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From Pegan To Planetary - Nutritionists Review This Year's Top Diet Trends

Knowing what to put on your plate can be tricky, especially when there’s so much conflicting nutrition advice in the media. It’s hard to know whether a diet is fab, or just a fad.

To help you choose the best approach to stay lean and live longer, our nutritionist Stephanie Polson has reviewed and rated the top diet trends for the year ahead.

Planetary diet
The Planetary diet aims to feed the world’s growing population in a healthy, sustainable way and has been called the  ideal diet for the health of the planet and its people.

It’s based on eating 2500 calories a day that come mainly from fruit, veggies, wholegrains, legumes and nuts, with a small amount of dairy and meat. For most people this “flexitarian” approach to eating requires a major diet overhaul that would include cutting consumption of foods such as red meat at least by half, and doubling the amount of fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts eaten. 

Commissioned by authoritative medical journal the Lancet, the diet recommendations are a result of three years of research by 37 specialists from 16 countries – this is a big deal!

The researchers believe the diet can help increase nutrient intakes, reduce chronic diseases (such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes) and reduce environmental degradation as the world’s population increases.

Verdict: This is an incredible new piece of research that supports the importance of eating more plant foods for the sustainability of our planet and our health. There will be more news to come as the uptake of this way of eating takes off. The one to watch in 2019.

This style of eating has been inspired by two of the hottest diet trends of recent years – Paleo and Vegan.

Although these diets may seem like polar opposites, Pegan combines key elements of both to create a way of eating that is high in whole foods and nutrients.  It aims to help reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar and support a healthy lifestyle. 

So what do you eat? Well most of your food should be fruit and vegetables – they make up 75 per cent of the Pegan diet. The focus is on low GI fruit and veggies with only small amounts of starchy veggies and high sugar fruits – bye bye roast potatoes.  

Dairy foods are eliminated completely and only a small amount of meat (25 per cent) is allowed – much less than a Paleo diet but too much if Vegan. When it comes to animal proteins, the Pegan diet encourages buying grass-fed, pasture-raised sources of beef, pork, poultry, and free-range eggs.

Pegan takes a Flexitarian approach, being less restrictive than a Paleo diet, and is pitched as more of a lifestyle change rather than a short-term diet. Either way, this diet is sparking a lot of interest - the word ‘Pegan’ has seen a 337 per cent increase of searches on Pinterest alone.

Verdict: This diet encourages an increase in fruit and veggies but be cautious of any diet that completely cuts out a major food group.

Intuitive eating
You may have heard of the benefits of mindful eating and taking the time to enjoy each mouthful. Intuitive eating takes that concept a step further and is growing in popularity as a long-term solution to weight loss. As the name suggests, intuitive eating is all about listening to your body, eating when hungry and stopping when you are full. It’s a big move away from the highly restrictive (and let’s face it - doomed to fail) diets of recent years and completely takes away stress and anxiety about what to eat.

People state that eating this way leads to a better relationship with food and their bodies overall.

The book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch began the trend. It outlines 10 key principles for intuitive eating including rejecting the diet mentality, honour your hunger, respect your fullness, exercise and feel the difference, and honour your health.

There is some research to support this style of eating with one study linking intuitive eating to lower levels of eating disorders and body concerns.

Verdict: There are definite positives to regulating your eating and being in tune with your own body. It’s a similar premise to that of the Okinawans. Okinawa is one of the world’s blue zone regions, or exceptional hot spots where people live extraordinarily long and healthy lives. They follow a simple phrase when it comes to eating: “hara hachi bu”, which means to stop eating when you’re 80% full.

CSIRO Healthy Gut Diet

Following the success of the Total Wellbeing Diet, CSIRO have turned their focus to gut health.

The benefits of looking after your gut are big. It helps your body absorb more nutrients, regulates hormones and boosts immunity.

On the flip side, there’s increasing research to link poor gut health to a wide range of health conditions including cancer, weight problems, auto-immune disease, skin problems and even depression.

The CSIRO Healthy Gut Diet is based on decades of research and focuses on practical meal plans including whole plant foods that are higher in fibre and resistant starch. Resistant starch is  a type of fibre that feeds your gut bacteria to keep your gut healthy.  The best sources of resistant starch are legumes and wholegrain cereals.

VerdictIt’s exciting times for the world of gut health and excellent to see so much emerging research that emphasises the importance of a balanced gut microbiome. Eating a variety of fibres, including insoluble, soluble and resistant starch is important for gut health and overall health and wellbeing.

So how do you choose? It’s important to look for a diet that will lead to a long-term lifestyle change, and not a quick fix. Look for a diet that includes all the food groups and is about a healthy and delicious approach to balanced eating that you can enjoy day-in, day-out.

Before making any dramatic changes to your diet, always consult a dietitian or your doctor.