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These diets keep diseases at bay

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In addition to keeping extra kilos at arm’s length, there are some diets that also work at fending off illnesses. Here’s the master list

While dieting is often thought of as the quickest way of shedding all those unwanted kilos, the result of a trim frame isn’t the primary goal of all diets. Some diets are specifically designed at bettering your overall health, like these five, say experts.

DASH diet
DASH stands for ‘dietary approaches to stop hypertension’. Much of the eating plan is intuitive and based on a balanced meal rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts (pretty much encompassing the Indian meal plan). It contains less sodium, sugar, fats and red meats. Although nutritionists haven’t come up with any special recipes, the daily caloric intake and the number of allowable servings should correspond to a person’s age and level of physical activity. The blood pressure reduction can happen as early as two weeks into following the diet. The DASH diet, in combination with exercise, can reduce systolic blood pressure by 16 points and diastolic blood pressure by 10 points, the study showed. Another 2010 study by Johns Hopkins University researchers showed that the diet can also slim the estimated 10-year coronary heart disease risk by 18 per cent for individuals with pre-hypertension or stage-1 hypertension.

Low-glycemic index diet
The glycemic index diet focuses on consuming the right carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. In this plan, the carbohydrates that can lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels should be avoided. Foods that are emphasised include lowglycemic index rye breads, large flake oatmeal, oat bran, parboiled rice, quinoa, beans, peas, lentils and nuts. People are also encouraged to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and few potatoes. Although a diet of low-glycemic index foods is the basis of many weight loss plans, the diet has a more significant impact on patients with Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Not only can the diet help control blood sugar levels and reduce overall diabetes risk, it can also increase highdensity lipoprotein (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and reduce overall cardiovascular risks. In fact, in a randomised clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008, in which 210 people followed the diet for six months, the diet was shown to be more effective at controlling blood sugar levels than a high-cereal fibre diet consisting of ‘brown’ carbohydrates like whole grain breads, whole grain breakfast cereals, brown rice, potatoes with skins and whole wheat bread.

Vegetarian diet
According to the American Heart Association, studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Most vegetarian diets, even ones that include eggs, often have less saturated fat and cholesterol and more complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, Vitamin C and E and carotenoids than diets that include meat. Concerns that a vegetarian lacks protein and essential vitamins can be addressed by including dairy products like yoghurt, paneer and ghee as well add lots of lentils in your meals.

Low-gluten diet or gluten-free diet
Gluten is a type of protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Diets that limit or eliminate gluten are often prescribed to patients with celiac disease, in which the immune system responds to gluten by irritating and damaging the small intestine. This prevents the body from absorbing important nutrients such as vitamins, calcium, protein, carbohydrates and fats.

A gluten-free diet can have a variety of health benefits, such as improving cholesterol levels, promoting digestive health, and increasing energy levels, if you have a gluten intolerance.

Apart from avoiding wheat, barley and rye, people who follow a gluten-free diet have to omit many breads, pastas, cereals and processed foods from their diet.

Although there are claims that a gluten-free diet can lead to behavioural improvements for people with autism, so far there is no evidence-based research that supports them. Most of the foods you consume as part of a glutenfree diet may also promote healthy weight loss, especially if you eat a well-balanced diet that contains essential protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Ketogenic diet
Note: This diet is not for everybody. In fact, this highly specialised and carefully balanced diet is meant for people with epilepsy (especially children) whose seizures have not responded to medicines.

Those on the diet adhere to a very specific ratio of fat, carbohydrate and protein: around 80 per cent fat, 15 per cent protein and 5 per cent carbohydrate.

Meal plans are patient-tailored and can include heavy cream, bacon, eggs, tuna, shrimp, vegetables, mayonnaise, sausages and other high-fat and low-carbohydrate foods. Patients should not eat starchy vegetables and fruits, breads, pasta or sources of simple sugars. Side effects include constipation, dehydration, lack of energy and hunger. The diet, though unconventional, is effective at controlling epilepsy. One clinical trial published in The Lancet in 2008 showed that children on the ketogenic diet reduced the number of seizures they suffered by more than a third, compared with children not on the diet. On top of that, 28 out of 54 children on the diet suffered 50 per cent fewer seizures, and five children had better than 90 per cent seizure reduction after staying on the diet for three months, the study showed.

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