I was recently on contract with a large beverage corporation that has global distribution. They hired me on as a nutrition expert, naturally, but that wasn’t the only expertise they required. They enlisted the aid of MD’s, computer coders to decode algorithms, athletes and models to answer one simple question:
What is America’s fascination with green veggie juice?
My answer: social media drives the desire for veggie juice, it photographs well, easy to make, and get’s all the “likes”–it’s as simple as that.
Like Mania: A Positive Influence, or Pied Piper?
I’m not just guessing here; a full ⅓ of American adults obtain health information through social media. They not only access information but disseminate it as well. Chick-fil-A invited Vani Hari, a food blogger, to their Atlanta headquarters in 2012 to address her concerns regarding the nearly 100 ingredients found in their classic chicken sandwich on her blog. I assume the reason Chick-fil-A had a greater interest in a well-known blogger (like Ms. Hari)–instead of hiring a food scientist to voice their concerns–is because of “indirect” consumer marketing. One of the primary drivers of social media is the indirect way of selling a consumer products. This all makes sense, as humans have treated eating as a social event throughout our history.
Now that socialization has become technological in nature, our eating habits (or how we determine them) have followed suit, and so have the way companies sell you things.
So what’s the predominant food craze you can find throughout the internet these days? In my opinion there are currently two major “social” conversations happening in the diet world; I’ll delve into them below.
Juicing: A Social Media Juggernaut
Juicing doesn’t just have a pretty end product, it’s also seen as an easy path to “clean eating”. Many purveyors of this fad will sell it by stating ‘who needs to cook when you can imbibe all your daily required nutrients in a glass?’
It’s true there are benefits to drinking green. They’re low in the ingredients most of us want to avoid (like those found in processed foods) and are a concentrated punch of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
All that nutrient rich goodness doesn’t mean there are no downsides, however. Strict juicing diets that forego the solid foods I often advise might cause a steep decline in your weight, but at a high cost–they generally don’t provide all the nutrients you need to function at your best.
Furthermore, the majority of calories they provide are sugar and carb based and devoid of protein and healthy fats. When you cut calories and protein at the same time you end up losing muscle, not fat! This harmful cycle could also cause destruction to your precious thyroid and adrenal glands. Juicing does not come with the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF)! And I also firmly believe that IF isn’t meant for all–especially those who might have thyroid conditions or stressed the adrenal glands from lifestyle factors.
Add in the lack of fiber in most commercially available juices and you’ll not only be losing muscle but the injustice to your blood sugar as well. In my clinical practice, I’ve noticed people have a tendency to “detox” for a few days and then spend the following days “binging” (even on healthy items like nuts) to return right back to their original caloric set-point.
Skipping whole foods in favor or liquid options may be trending, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option.
Paleo: More Popular than those Caveman Commercials
Not only is ⅓ of the population seeking health advice through social media, but there’s also a third of the population that’s obese; that’s more than 3M people diagnosed with obesity each year. If trends continue to incline, by 2030 44% of American adults will be diagnosed with obesity.
Many of those people seek to lose the weight through eating “paleo” (short for paleolithic, the correct term for the “stone age” and the era when ‘cavemen’ walked the earth); eschewing dairy, grains, and other products of the agricultural era that began around 10,000 years ago.
Like with juicing there are pros and cons to “going paleo.” It does have the ability to promote weight loss and reduce the risk of certain metabolic syndromes like Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Nutrition Journal published a study in 2013 that concluded “the Paleolithic diet was seen as instrumental in weight loss.” These are all admirable benefits that are derived from the “1-ingredient” whole, unprocessed, foods paleo dieters are limited to eating.
On the other hand, it has its problems. According to Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of “What to Eat,” the premise “paleo” is based on is flawed; mainly because we cannot be certain about what our paleolithic ancestors actually ate (bugs are a major component that modern Paleolites have forgotten).
The reality is, scientists have yet to be able to match up genes with specific diets. According to Nestle “the reason cavemen didn’t have chronic diseases like diabetes is more likely because they didn’t live long enough and lacked antibiotics, rather than because they didn’t eat carbohydrates.”.
The Middle of the Road: Where People Get it Right
At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to look at the success stories, and seek actual results. That is why I tout the Paleo-Mediterranean Plus diet or, as I like to call it, the “diet of a lifetime.” I’m not just basing my methods on a homo sapien that lived and died 10,000 years ago, but rather on the villagers I have studied and come in contact with. Of course, many of those villagers are eating as their ancestors have done for hundreds of years, but they’re doing so with currently proven results as well, and an eye toward moderation, balance, and variety.
The Bottom Line:
Social media can be a great resource, as long as you take its contents with a grain of salt (no pun intended!). What may seem pretty on Instagram or Pinterest could end up being the next fat-free craze of the 90’s; which has since been discredited and fallen to the wayside.
If nothing else, remember that a moderate, balanced, or the “middle of the road” option is often the best one. Taking the “best of both [or multiple!] worlds” tends to be a sound path to health and wellness. That is why I’ve melded time tested and research-backed methods to create a way of eating that I can proudly prescribe to my clients and even follow myself.
If we are what we eat, why shouldn’t we aim to be healthful, whole and well rounded? A blended, balanced, diet like mine can provide just that; may you find your best path.
In good health,