Why fad diets won’t protect you against cancer

A plate of food made to look like a clock, with cutlery for the hands

Have you ever tried to lose weight? Have you ever been tempted to try a fad diet that promises rapid weight loss – often without much effort from you?

Fad diets typically involve eating a very restrictive diet, such as cutting out certain food groups, or only eating a specific combination of foods. This means they can be low in energy (calories) and essential nutrients, leading to feelings of tiredness and lethargy. A limited diet can also mean you are less inclined to be active – certainly not a recipe for long-term good health!

Do fad diets work?

For many fad diets, there is little scientific evidence that they are effective – or even safe. Many of us try these diets in an attempt to lose weight, unaware of the potential damage to our health – especially if followed for a long time.

Although cetain diets can help people lose weight for a short time, it’s being able to keep the weight off in the long term that is the most important thing, especially when it comes to reducing our cancer risk.

One of the main problems with restrictive diets is that they don’t help us make longer lasting healthy changes to our diet and lifestyle – a fundamental part of managing your weight and, importantly, reducing your cancer risk.

What’s the best way to lose weight?

When it comes to weight loss, there are two options: a quick-fix diet that promises rapid weight loss or changing your lifestyle – eating healthier food and getting more active – to achieve more sustainable results. Even if we know that the second option is the way to go, many of us pick the first. Establishing healthy habits by making healthy changes to our diet and lifestyle is the key to long-term success.

It’s a lot healthier to eat a balanced and varied diet. What should this diet look like? Our diet should contain limited amounts of red meat and no processed meat. We should all eat more vegetables, fruit, wholegrains (such as brown rice and wholewheat pasta) and pulses (which include beans, peas and lentils). This will provide a nutritious diet, and we know that this pattern of eating can also help to reduce our cancer risk.

Top tips for a healthy diet

Fruit and vegetables in plastic boxes

  • Avoid any type of diet that promises ‘fast’ or ‘rapid’ weight loss.
  • Cut down on high-fat and high-sugar food and drink.
  • Eat more plant-based food: pulses, wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, seeds and unsalted nuts.
  • Focus on eating healthily rather than the number of calories.
  • Aim to eat in a way that is not restrictive and allows you to have a healthy relationship with food.
  • Watch your portion sizes.
  • Be active wherever and whenever you can – all movement counts!
  • Make sure that your way of eating fits in with your life – this way you are more likely to stick to it.

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