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Diet Fads to Avoid

Diet fads have been misleading people for years and we’ve gathered the ones that you shouldn’t follow if you’re looking to lose weight and get healthy the right way. 

Image courtesy of How Stuff Works


  1. Gluten-Free


You can no longer walk down a grocery aisle or open your Instagram and not see gluten-free food or advertisements. It’s impossible to avoid the gluten-free diet craze. However, many people don’t really even know what gluten is. They just cut it out of their diet because they hear that it will help them lose weight or improve their diet. So, here is the truth.


Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and related species and hybrids of these foods. Some people have an immune-mediated response to alpha-gliaden (a component of the gluten protein) when they ingest it. This is Celiac disease. It is estimated that 1 out of 100 people in the U.S. have this immune-mediated disorder that prevents them from being able to consume gluten (GiG, 2017). If you think you have Celiac disease, you should contact your primary physician before cutting the food out of your diet. Some people may also have gluten insensitivity. However, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not established and is a ruled out diagnosis. You should speak with a specialist or your primary care physician if you believe you have this and want to cut gluten.


Avoiding gluten has shown to have no benefit to anyone who does not have the above condition (GiG, 2017). It is where you choose to get your gluten that matters. Once again, gluten is a protein. Protein is good for you! Barley, wheat, rye and oats are wonderful grains. They are found in healthy foods, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, couscous, granola and many more! If you get your gluten mainly from refined grains, breads, cookies and pasta, it may seem that gluten is the culprit. However, switching to other gluten-containing foods is just as beneficial, if not more than cutting the protein entirely. Gluten-free food is also much more expensive! We college students should be looking to save on those bills!

2. Low-carb

Image courtesy of Everyday Health

Carbohydrates are a key component of our diet. It is as simple as that. Our brain –  you know that thing you use to study? Yes, that relies on glucose (a carb!) to function. Carbohydrates get a bad rap but so many wonderful and nutritious foods are carbohydrates. Apples, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, spinach – these are all carbs! Just like with gluten, it is where you get your carbohydrates from that matters. Not all carbs are the same. Some carbs have a high glycemic index while others don’t. The glycemic index of a carb affects how it is absorbed in your body. Carbs with low GI value are absorbed more slowly by your body and don’t give you that high and crash that other carbs do. Carbs that have a low glycemic index include kale, chard, brown rice, quinoa, berries and many more. You can Google low glycemic carbs to research more that fit your diet and taste buds! The drive home message is that carbs are not bad for you. They don’t make you fat. Carbohydrates are essential to our brain functioning properly. Your brain is so important! Carbs are feeding this wonderful organ, so why cut it out of our diet?

3. Paleo Diet 

There is nothing wrong with this diet. However, it is a diet that cuts out a lot of healthy food groups. The Paleo Diet is a fad diet that requires the predominant amount of food eaten to only be foods that were available during the Paleolithic era. The Paleo Diet consists of animals, animal products, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The argument behind the Paleo Diet is that the switch from the diet of the hunter-gathers (one rich in fruits and veggies) to an agricultural diet (rich in refined grains) is what gave rise to modern chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, this is not completely true. Yes, processed foods are not the best, but not all “modern” food is bad. For example, grains are excluded from the Paleo diet because it is believed that they lead to inflammation. However, it has been shown that whole grains decrease inflammation while refined grains increase inflammation. Again, we go back to the importance of what type of carb, fat or protein you are eating. The Paleo Diet is good because it increases the amount of fresh non-processed foods you are eating. You can’t really eat much processed food on the diet, if any at all. However, there is really no need to cut out some of the foods the diet does. If you want more information on the diet, visit https://www.precisionnutrition.com/paleo-diet

Image courtesy of The Paleo Diet


People are constantly looking for the quick fix to lose weight or get “healthy”, but it rarely works and can lead to a lot of pain and emotional distress. Your nutrition should be a lifestyle, not a fad diet you follow for a few months or weeks. Cutting out food groups or restricting certain foods is also not healthy and can lead to numerous health issues. You should eat to nourish your body, so that it can study, exercise and go out with friends. Food should be something you enjoy!


Eating a diet that has variety and is rich in natural and “unprocessed” foods is best. If you want to improve your diet, think about adding more whole grains, vegetables, nuts and fruits – don’t cut a food group out. Also, don’t omit foods you love. If you love a good donut, cupcake or ice cream cone, you shouldn’t restrict yourself from eating it. Yes, you can’t eat stuff like this every day – no one can, but it’s good to treat yo’ self. In my opinion, it is actually healthier to indulge in your favorite treats because doing things for yourself is important and essential to being happy. 

Born and raised in the city of Philadelphia. Currently a nursing student at Drexel University. When not writing for HerCampus or studying loves to run, read and draw.
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