Some health crazes or fads are worth paying attention to, especially the ones that are backed by solid research. Unfortunately, many health crazes (both those that have been around for decades and those that are relatively new) can make you far less healthy; so being able to discern between the ones that help versus hinder is important.
A few examples of health crazes that are worth learning more about (although they still, like everything in the world of nutrition and fitness, might not be right for you), are intermittent fasting, low-carb diets, and interval training. Why? Because these “fads” have the science to back them up, unlike the following five overrated health crazes.
Juicing as a Meal Replacement
Juicing with vegetables can provide some benefits, as long as you do it with food or between meals, not as a meal replacement. There’s no arguing that eating whole veggies and fruits is far superior to juicing them, unless you have a medical condition that says otherwise; and studies show that a great deal of nutrition is obtained from the fiber content of our produce, not to mention that various antioxidants and other micronutrients are lost in the juicing process.
Also, fiber has been shown to play a key role in the prevention of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to detox, but the human body is wise and does not need some crazy, crash-detox diet like the Master Cleanse to do so. In fact, your body (if given the right nutritional tools) is able to effectively cleanse itself via the liver and kidneys — AKA our natural detoxification pathways.
Supporting your body with gentle, food-based cleanses is one thing — like cutting out processed/packaged foods and focusing in on whole, nourishing ones; but most juice fasts and extreme detox plans can actually do more harm than good.
Aside from a few healthy options that are on the market, most nutrition bars are not worth the money or calories. The vast majority are packed full of added sugars and artificial ingredients like flavoring and coloring agents, preservatives, binders, and more.
If you do go crazy for the nutrition bar craze, be sure to stick to bars with very short ingredient lists that are made of only whole foods. Lara Bars and Clif Kit’s Organics aren’t bad options; or better yet, make your own at home.
No health craze is more damaging than the low-fat/no-fat diet model, which has been touted as being the best approach to weight loss for decades. Thankfully, this dietary myth has been slowly but surely debunked, but many still fall back on the false claim that dietary fat = body fat, and that dietary fat causes heart disease.
This craze isn’t only ineffective for weight loss; it is downright dangerous for your health. In fact, having too low of a fat intake can lead to weight gain, high triglyceride levels, and lowered testosterone in men, not to mention a much higher likelihood of eating unhealthy foods in the form of sugar and refined carbs.
Furthermore, the human brain is composed largely of fat, and needs healthy dietary fats to survive and thrive. Without them, we experience lowered cognitive function, hormonal imbalance, and poor cell repair and maintenance.
Last but certainly not least, we have the soy craze. Because soy is incredibly cheap to produce, it is packed into all sorts of processed foods and turned into oil. Even without meaning to, you probably already consume a lot of soy if you eat any processed foods.
Unfortunately, soy should not be considered a health food for various reasons. One, soy contains compounds called isoflavones that work as endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with normal, hormonal estrogen receptors in the body. Studies show this can lead to reduced estrogen levels. While further research is needed, some studies suggest that this disruption could be a cause of breast cancer.
Soy might also contribute to thyroid problems, and multiple studies have shown that it is a bad idea to give processed soy to infants, which is frightening considering that it is one of the main ingredients in many commercial baby formulas. One study found that soy formula caused early onset puberty in girls.
The bottom line is this: do your research. Health crazes will come and go, and some can offer some very real health benefits. Others, on the other hand, can harm your health rather than support it, so researching current fads is critical. At the end of the day, a diet simply based on real, whole foods that come from nature is your best bet.