One of the things I liked so much when I started researching about Paleo, was the ease and simplicity. The books basically tell you to eat a simple diet, of the natural foods we've evolved to eat. I found there really was nothing confusing or contentious. As well as reading the Paleo and Evolutionary health books – I read everything else I could find on nutrition. There is a book for every fad diet imaginable, with completely conflicting and confusing advice. Some of the diets just seem downright complicated to follow and devoid of any logic.
One of the best selling diet books in Australia at the moment is about the “DASH Diet”, so I couldn't resist taking a look. I've noticed the newer fad diets seem to be more closely resembling Paleo, so I always hold out hope that books like this will be about Paleo, but with a different name.
DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and is aimed at those suffering from High Blood Pressure, though it also has a significant focus on weight loss. I had high hopes when I picked up the book – but it quickly became apparent that the book is based on the flawed food pyramid. The plan recommends a diet high in fruit, low-fat dairy and whole grains. It also advises avoiding processed food and limiting (not eliminating) sugar.
While the DASH diet is based on studies, these studies only compared three different nutritional plans. Unfortunately they don’t give the specific meal plans for each of the diets in the study, just the macro nutrient profiles – and some of the micro nutrient profiles. From this it’s apparent the DASH diet had 10% less fat than the other diets (taken entirely as Saturated fat), with the 10% added onto the protein and carbohydrate consumed. Without knowing exactly what they ate, this is rather meaningless. Cheap, commercial chocolate is high in saturated fat – as is butter – they clearly aren't equal, yet this study doesn't allow us to differentiate.
The book is full of un-Paleo recommendations such as only eating whole-grain bread, avoiding coconut oil, trimming all visible fat off meat and only eating low-fat dairy.
I'm sure someone coming from a highly processed SAD diet would (initially) see benefits on a DASH diet – but only because they had cut out processed foods, sugars and therefore reduced their carbohydrate intake. It saddens me that unwell people follow this diet in good faith – when it isn't based on good science – and certainly doesn't seem optimal.
What do you make of the DASH diet and the other fad diets out there?