters per day) and also to consume alcohol in moderation.

Practice

It is relatively easy to follow these principles when traveling to resorts where the choice of food is abundant. However, in some developing countries and depending on the type of trip you are taking, it may be more difficult to find the recommended foods. Also, some poor dietary practices may be beyond our control even when we are serious about being careful.

Weight loss

Travelers' eating habits are not at all aimed at weight loss, even if in case of "tourista" and dehydration, weight loss is often perceived. 

My comment

Even if precautions in terms of food choice and hygiene measures do not seem to have a real impact on the risk of contracting traveler's diarrhea, these recommendations are still advocated by government authorities, so I still advise you to try to follow them as much as possible. Taking probiotics and/or bismuth subsalicylate also seems to be an interesting way of prevention. For probiotics, I advise to start them 2 weeks before departure and to take them during your stay.

Raw food diet

In brief

Weight loss
  • Yes
Choice of foods
  • Restricted
In practice
  • Difficult to follow in the medium and long term
Attention
  • Possible deficiency in vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D and zinc.
  • Very probable weight loss
  • In children, adolescents and pregnant women and women wishing to have children: not evaluated and therefore not recommended.

The origins

New fashion, the living food? Not quite. The translation, at the beginning of the 20th century, of the Gospel of Peace of the Essenes revealed that it was practiced more than 2,000 years ago by this ancient Jewish sect, whose members, it is said, could live up to 120 years. In the 20th century, Ann Wigmore and Viktoras Kulvinkas, founders of the Hippocratic Institute of Health, were responsible for promoting this diet.

The living food diet is a way of life that is part of a larger movement called raw foodism, which includes several subgroups: granivores (eating mostly seeds), frugivores (eating mostly fruits), instinctos (eating foods, including animal products, without mixing them), liquidarians (eating almost only juices), and "food ecologists" (eating raw, but of everything, including meats and insects). What all these diets have in common is that most of the food is eaten raw or in its entirety.

The main principles

The objectives

  • To promote the elimination of waste accumulated in the body.
  • Prevent certain diseases, cure them or alleviate their symptoms: cancers, arthritis, digestive problems, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc.
  • Live longer in good health.

The main lines

In living foods, we use only raw foods, preferably organic and alkaline, which have not undergone any transformation, except for germination and fermentation. Cooking at temperatures higher than 40°C (104°F) is not permitted. Although this diet is usually vegan, i.e. does not include any food from the animal kingdom, some variations of this diet include raw meat and fish.

In this practice, the principle of "food combinations" is mostly adopted, which consists of not mixing certain groups of nutrients, for example proteins with starches, or sweet fruits with sour fruits.

More on alkaline food, fermentation and germination...

Alkalising foods

After being absorbed, food is oxidized and residues are formed. If minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium are present in greater quantities in these residues, they are called "alkalizing foods". These foods have the property of neutralizing the so-called "acidifying" foods. Acidifying foods produce uric, sulfuric, acetic, lactic and phosphoric acid.

The promoters of these diets claim that alkalizing foods, such as fruits, vegetables and sprouts, contribute to a good acid-base balance in the body.

Fermentation

Fermentation is a phenomenon that transforms the sugar in a food into lactic acid, alcohol or acetic acid (vinegar). This transformation is done thanks to micro-organisms naturally present in the food, or added. Fermentation is a traditional way of preserving food. It is the only one that improves their nutritional value, their taste and their digestibility. Lactic fermentation or lacto-fermentation is the most interesting from a nutritional point of view.
Examples of fermented foods are: yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, tamari, olives, kefir, cheese, umeboshi plums, vinegar, wine, beer, etc.

Germination

Germination is the process by which a seed produces its embryo and gives birth to a new plant. It occurs in a humid and dark environment and involves a multitude of chemical reactions. The most important is the synthesis of enzymes that allow for the pre-digestion of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins in the seed; then comes the impressive multiplication of certain vitamins and, finally, the production of chlorophyll that begins when a small stem sees the light. In short, germination is a factory of predigestion and manufacture of nutrients.

Permitted foods
  • Raw or dried fruit
  • Unpasteurized honey
  • Raw or lacto-fermented vegetables
  • Sprouted legumes
  • Sprouted cereals
  • Sprouted bread
  • Nut milk
  • Raw or sprouted nuts and seeds
  • Oils of first cold pressure
  • Juice of germination
  • Cold dehydrated vegetable food
  • Algae

The mechanisms of action

Alleged
The key element of this diet is the conservation of enzymes, naturally present in the fruits, vegetables and germinations, which are destroyed by cooking when the temperature exceeds 47,8 °C (118 °F). In the absence of these enzymes, it is hypothesized, the organs of the digestive system and the pancreas would have to make up for it by producing the enzymes needed to digest the food. This would require the body to work harder and expend more energy - which, in the long run, would weaken the internal organs, predisposing the individual to allergies and a number of diseases (from colic to cancer to acne to nearsightedness). This concept is based on the studies of Dr. Edward Howell who stated that each living being has a limited number of enzymes.

Moreover, according to the promoters of this diet, the living food would avoid a phenomenon called "digestive leucocytosis" where the body would react to cooked food that it would consider as "foreign". The immune system would then send its white blood cells (leukocytes) to fight these foods, thus diverting its attention from the real invaders (bacteria, viruses) and predisposing the body to infections.

Demonstrated
It is true that cooking destroys some of the vitamins and minerals in foods (the more the food is cooked, the greater the loss). In some cases, however, cooking also improves the bioavailability of nutrients; the amount of lycopene (antioxidant) in tomatoes, for example, doubles after 30 minutes of cooking. Cooking also softens the dietary fibre in some foods and makes it less irritating to the gut. Cooking also has the great advantage of destroying pathogenic micro-organisms and protecting us from toxi-infections and can also destroy allergens in certain foods.

It is also true that cooking can reduce the anti-carcinogenic potential of foods, as is the case for the isothiocynates in cruciferous vegetables (see our Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Turnip, etc.). However, this disadvantage is partly compensated by the fact that we generally eat a greater quantity of vegetables if they are cooked than if they are raw. On the other hand, it has been shown that raw food eaters have significantly higher levels of antioxidants in their blood than omnivores.1 This is not true, however, because the amount of antioxidants in the blood is not the same as in raw food.

It is not true, however, that raw foods contain all the enzymes necessary for digestion. In fact, raw foods do contain some enzymes that allow the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to begin in the stomach. However, when the acidity of the stomach becomes too high, they are destroyed, but they will still have reduced the enzymatic needs of the body since they will have already done some of the work of digestion. The question of whether the body can do without the enzymes contained in raw food remains unanswered.

As for the digestive leukocytosis caused by cooked foods, this is taken to the extreme. Cooked foods that are well digested do not cause such a reaction. On the other hand, eating overly grilled, charred or fried foods could lead to other health problems, but these are not precisely known.

A typical day's menu

Morning meal
  • Wheatgrass juice
  • Fresh fruit
  • Sprouted wheat bread
  • Almond milk with figs

Lunch
  • Lacto-fermented vegetables
  • Sprouted lentil salad with cashew nuts and avocado
  • Green tea
  • Afternoon snack: fresh fruit and sunflower seeds

Evening meal
  • Raw carrot soup
  • Sprouted quinoa with Arama seaweed and olive oil
  • Herbal tea

Advantages and disadvantages

Satiety and well-being

This diet includes a wide variety of foods rich in dietary fiber and protein that contribute to satiety. And since there are no restrictions on quantities, there is little room for hunger. However, eating only plant foods and always raw can be relatively monotonous.

In practice

This diet is difficult to follow outside the home, especially if you live in the suburbs or in the regions, since restaurants specializing in raw food are currently only found in large cities. This diet can cause isolation. Moreover, only vegetarian restaurants can satisfy (part of) the requirements. As for meals with friends or family, they can be greatly complicated, unless the followers bring their own food.

Weight loss

Most people who adopt this diet lose weight because of the lower caloric intake and the satiety favored by the long chewing time of raw foods. In fact, in a German study on the impact of the raw food diet on adults, researchers observed an average weight loss of 9.9 kg for men and 12 kg for women after adopting this diet. Another important fact is that 30% of these women suffered from partial or complete amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation).2

Attention

As is the case for vegans, consuming an all-raw, vegan diet can lead to vitamin B12 deficiencies and raise blood homocysteine levels, a predisposing factor for cardiovascular disease1. Furthermore, in a large study published in 2005, 46% of the subjects following a raw diet had low levels of good cholesterol (HDL)3. This type of diet has also been associated with low bone density4, suggesting that it may not be complete in terms of calcium and vitamin D. The loss of menstruation observed in 30% of women on this diet may also explain the lower bone density2.

This diet, by the fact that it induces weight loss and in some women amenorrhea, could possibly hinder fertility in both men and women. Also, zinc, an important mineral for hormonal functions, may be lacking in this type of diet since it excludes animal foods most of the time.

If its principles are applied correctly, the living food diet should not generate any dietary deficiencies, except for vitamin B12. People who choose this way of eating should consider taking supplements of vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D and zinc or rely on high plant sources of these nutrients. However, this diet cannot be recommended for growing children and adolescents or for women who are or will be pregnant because the total daily energy intake is often lower than the person's energy needs, which could compromise the growth of children, adolescents and the fetus and make it difficult to conceive a child.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet that has become particularly fashionable in recent years. However, it has been used for nearly a hundred years to treat certain diseases, including epilepsy. This diet aims to considerably reduce the consumption of carbohydrates in favor of lipids to induce a state of ketosis. Beyond the important weight loss, it would have many health benefits.

Characteristics of the ketogenic diet :

  • Very high consumption of fat (75% of intake)
  • Unchanged protein intake
  • Considerable reduction in carbohydrate intake
  • Unpleasant symptoms in the first few weeks (ketogenic flu)
  • Rapid weight loss
  • The state of ketosis has many health benefits (increased energy, protection against certain diseases, etc.)

The main principles of the diet

Originally used for children with epilepsy to reduce seizures, the ketogenic or Keto diet was developed in the 1920s. This diet first demonstrated anticonvulsant effects in epileptics. In recent years, the keto diet has gained popularity as a quick method of losing weight. It is also used to improve the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

How does the ketogenic diet work?

The ketogenic diet for weight loss is characterized by the consumption of :
  • 50g of carbohydrates maximum per day. This represents about 5% of the total calories consumed during the day. A normal diet usually provides between 45 and 65% of our calories as carbohydrates.
  • 75% fat
  • 20% protein
This diet completely reverses our traditional food pyramid and its main principles.

How does the ketogenic diet lead to weight loss?

Usually, the body gets its energy from carbohydrates consumed during the day, which are necessary for the body to function properly. In the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are extremely limited, so the body begins to draw on its carbohydrate reserves stored in the muscles and liver called "glycogen" reserves. Since each gram of glycogen is bound to 3-4 grams of water in the body, the significant weight loss at the beginning of the ketogenic diet is largely a loss of water. When glycogen stores are depleted, the body naturally begins to use lipids or fats for energy. However, when the body uses fat in the absence of carbohydrates, it produces a waste product called ketones. Ketones then begin to accumulate in the bloodstream and their nail polish-like odor becomes noticeable on the breath. This is the main indicator that the body is in a state of "ketosis". It usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to reach this state. Ketosis" can be checked by purchasing urine test strips from a pharmacy.

This state of "ketosis" causes a marked decrease in appetite, which contributes to a reduction in the amount of food consumed. This state can also lead to nausea and fatigue. Although this diet does not focus on calorie counting, those who follow it actually consume fewer calories because they are not hungry and this leads to weight loss.

How long does the ketogenic diet last?

The ketogenic weight loss diet does not have a time limit. It is more of a lifestyle than a time-limited diet. When practiced in the therapeutic field, the ketogenic diet has a variable duration from a few weeks to several years depending on the expected results.

Foods allowed in the ketogenic diet

The foods allowed in significant quantities in the ketogenic diet are
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Vegetable oils
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Olives
  • Avocado
  • Low-carb vegetables (spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.)
  • Hard cheese (100 g per day)
Foods that are allowed, but should be eaten in moderation, are
  • Whole milk
  • Whole milk yogurt
  • Vegetables richer in carbohydrates (except carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, peas and corn)
  • Wine
  • Hard liquor
  • Coffee without sugar
Since a large amount of fat is ingested each day, it is important to be concerned about the type of fat consumed. It is advisable to limit the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids which, in excess, have a pro-inflammatory effect. The main sources of omega-6 are soybean, corn, safflower, grape seed, sunflower and wheat germ oils. It is therefore necessary to limit the consumption of salad dressings, vinaigrettes and mayonnaises made with these oils.

The consumption of monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts) and saturated fats (fatty cuts of meat, high-fat dairy products) is more recommended. The use of coconut oil is recommended because it contains fats that are easily transformed into ketone bodies. Finally, the consumption of Omega-3 contained in fatty fish, rapeseed and flaxseed oil, walnuts or chia seeds, flaxseed or hempseed should be sufficient.

Forbidden foods

The ketogenic diet is relatively restrictive, many foods are forbidden because they prevent the body from maintaining a state of ketosis:
  • Sugar
  • Sweetened products
  • Cereals
  • Starchy foods
  • Bread
  • Pastries
  • Viennese pastries
  • Cookies
  • Pulses
  • Fruit (except berries)
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet vegetables (beets, corn, carrots, etc.)
  • Soft cheese
  • Fresh cheese
  • Soft drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Honey, jams, syrup
  • Fruit and vegetable juices
  • Sweetened sauces
  • Milk or yogurt made from vegetable milks (soy, almonds, etc.)
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Sweetened fruit compotes

What to eat on the ketogenic diet? A typical day's menu

Morning
  • Omelet with 2 eggs and ½ cup of spinach and mushrooms                                   
  • 100 g of rhubarb compote
Noon
  • Roast beef (150g)
  • Green salad (100g) and grated red cabbage (50g)
  • 5 black olives
  • Vinaigrette (2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • Snack: cucumber (50g) and gouda cheese (40g)
Evening
  • Salmon (200g)
  • Asparagus (100g)
  • Green salad (50g)
  • Vinaigrette (1 to 2 tbsp.)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Hard cheese (40g)
Snack
  • 1/4 cup of almonds

Advantages and disadvantages

Positive points of the ketogenic diet

  • Feeling of satiety
  • No caloric restriction
  • Good intake of quality fats and proteins
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Potential positive effect on blood lipid levels

The negative points of the keto diet

  • Unpleasant side effects during the first weeks (ketogenic flu)
  • Little dietary diversity
  • No deviation allowed
  • Difficult to follow
  • Monotonous
  • Not compatible with a fulfilling social life

Recommendations and precautions to take

What are the dangers of the ketogenic diet?

During the first few weeks, very unpleasant effects can occur. This is a transitory period that almost systematically accompanies the transition of the body into a state of ketosis. Beware, some side effects seem to persist even after the transition period, such as hypoglycemia (a drop in blood sugar levels), dehydration and an increased risk of urinary lithiasis or kidney stones and constipation. A fiber and vitamin supplement is recommended when following this diet, probably due to the low content of fruits, legumes and whole grain products which are very good sources of fiber and micro nutrients.

Cancer, epilepsy: what are the therapeutic indications of the ketogenic diet?

Beyond weight loss, the ketogenic diet is used in the treatment of various pathologies: epilepsy, cancer, inflammatory diseases, etc. In the therapeutic field, the interest of the ketogenic diet is no longer to be proven.

Is this diet compatible with bodybuilding and sports?

Yes, it is. Some studies even show the benefits of the ketogenic diet, which would allow for better performance, a reduction in recovery time and would facilitate the effort. For several years, this diet has been very popular in the sports world.

How to keep the weight off?

The ketogenic diet is a lifestyle rather than a time-limited diet. It is therefore not supposed to be abandoned after a few months. However, because of the extreme restrictions it entails, it seems inevitable that weight will be gained back if the diet is stopped. To avoid a major yo-yo effect, it would seem beneficial to be accompanied by a nutrition professional who could help reintroduce carbohydrates gradually into the diet without too many consequences.

Some figures to go further

Since the ketogenic diet is very high in fat, there are still many concerns about its potential negative impact on cardiovascular risk. However, according to a recent 2013 study, not only does the ketogenic diet result in greater weight loss than a low-fat diet, but it also has been shown to have a positive impact on blood pressure, HDL (good) cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides. It has also been shown that the ketogenic diet can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. In fact, saturated fats are not as harmful as we think. These new data are still recent but should be taken into consideration.

In terms of weight loss, it has been shown that the ketogenic diet is more effective than a low-fat diet. In fact, many studies have compared low-fat or high-protein, medium-carbohydrate diets to the ketogenic diet. The results show that in the short term (1 year or less), the ketogenic diet is more effective on weight loss. However, very few studies have evaluated the effects of this diet in the longer term.

Our opinion on the ketogenic diet

This diet does not really respect the basic rules of a balanced diet. It excludes many food groups and seems to forget the notion of pleasure. The withdrawal of cereal products, legumes and fruits can lead to certain deficiencies, notably in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that play a role in health. However, it is difficult to deny the positive effects that this diet seems to have on health. If it is difficult to recommend it for the moment because of its very restrictive character, many studies in progress should allow to see a little more clearly in the years to come.

Cohen diet

The diet of Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen is one of the most famous in France. The Cohen diet is based solely on the principle of caloric restriction to lose weight quickly. It is divided into 3 phases during which no food is forbidden as long as it does not exceed a certain number of calories. Some of these phases are particularly restrictive.

Characteristics of the Cohen diet:

  • Based on caloric restriction
  • No food is forbidden, many equivalents are proposed
  • Preserves the notion of a balanced diet
  • The diet is not personalized according to age, sex or energy needs
  • Very restrictive booster phase (900 kcal per day)

The main principles of the diet

The Cohen diet was created by Jean-Michel Cohen, a French nutritionist who is very present in the media. The diet proposed by Dr. Cohen is simple, pleasant and sustainable.

How does the diet of Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen work?

The Cohen diet is in fact a low-calorie diet aiming at reducing the quantity of food consumed while opting for a varied and balanced diet. There are no dietary restrictions and deviations are allowed, as long as they are cleverly integrated into the diet program.

The 4 principles of the Cohen diet:

1- This diet is interactive, in the sense that the proposed menus are only indicative. Equivalences are given so that the person following this diet has several choices.

2- This diet preserves the dietary balance and is based on diversification and the mixture of fibers/proteins/carbohydrates. The sensation of satiety is also emphasized in this diet by not insisting on precise quantities but rather on the feeling of fullness. The consumption of vegetables and raw vegetables in large quantities, proteins and complex carbohydrates allows for a balanced diet.

3- This diet does not require radical changes in habits.

4- It requires minimal equipment: a scale, a tape to measure waist size, a food diary and a table of equivalents.

How does the Cohen diet make you lose weight? How many calories should I consume?

To achieve weight loss, the Cohen diet is divided into 3 successive phases:
  • Comfort phase: focused on pleasure, 1400 kcal/day phase that would allow you to lose 2 to 4 kg per month without fatigue and hunger. It consists of complex carbohydrates in small quantities at each meal, proteins at each meal, vegetables as much as you want, a piece of fruit at each meal, limited amounts of fat and one portion of cheese per day.
  • Booster phase: phase of the Cohen diet ranging from 900 to 1200 kcal/day to be interspersed every month in the program. This phase allows you to restart your weight loss in case of a plateau and helps you to quickly move the scale by losing about 2 to 3 kg in 15 days. It consists of proteins at every meal, vegetables as much as you want, only 2 fruits per day, very few complex carbohydrates, very little fat and no cheese. This formula should be used for a maximum of 2 weeks per month.
  • Consolidation phase: 1600 kcal/day phase that allows for long-term weight maintenance. This phase allows you to reintegrate the foods removed during the other two phases. Consists of more complex carbohydrates than the comfort phase, more fat and 20% milk products and less fat.
In this diet, the main factor leading to weight loss is the reduction of portions. The energy balance rule applies, i.e. caloric intake must be lower than energy expenditure to induce weight loss.

How long does the Cohen diet last?

The diet is proposed for a period of 20 weeks, which can be extended for another month if necessary.

What foods are allowed and what foods are forbidden in the Cohen Diet

In the Cohen Diet, no food is strictly forbidden. It is the total caloric intake over the day that is most important. However, to promote satiety while ingesting few calories, it is necessary to favor foods rich in fiber, protein and low energy density. This is the case for :
  • Vegetables
  • Raw vegetables
  • Fruit
  • White fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Seafood
  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Whole grain cereals
  • 0% milk
On the contrary, sweet, fried, fatty and industrial products should be avoided as much as possible.

Advantages and disadvantages

The positive points of the Cohen diet

  • Weight loss
  • No food restrictions
  • Good protein and fiber intake
  • Satiety at each meal
  • Easy to follow in the long term
  • Principle of equivalence that allows the method to be adapted to individual tastes
  • Compatible with a social life

The negative points of the diet of Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen

  • Booster phase is too restrictive
  • Requires counting calories
  • Frequent weight regain
  • Can lead to eating disorders in vulnerable people
  • The diet is not personalized and does not take into account age, gender or activity level
  • Risk of long-term deficiencies

Recommendations and precautions to take

Are there any risks?

The biggest disadvantage of this diet is that it is not personalized. Each person is different in terms of metabolism, age, gender and physical activity level. The comfort phase may not be suitable for someone who is very active but still wants to lose weight. In addition, the booster phase does not contain enough calories to meet the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals. The American College of Sports Medicine states that women should consume at least 1200 calories per day, and men 1800 to cover their needs. In addition, a diet containing less than 1600 kcal per day does not appear to meet the recommended intake of nutrients, primarily vitamin C, E, calcium and magnesium. The main consequence of the very low calorie intake is the slowing down of the basal metabolic rate, which slows down weight loss in the long term, as the body perceives this low calorie intake as a threat and slows down in order to put itself in a state of "starvation".

Is this diet for you?

Generally speaking, it may be interesting to follow the main principles of this diet if you want to lose weight. However, some phases are too restrictive for this diet to be recommended. If you are looking for a lasting solution, nothing beats a varied and balanced diet without constant calorie counting.

Is this an effective anti-cholesterol diet?

If you suffer from high cholesterol, the Cohen diet may be a good solution for you. Indeed, it favors the consumption of fiber, lean proteins and vegetables. The low presence of saturated fats, sugary and industrial products makes this diet interesting for preventing and treating lipid disorders.

Is this diet compatible with sports?

In this diet, regular physical activity is strongly encouraged. On the one hand because it favors weight loss and on the other hand because it slows down the loss of lean body mass and contributes to the prevention of numerous pathologies.

How can I keep the weight off?

If you stop the diet abruptly and return to bad eating habits, weight gain is almost inevitable. Indeed, the principles of the Cohen diet and the caloric restriction must be perpetuated for life in order not to regain the lost weight.

Some figures to go further

No scientific study has been done on the Cohen diet. It has been widely demonstrated that weight loss requires a negative energy balance, which obviously requires reducing the amount of calories ingested during the day. Since the principles of the Cohen diet are based on this caloric deficit, we can expect to lose weight. However, these same principles must be perpetuated over the long term to ensure that the weight lost is maintained. Moreover, the consequences of this caloric restriction on the health of the body are not yet fully known.

Cohen diet, dietician's opinion

This diet is, in a way, interesting because it proposes a nice dietary diversity and no prohibitions. There are no food groups to avoid as in most diets. On the other hand, some phases (booster in particular) are much too low in calories to cover the body's needs. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and obsessive behaviors in the long term. Especially since none of the phases are personalized, and a man weighing 90 kilos does not have the same nutritional needs as a woman weighing 55 kilos. In addition, the calorie count and restriction must be maintained for life or the weight lost will be regained at the slightest deviation. I do not recommend this diet for healthy and lasting weight loss.

Choosing to lose weight?

In brief

Weight loss
  • Possibly, but that is not the goal.
Choice of foods
  • Very varied. All foods are allowed.
In practice
  • Lots of flexibility. Not restrictive.
Attention
  • No one who wants to lose weight at all costs.
  • Not suitable for people suffering from psychiatric disorders or major depression.

The origins

"Choosing to lose weight" is the name of a program set up in 1982 by a group of health care workers at the Rosemont Local Community Service Centre (CLSC). The idea was to offer an alternative to radical and unhealthy weight loss diets. With positive results, the program was then offered in more than 20 institutions in Quebec: CLSCs, women's centers, health centers and private clinics.

In 2003, after twenty years of experience, Choisir de maigrir? was re-evaluated and enriched. Its effectiveness was also confirmed by the results of a doctoral thesis by one of the program's designers, Lyne Mongeau, now a scientific advisor at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Since then, the program has become more and more accessible to the Quebec population.

The Choisir de maigrir? program is the property of the Groupe d'action sur le poids ÉquiLibre, known until recently as the Collectif action alternative en obésité (CAAO).

A non-profit organization founded in 1986, ÉquiLibre's mission is to prevent problems related to weight and body image through awareness-raising activities for the public and the health community, including the Choisir de maigrir? program.

The main principles

The objectives

The program aims at healthy weight management by making an informed decision on the choice to lose weight.
  • Better understand your weight problem.
  • Determine the means to achieve it.

The main points

The program is given by a dietitian-nutritionist, a psychosocial counsellor and a physical activity specialist. It consists of 14 meetings (13 evenings and one intensive day) for a total duration of 45 hours. Each meeting deals with a different theme, including
  • Evaluating one's food consumption;
  • examining one's motivations for losing weight
  • listening to body signals
  • the influence of others' views on oneself;
  • exploring one's body image;
  • the body in motion;
  • critical thinking about dieting.
There are no diets (number of portions, foods to avoid, number of calories, etc.). Instead, we rely on the ability of each participant to set his or her own goals. Immediate weight loss is not a goal, but participants are encouraged to make informed choices about weight loss.

Mechanisms of Action

Alleged
Choosing to lose weight? is based on a relatively new approach that focuses on body image acceptance, without resorting to dieting or other drastic weight loss methods. It also proposes empowerment,2 which is defined as the ability for people to take more control of their lives. By observing their behaviours, becoming aware and understanding their problems, participants are able to make informed decisions and establish their own action plan. This is what would put an end to the vicious circle of dieting.
  • New approach to overweight3. It is based on the fundamentals of accepting your weight and stopping dieting. In this health-promoting approach, excess weight is considered as one way of being among others, because it does not necessarily prevent one from living well. On the other hand, since the conception of beauty is the result of cultural learning, we can accept that beauty manifests itself in a diversity of forms and dimensions.
  • Traditional approach to overweight. The objective is to lose weight by adopting a slimming diet. Excess weight is considered bad, dangerous, traumatic, unattractive. Only weight loss allows one to truly live and regain control over one's life.

Demonstrated

In the research conducted by Lyne Mongeau for her doctoral thesis4 , it was observed that the Choisir de maigrir? program significantly improved participants' self-esteem, as well as their self-efficacy, eating behaviours, satisfaction with their body image, knowledge about food and healthy weight management practices. However, some of these improvements were not apparent until after 12 months, suggesting that the program's success is long-term.

Another study conducted in the United States, which compared this type of approach with the traditional approach, showed that it allows for long-term improvement in lifestyle habits. Even without weight loss, it also improves several blood parameters associated with obesity: total cholesterol, LDL levels and systolic blood pressure. In 2006, more data on the effects of the Choisir de maigrir? program on blood parameters will be released following the publication of the CHOIX study by Laval University.

Choisir de maigrir? was the only program recommended by Protégez-Vous magazine in May 20056.

In 2007, a team of researchers from Laval University published an article in the journal Obesity7 on the scientific evaluation of the Choisir de maigrir? program. According to this study, the program contributes to the modification of eating habits. It would help combat overeating caused by external influences (overeating on a social occasion, eating in response to emotions) and associated with a loss of control over food intake and the absence of hunger. It would also help to reduce food consumption in the presence of hunger-stimulating triggers, such as eating at the sight of a sweet treat, for example. Although the specific objective of the program is not weight loss, many of the women who participated in the study lost an average of 2% of their initial weight in the short term and many of them maintained this loss, unlike the control group.

The Choisir de maigrir? program is considered a healthy option by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) of Quebec. In its National Public Health Program8 , the MSSS expressed its intention to offer Choisir de maigrir? to the entire population because, unlike weight loss products, services and methods available on the market, the Choisir de maigrir? program is a healthy intervention that has been scientifically evaluated. Other healthy interventions are also available, but none have been scientifically evaluated or proven to be effective.

The MSSS Public Health Branch has been providing financial support for the dissemination of the program in Quebec's health and social services centers (CSSS) since 2007.

Typical day's menu

Not applicable, because in this program, it is the person who decides when to eat and what to eat.

Advantages and disadvantages

Satiety and well-being

The sixth meeting of the program, which takes place over a full day, is entitled "I listen to my body". We learn how to listen to our body and psychological signals and we discuss the different dimensions of eating:
  • What type of eater am I?
  • What does the act of eating mean to me?
  • How does the digestive system work?
  • What are the signals of hunger and satiety?
More than any other weight management program, Choosing to lose weight? aims for a profound well-being that does not depend on weight loss.

In practice

Since there is no prescribed diet and no foods are forbidden, participants have a great deal of freedom in the way they eat. They determine what they eat according to their taste, their appetite and their nutritional knowledge.

Weight loss

The goal is not to lose weight, but to manage weight in a healthy way. The program is designed to put an end to the vicious (and harmful) cycle of dieting. That said, many participants still find themselves losing weight. In research conducted by Lyne Mongeau2 , one year after the end of the program, 35% of participants had lost weight, compared to 19% in the control group that did not benefit from the program.

Warning

This program is not suitable for people who want to lose weight at all costs or for people suffering from psychiatric disorders (manic depression, schizophrenia, anorexia, bulimia, etc.), and major depression.

Our comments

What I like about the Choosing to Lose? program is that it is one of the only programs that does not consider excess weight as a fatality. This program suggests ways to solve your weight problem without looking for immediate weight loss, which helps to put an end to the yo-yo effect and its perverse consequences.

However, according to Lyne Mongeau, even if it were implemented on a large scale, this program alone could not stem the obesity epidemic that is raging in our society. She believes that the responsibility for obesity goes beyond the individual. It is essential to act on the environment by implementing sound food policies in schools and workplaces, as well as by developing facilities that encourage physical activity: bicycle paths, pedestrian routes, etc.

The Chrononutrition Diet

Chrononutrition is a way of eating that respects the hormonal and enzymatic secretions of the body. It is a diet developed by Dr. Delabos that goes against some of our eating habits but whose effects on health could be positive. Starter diets or chronoregime are other methods developed by Dr. Delabos and which use the principle of chrononutrition.

Characteristics of chrononutrition:

  • Consists in eating according to enzymatic and hormonal secretions
  • Very important notion of schedules
  • Few deviations allowed
  • Portions calculated according to size and morphotype

The main principles of the diet

In 1986, Dr. Delabos developed the concept of chrononutrition. This dietary method is based on the premise that undernutrition in the elderly is often linked to the fixed nature of meals, both in terms of timing and composition. After studying the biological and metabolic rhythms of the human body as well as the instinctive eating habits of our distant ancestors, he came to the conclusion that it is not the choice of food nor the quantities that are lacking, but the moment of their consumption during the day. This new theory is not unanimously accepted and is still vigorously criticized by health professionals.

How to lose weight with chrononutrition?

In chrononutrition, we find important principles to reach and maintain a healthy weight:
  • Good eating habits must be maintained for life
  • Do not eat low-fat foods
  • Never change the order of meals
  • Possibility of having 2 wild card meals per week during which everything is allowed
  • Never increase the amount of vegetables in your meals or eat them between meals (eat more meat to feel full)
The quantities of food allowed are to be defined according to the size and morphology of the person.

What is the difference between chrononutrition and the starter diet?

The starter diet is an application of chrononutrition. It is a diet developed by Dr. Delabos himself and which uses all the principles of chrononutrition through a complete food program. The starter diet does not last more than 4 weeks, it is quite restrictive and promises a significant weight loss.

Why does chrononutrition lead to weight loss?

This diet is based on the hormonal and enzymatic secretions of the body, which vary according to the time of day:
  • In the morning, it is recommended to eat fat and protein since the secretion of lipases and proteases is important at the beginning of the day.
  • On the other hand, at noon it is recommended to have a meal rich in proteins and slow carbohydrates since proteases and amylases are secreted in a significant way at this precise moment.
  • During the afternoon, the peak of blood cortisol will generate a hypoglycemia, which will be limited if we take fruits or sweet products at this time.
  • Finally, in the evening, digestive secretions are low, which implies a lighter dinner based on vegetables and lean proteins.
All these claims have not been scientifically proven to date.

How long does the diet last?

Chrononutrition is a lifestyle rather than a diet. It is about eating in accordance with the physical and biological needs of the body. Therefore, there is no time limit. Good eating habits must be maintained for life, even once the desired weight has been reached.

Permitted foods

The foods allowed in the chrononutrition diet are :
  • Meat, cold cuts, poultry, fish and eggs
  • Cheeses, cream, butter
  • Bread and starchy foods (in small quantities)
  • Oilseeds
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables (in small quantities)

Forbidden foods

The foods to be avoided, or even eliminated, in the chrononutrition diet are
  • Dairy products other than cheese, cream and butter
  • Soups and broths
  • Sweet sauces
  • Low-fat or light foods
Even within the joker meals, it is always recommended to avoid these foods.

Menus, recipes and typical chrononutrition day

Breakfast (mandatory)                           
  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Gouda cheese
  • Tea, herbal tea or coffee (without sugar or milk)                      
Lunch (mandatory)
  • Beef steak
  • Fried potatoes
  • Water
Snack (when hunger strikes)
  • Avocado
  • Applesauce
  • Orange juice
Lunch (optional)
  • Cod fillet
  • Green beans
  • Water

Advantages and disadvantages

The positive points of the chrononutrition diet

  • Weight loss at the beginning of the diet
  • Quite easy to follow
  • Wide variety of foods
  • Compatible with an active social life

Negative points of the chrononutrition diet

  • Requires a change in eating habits (fatty and salty breakfast for example)
  • High intake of proteins and animal fats
  • Fatigue of the kidneys and cardiovascular system in the long term
  • Can be constipating due to low fiber intake
  • Little weight loss, this is not the long-term objective

Recommendations and precautions to take

Are there any risks?

With its very high proportion of animal protein and saturated fatty acids, this diet can lead to poor arterial health and premature wear and tear on the renal system.

Furthermore, given the rare presence of fruits and vegetables in this diet, the fibers are insufficient to allow a good intestinal transit, this diet can therefore lead to important digestive disorders and notably constipation.

Is this diet for you?

The chrononutrition diet may be a solution for you if you are looking to develop good eating habits over the long term. If you suffer from chronic fatigue, are slightly overweight and your digestion seems to be difficult, you can be inspired by this diet to find effective solutions. Be careful, however, to maintain a good intake of dietary fiber, it is important to maintain a varied and balanced diet.

Is this diet compatible with sports?

Yes, physical activity works in synergy with diet to restore optimal physiological functioning. Practicing a sport helps eliminate toxins and makes the metabolism more efficient in the long term. This is an excellent thing, except in exceptional cases.

How effective is chrononutrition in the long term?

In terms of weight loss, chrononutrition can help achieve and maintain a healthy weight since the objective is to have a diet that is consistent with the body's needs. However, in the long term, this is not the goal. Once a physiologically healthy weight is reached, weight loss will stop and the weight will stabilize. Even though many studies are still underway, chrononutrition seems to be effective in the long term to maintain a healthy weight and to feel good about one's body. However, be careful with dietary diversity, a pillar of health.

Chrononutrition: Our opinion

This diet is based on notions that are real: the secretion of hormones and enzymes at particular times of the day. However, the recommended diet is relatively rich in animal proteins and saturated fatty acids, which can eventually lead to the occurrence of cardiovascular and renal pathologies. The principle of chrononutrition can therefore be interesting if, and only if, the right food choices are made despite time constraints. In other words, in order for this diet to be interesting, it is necessary to leave enough room for vegetables, fruits, cereals and vegetable proteins. Don't hesitate to ask for help from a nutrition professional to help you in this process.

The magnesium cure: instructions for use

Why take a magnesium cure?

The magnesium (Mg) cure is not a diet but a nutritional cure to bring magnesium to the body. Magnesium is a trace element essential to the proper functioning of the body and is involved in several hundred metabolic reactions. This mineral plays a role in :
  • the production of energy ;
  • the synthesis of proteins
  • the nervous transmission ;
  • muscular relaxation;
  • regulation of the cardiac rhythm;
  • bone health;
  • the body's defenses.
A magnesium intake is all the more essential as it cannot be synthesized within the body. In adults, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium is set at 6 mg/kg/day, which is equivalent to 360 mg/day for a 60 kg person and 420 mg/day for a 70 kg person.

In 1997, the SU.VI.MAX study showed that more than 70% of the French population would have intakes below the recommendations. This lack of magnesium can be caused by certain diseases but would be essentially due to current lifestyles. This deficit can be explained by a diet low in magnesium but also by other factors such as stress. Indeed, magnesium is known to be the anti-stress mineral par excellence. Thanks to different mechanisms of action, it intervenes to soothe the body and relieve the symptoms of stress.

When to take a magnesium cure?

A magnesium cure is recommended to :
  • to compensate for a magnesium deficiency;
  • treat a magnesium deficiency.
To detect a magnesium deficiency, the blood level can be measured. However, this blood test does not give a complete assessment of magnesium in the body because this mineral is mainly present in the cells. To refine this result, it is possible to measure the level of other minerals, such as calcium, potassium and sodium, with which magnesium acts.

To identify a lack or deficiency of magnesium, there are characteristic signs that can alert you. The first symptoms of a magnesium deficiency are usually:
  • nervousness;
  • irritability
  • a feeling of fatigue;
  • muscular weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • Nausea;
  • vomiting.
If the deficiency worsens, a magnesium deficiency may manifest itself as:
  • numbness;
  • muscular cramps;
  • cardiac arrhythmia.

How to take a magnesium cure?

The main principles of a magnesium cure

A magnesium cure can be based on :
  • a diet rich in magnesium, with a preference for certain foods;
  • Magnesium supplementation, using different forms of magnesium packaged in capsules.

Foods to choose for a magnesium cure

For an optimal intake of magnesium, it is advisable to prefer homemade food made with fresh products. It is also advisable to choose whole grains. In fact, food processing tends to considerably reduce the magnesium content of products. To make the right choice, it is recommended to consult the nutritional composition table before purchasing a product.

The main food sources of magnesium are
  • dried or dehydrated seaweed such as sea lettuce (2780 mg / 100g), sea beans (1620mg / 100g) or wakame (1110mg / 100g);
  • whole grains such as rice bran (781 mg / 100g), wheat bran (546 mg / 100g), or wholemeal bread (56 mg / 100g);
  • nuts and oil seeds such as flax (372 mg / 100g), Brazil nuts (367 mg / 100g), or sesame (324 mg / 100g);
  • legumes such as white beans (60 mg / 100g after cooking), or lentils (35 mg / 100g after cooking);
  • some fresh fruits and vegetables such as spinach (53 mg / 100g after cooking), or artichokes (44 mg / 100g after cooking);
  • some spices and dried herbs such as basil (711 mg / 100g), or cumin (366 mg / 100g);
  • cocoa, especially when it is offered in dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa (178 mg / 100g),
  • shellfish and certain fish such as whelks (144 mg / 100g after cooking), or oysters (98 mg / 100g);
  • mineral waters.
Note: The values given above are taken from the Ciqual table (ANSES).

Foods to avoid during a magnesium cure

During a magnesium cure, it is recommended to limit the consumption of coffee, tea and alcohol. These products alter the absorption of magnesium in the digestive tract.

The different forms of magnesium in supplementation

To compensate for a magnesium deficit or deficiency, food supplements and medicines have been developed. These are formulated from different magnesium salts:
  • inorganic salts of magnesium such as magnesium oxide, hydroxide and chloride, which are found in particular in food supplements based on marine magnesium;
  • organic salts such as magnesium gluconate, lactate, aspartate and citrate;
  • organic salt complexes such as magnesium bisglycinate;

What are the benefits of a magnesium cure?

A magnesium cure helps to overcome a magnesium deficit or deficiency. By allowing the body's magnesium reserves to be recharged, this cure helps to fight against certain disorders such as stress, anxiety, irritability and fatigue.

What is the ideal duration of a magnesium cure?

Like any nutritional cure, a magnesium cure should not be permanent. The duration of a magnesium cure is generally between 1 and 3 months. In case of doubt, it is advisable to ask a doctor for advice.

What are the precautions for use?

A healthy and balanced diet

If magnesium is an essential mineral, one should not neglect the other nutrients essential to the good functioning of the body. To ensure certain functions, magnesium must be in balance with other minerals such as calcium and potassium.

The choice of magnesium supplements

There are many magnesium supplements available for sale. However, not all are equal. To make the right choice, it is important to pay attention to the magnesium content of the product.

Contraindications of food supplements

Taking magnesium food supplements is not recommended in case of renal insufficiency and when taking certain medications. In case of doubt, it is recommended to ask for medical advice before starting a magnesium cure.

The risk of magnesium overdose

Although it is rare, a magnesium overdose can cause side effects. Usually caused by taking magnesium-containing supplements or medications, an excess of magnesium (hypermagnesemia) can cause diarrhea, vomiting and a drop in blood pressure (hypotension). In the most severe cases, magnesium overdose can cause cardiovascular and kidney problems.

Energy density diet

This diet is based on the principle of energy density of foods. It aims to promote the consumption of foods rich in water, fiber and low in fat. This diet therefore leaves an important place to fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. When it is well managed, it allows you to reach a healthy weight and to develop good eating habits.

The objectives of this diet :

  • Lose weight
  • Achieve a feeling of satiety and satisfaction at every meal
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle habits

The main principles of the diet

The energy density diet was developed by American Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition and researcher at Pennsylvania State University. She has devoted her career to the study of eating behaviors and body weight management. Her research has led to a better understanding of the impact of eating certain types of food on the feeling of satiety. The energy density diet encourages the consumption of satiating foods with low energy density and aims to limit foods with high energy density.

How does the energy density diet work?

The diet acts on the natural mechanisms of "satiety". It promotes the feeling of fullness, which should occur after a meal that meets the body's needs. To do this, Barbara Rolls recommends eating more "low energy density" foods, i.e. foods that contain relatively few calories compared to their volume. Satiety is related to the volume of food ingested in the stomach. Low energy density foods, such as most fruits and vegetables, fill the stomach and provide satiety while supplying fewer calories than high energy density foods.

By choosing low-energy density foods, you can create large meals without being overly caloric. In addition to psychological and visual satisfaction, such meals can fill the stomach. All this contributes to greater satiety. Consuming an adequate amount of protein also brings satiety. It also helps to maintain good muscle mass and, at the same time, an adequate basal metabolic rate. The higher the basal metabolic rate, the more calories are burned, even at rest. In addition, by reducing the consumption of high-fat foods, the overall caloric intake is reduced. In fact, each gram of fat provides 9 calories, compared to 4 calories for each gram of protein and carbohydrates.

How does the low energy density diet make you lose weight?

Beyond the caloric restriction, this diet requires the implementation of some good eating habits to generate a significant and lasting weight loss:
  • Reduce caloric intake by 500 to 1000 calories per day to generate a loss of 500 g to 1 kg per week
  • Favour foods with low energy density. For example, a soup, a salad or raw vegetables as an appetizer
  • Limit fat intake to 20% to 30% of total daily calories
  • Eat plenty of fibre every day (30 g for women and 35 g for men), with a preference for whole-grain products
  • Reduce sugar intake from all sources, including fruit juice and soft drinks
  • Make sure that 15% to 35% of your total daily calories come from protein, because for the same amount of food, protein provides more satiety than carbohydrates and fats. When dieting, protein helps prevent muscle loss. The best protein choices are low-fat fish, legumes and lean meats.
  • Drink a lot: water, milk, juices, broths, herbal teas, etc. (about two liters per day)
  • Drink alcohol with low-energy meals (no more than one drink per day for women and two for men)
  • Get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Include resistance training (strength training) twice a week
Barbara Rolls also gives tips on how to more accurately assess portion sizes and be aware of our eating behaviors. Here are some of them:
  • Learn to read labels to find out how many servings a product contains and how many calories are in a serving
  • Weigh food and calculate how many calories you are consuming
  • Don't rely on other people's practices to determine the right portion size for you
  • Follow the recommendations of the American Dietetic Association and the American Institute for Cancer Research for composing a plate: fill it at least two-thirds with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Lean animal protein should be no more than one-third.
  • Pay attention to your hunger and satiety throughout the meal. Stop eating as soon as hunger is satisfied
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, quantify your level of satiety throughout the meal and adjust your portions accordingly
  • Eat slowly, calmly and chew well

How long does the energy density diet last?

The low-energy density diet can be practiced over the long term since it allows for a high consumption of plants, grains and lean proteins at the expense of less interesting foods from a nutritional point of view. It is quite possible to follow this diet until you reach your desired weight and then to continue to integrate a low energy density day afterwards. Be careful, however, to follow this diet in the long term you must ensure that you consume enough good fats, which are part of the high energy density foods but are essential to your health. Also, the caloric reduction must remain reasonable in order not to become dangerous. It is not recommended to consume less than 1500 kcal for women and less than 2000 kcal for men.

What is the energy density of a food?

Energy density is the amount of calories per gram of food (cal/g). A low energy density means more food for the same number of calories. Factors that influence energy density are the percentage of water in the food, the presence of dietary fibre and fat. The presence of water and fiber decreases the energy density, while the amount of fat increases it. However, it is the amount of water in a food that most determines its energy density.

What are the high energy density foods to avoid?

  • Category 1: very low energy density
  • Category 2: low energy density
  • Category 3: medium energy density
  • Category 4: high energy density
Barbara Rolls recommends that you choose foods in categories 1 and 2, eat category 3 foods in moderation, and limit category 4 foods as much as possible.

Advantages and disadvantages

The positive points of the low energy density diet

  • Satiety
  • Well-being
  • Easy to follow
  • Compatible with a social life
  • Proven weight loss

The negative points of the diet

  • Low intake of good fats which can be detrimental in the long term
  • Some dishes lose their flavor without fat
  • Possible frustration
  • Possible weight regain when stopping the diet in the absence of a stabilization phase
  • Need to calculate calories

Recommendations and precautions to take

Are there any risks?

Despite the effectiveness of the low-energy density diet for weight loss, it can entail certain risks. If it is not followed properly in the long term, it can lead to a deficiency in good fats which can have serious consequences. Also, since it requires you to calculate calories, it can lead to obsessive behavior in the most vulnerable people.

Is this diet for you?

The low energy density diet may be for you if you already have a good knowledge of nutrition and if you are looking for a solution to lose weight quickly while maintaining your lifestyle. Note, however, that this is a diet that requires rigor to maintain good results over time.

Is this diet compatible with sports?

Yes, the author insists on the importance of physical activity. She encourages the use of a pedometer and gives various tips on how to increase the number of steps you take in a day.

How to keep the weight off?

In order to keep the weight off after the diet, it is recommended to continue to watch your diet by consuming a large quantity of vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. If the diet is too restrictive, it may lead to immediate weight regain as soon as you resume a normal diet. For this reason, it is necessary to listen to the body and not to reduce its caloric intake too quickly. A stabilization phase with one low energy density day per week can be a good way to keep good eating habits and not to gain weight too quickly.

Some figures to go further

A study published in 2007 clearly demonstrated that the energy density of the diet is directly related to obesity and metabolic syndrome. Other researchers have also linked high energy density diets to high body mass index (see our What's Your Body Mass Index? test) in various ethnic groups and in children. In yet another study, reducing the portion size and energy density of meals contributed to lower energy intake. Significantly, reducing energy density had a greater impact than reducing portion sizes. It was also observed that eating a low-energy-density salad as an appetizer reduced total calorie consumption by 7% to 12% (depending on the portion size of the salad). Conversely, a more energy-dense salad, such as pasta salad, increased total calorie consumption by 8% to 17%. Whether or not the subjects knew the energy density of their meal before eating it, their caloric intake did not change.

Our opinion

The concept of energy density is very interesting and well developed. It provides additional evidence in favor of eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats and dairy products, whole grains and legumes. However, it is also necessary to think in terms of quality of calories and not only in terms of quantity. Omega-3 and 9 fats, for example, have a very high energy density but are very important for good health.

Dr. Weil's diet: the anti-inflammatory diet

The origins of the anti-inflammatory diet

Several authors have proposed diets with anti-inflammatory potential, including Dr. Andrew Weil, who is certainly one of the biggest proponents of this diet, as well as Dr. David Servan-Schreiber and, more recently, Dr. Serfaty-Lacrosnière. They, along with many other researchers and health professionals, believe that too much inflammation is one of the common causes of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

The main principles of the anti-inflammatory diet

The anti-inflammatory diet aims to reduce the inflammation in the body that results in various symptoms. We can consider that this diet has the following goals
  • Protect the immune system.
  • Help the body to resist and adapt to changes.
  • Reduce the risk of diseases with an inflammatory component (cardiovascular diseases, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, autoimmune diseases, etc.).
  • Increase healthy life expectancy.

Permitted foods

This diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet, it consists of consuming a maximum of foods from the plant kingdom, fatty fish and not eating processed foods.

Some authors also recommend reducing consumption of allergenic foods such as eggs, wheat, peanuts, corn, soy and dairy products.

How Dr. Weil's diet helps you reduce chronic inflammation?

The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables will help slow down cellular aging and promote overall health. At the same time, the omega-3 fatty acids found in oleaginous fruits and fatty fish will help prevent cardiovascular disease, especially if you reduce your consumption of red meat.

Home-made meals will have the advantage of containing less salt, fat and hidden sugars than commercially processed products and will also help reduce inflammatory markers.

A typical day on the anti-inflammatory diet

Breakfast
  • Grain bread
  • Tofu scrambled with turmeric
  • Orange
Lunch
  • Lentil salad with tomatoes and mushrooms
  • Dark chocolate square
  • Green tea
Snack
  • Roasted soybeans
Dinner
  • Salmon steak
  • Whole grain rice
  • Asparagus
  • 1 glass of red wine

Advantages and disadvantages of the anti-inflammatory diet

Advantages

Satiating

No problem of satiety with this diet made up of whole foods, the fiber present and the good quality proteins allow you to be well satiated.

Prevention of cardiovascular disease

With the consumption of good fats, more precisely omega 3 and the reduction of saturated fatty acids in red meat, this diet allows to prevent cardiovascular diseases with ease.

Respect for a balanced diet

This diet is in line with most of the international nutritional recommendations, by increasing fiber intake through the consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains while reducing its intake of red meat and processed products.

Disadvantage

May disturb the intestinal transit

For people who are not used to consuming fiber, this diet can disrupt digestion by leading to minor transit and digestion problems.

Our opinion on this diet

This diet is largely inspired by the Mediterranean diet and certainly reduces the risk of contracting cardiovascular disease or chronic inflammatory disease. It is easy to follow and is balanced since no food group is totally left out, it is rather a question of consumption frequencies to be respected.

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