Diets Debunked + Healthy Chicken Salad

This semester has been a whirlwind! It's my final semester before I graduate in May, and I am now knee deep in writing my senior thesis on nutritional therapy for anxiety and depression. That's where most of my time is going into now, and although I still have some time to cook and write for fun, it's not as much as I would like!

This week I thought I would focus on different well-known diets, as there always seems to be a new popular craze that's supposedly the miracle cure. I have also been thinking a lot about diets in general, as it is the focus of my thesis. I've broken down the pros and the cons for you of some of the most recent diet fads, and I also have included a really easy chicken salad recipe that has no mayo or bad fats in it.

What is it: No gluten is allowed in this diet, which means no wheat, barley, rye etc., as well as some oats.

Pros: Less carbohydrates, better digestion for some, more stable moods for some, emphasis on protein and produce

Cons: Lacking in fiber and certain nutrients, inconvenient, expensive

Should you do it? Only if you have a gluten intolerance or Celiac's disease. It's not healthy to completely cut out gluten if you have no reason to. It's okay to simply cut down on wheat products, but consult a doctor before giving up gluten entirely.

What is it: The diet of our ancestors, which includes fish, grass-fed meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, funghi roots and nuts. You cannot have legumes (beans, etc.), dairy products, potatoes, refined salts or sugars, processed oils and alcohol.

Pros: Weight loss, improved mood, clean eating, lots of protein and Omega-3s

Cons: Loss of important nutrients from legumes and whole grains, which have been proven to reduce risk of disease, too much animal protein, eliminates whole food groups, the life expectancy of our ancestors was only 35 years

Should you do it? The Paleo diet isn't considered a healthy, balanced diet by nutritionists because it takes out the nutrients from certain key food groups. However, if you are overweight or feeling depressed, the Paleo diet has been known to help people with losing weight and greatly improve their mood. This diet might be better for the short term to get you started with healthy eating, as the diet encourages many healthy habits.

What is it: Low carbohydrates, high protein.

Pros: Eliminates refined carbs, weight loss, don't feel hungry,

Cons: Toxin overload due to speed of fat burning, not enough energy (causes fatigue), dehydration

Should you do it? If you eat poorly, eat a lot of refined carbs or need to lose a significant amount of weight, then Atkins may work for you. Everyone else needs a balanced amount of carbohydrates for fiber and enough energy during the day.

Juice Cleanse:
What is it: Exactly what it sounds...replacing meals with juices! Some cleanses are healthier than others, like ones primarily made from greens or nuts, and others are not as good, such as ones that are mainly fruit, or honey and water.

Pros: Reduces acidity in the body, lose a few pounds, easy on digestive system, increased energy for some

Cons: Improper nutrients, lack of crucial fats and proteins, mood swings, hunger, irritability, loss of focus

Should you do it? If it is only for a day or two, a juice cleanse is okay as it cleans out your system. However, you aren't eating a proper, balanced diet, and people who do the cleanse often have a hard time focusing or feel cranky and starved. If you're looking to lose weight, skip it, as the weight will undoubtedly come back once you return to solid foods.

What is it: The typical diet in Mediterranean countries, which includes fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, olive oils, cereals and fish, with minimal intake of dairy products and meat, and a moderate intake of alcohol, usually red wine.

Pros: Decreased risk of depression, better heart health, weight loss, low blood pressure and cholesterol,  protection against diabetes and Alzheimers, can still drink alcohol

Cons: Too much fish can equal too much mercury, high in fats (albeit healthy ones), alcohol can adversely affect some

Should you do it? Generally, yes! The Mediterranean diet has been proven to be the healthiest overall diet, for both your mind and your body. However, if you have problems with portion control, you have to be careful with your intakes of foods like nuts and olive oils, as they are high in fat.

Spicy Avocado Chicken Salad

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado, depending on size
Handful of arugula
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4-1/2 cup salsa
1/2 Lemon
Sriracha, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook chicken for about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.

2. While chicken is cooking, finely chop the cilantro and arugula.

3. When chicken is ready, shred into pieces. Top with avocado, Greek yogurt and salsa. Mix in thoroughly. 

4. Sprinkle cilantro and arugula on top. Squeeze lemon over mixture. Add Sriracha to attain desired spiciness.