Demystifying diet trends

July 12, 2023

While diet trends have come and gone, a new one is always around the corner. From low-fat to Atkins to keto, trendy diets are everywhere – making ambitious claims and promising dieters anything from weight loss to a longer life.  

Trends can influence eating habits – and not always for the better. With so many out there, it can be hard to understand what is actually healthy and nutritious and what isn't. We spoke with a registered dietitian to learn more about some of today’s trendiest diets.

Detoxing and cleanses

A detox diet is often used to “cleanse” the body after consuming food and drink in excess, usually after special occasions or events. Detoxing typically involves removing items like processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and more from your daily diet. Juice or herbal cleanses, eating only certain foods, extreme fasting, or using commercial detox supplements are all common methods thought to enhance the “detoxification” effect.

Detox diets are short-term and attempt to eliminate supposed toxins from the body.  

But are they effective?

“It is actually scientifically false that we need to detox,” says Dina Daniello-Santiago, a registered dietitian with Manitoba Blue Cross’s Employee Assistance Program. “Our bodies are designed to take care of elimination processes and are well equipped to do so.”

The liver, kidneys, digestive system, lungs, skin, enzymes and gut bacteria all work together to efficiently rid the body of toxins – making a detox diet unnecessary.

Rather than a detox or cleanse, Daniello-Santiago recommends aiming for moderation.

“We have all had moments where we overindulge and feel the need to ‘reboot’ our system,” she says. “But it’s important not to be swayed to believe that any one product will transform your body – or health for that matter. The take-away message in all of this is that a consistently healthy, well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, proper rest, and knowing how to manage stress is the best ‘cleanse.’”

Intermittent fasting

Another form of dieting that is increasing in popularity is intermittent fasting. This approach involves restricting eating to a certain timeframe. The 16:8 ratio, fasting for 16 hours and eating only within an eight-hour period, is the most common.

Unlike detox diets, intermittent fasting has been shown to have positive health benefits. A systematic review of 27 trials concluded that intermittent fasting shows promise for the treatment of obesity.

“Intermittent fasting does not require omitting foods – therefore, it makes sense to consider it a more ‘sustainable’ trend,” Daniello-Santiago says. “Keep in mind it is not necessary to do intermittent fasting to be healthier, no matter what your family, friends, or some social media influencer says. While may sound intriguing, and you may feel like you have tried ‘everything,’ it doesn't mean it's for everyone.

“It is important to understand that intermittent fasting will never be more important than enjoying your daily life, a good relationship with food, your mental health, and your overall eating habits. If you find yourself having to sacrifice any of the above in order to fit in any type of fasting regime, that’s a red flag.”


While vitamin supplements are often recommended for certain populations, such as pre-natal vitamins for pregnant people or iron supplements for those with iron deficiency, there are also pricier supplements that make bigger promises.  

From increasing your fertility and testosterone to burning fat or gaining muscle-mass, these supplements often combine a variety of natural and synthetic ingredients.

These are sometimes referred to as nutritional or dietary supplements or natural health products. They are not classified as food or drugs and therefore are not covered by the Canadian Food and Drugs Act.  

“Sport supplements have been exploding all over social media, magazines and the internet – anything to enhance performance and offer that edge to potentially do less and get more gains,” Daniello-Santiago says. “Several sports supplements are being marketed as necessary for peak performance, fat loss, and explosive muscle growth. Combine that with complicated scientific sounding names and labels, and they could have you believing you can’t effectively exercise without them.”  

Do these supplements live up to the hype? Are they necessary? Or in some cases, are they even safe?  

“Unlike foods and medications, the supplement industry is subject to little government regulation,” she says. “It’s a good idea to research their effects and ingredients and consult with your physician before adding them to your fitness routine. You can even take it a step further and consult with a sports dietitian whose main area of practice is sports nutrition.”

Danielle-Santiago reminds us how important it is to do your research.  

“Since these are not regulated products, there could be some risk factors involved and some ingredients that can contraindicate with medications as well as health conditions.”

Get help with a registered dietitian

“If you are thinking of making any changes to your eating habits, it is highly advisable to reach out and make an appointment with a registered dietitian,” Daniello-Santiago says. “Registered dietitians are trained professionals that specialize in health and nutrition and will ensure you are given the right information and guide you on how to go about these changes in a safe manner.”

Counselling support from Manitoba Blue Cross

If you’re looking to improve your nutrition with a registered dietitian, we can help. Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get nutrition counselling support. Begin the process here.

Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.

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