Debunking Health Buzzwords: The Truth about Intermittent Fasting, Paleo, Detox, and Bone Broth

Posted May 25, 2023

Glass with lime and waterIn today’s digital age, you can find an article or video, or influencer who will support all sorts of different health beliefs, diets, and wellness routines.  

Recently, a video of Gwyneth Paltrow talking about her daily wellness routine has gone viral.  In the video, she uses lots of today’s big buzzwords around health and nutrition, including “intermittent fasting,” “Paleo,” “Detox,” and “Bone Broth.”  

The issue with this video (and so many others) is that it can glamorize eating disorder behaviors.  As a registered dietitian, when I hear someone say that they only drink coffee in the morning, drink bone broth for lunch and follow paleo with lots of vegetables for dinner, I do not think “health and wellness” but think “that’s not enough nutrition!”  So, let’s talk about some of these buzzwords and what they mean.

Intermittent Fasting:

What is Intermittent Fasting? 

There are several different variations of this diet.  The general concept is that there are certain windows in which you fast (not eat) and certain windows in which you eat.  A common variation of this diet is called the 16:8, where you fast 16 hours each day and eat only within an 8-hour window (10 am to 6 pm).


Is intermittent Fasting healthy?

 The Mayo health clinic lists the following side effects of fasting:  hunger, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, decreased concentration, nausea, constipation, and headaches. Interestingly enough, these are the same side effects that come with an eating disorder! Because intermittent fasting covers a broad range of behaviors and no guidance on what to actually eat during the eating windows, it can be hard to compare the results of the diet.  

While some people may find having some structure to their eating pattern helpful overall, intermittent fasting is no different than other diets.  It can lead to an increased risk for developing an eating disorder or disordered thinking about food, and while weight may be lost initially, it is typically not sustained long-term.

The Paleo Diet:

What is The Paleo Diet?

 Also sometimes called the caveman diet, the Paleo diet encourages eating like the hunters and gatherers would have in prehistoric times.  This calls for eating meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and cutting out most grains, legumes (a fancy word for beans), and dairy.

Is the Paleo healthy? 

 First of all, the diet is founded on the faulty idea that people were healthier way back when!  While it may be true, there were fewer known cases of chronic diseases; this is mostly because people didn’t live long enough to develop them and died from other causes.  While promoting more whole foods, more fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods can definitely have health benefits, the Paleo diet takes it a bit too far by cutting out whole food groups that have plenty of great nutrients to offer.  Whole grains offer fiber and many vitamins and minerals.  

Legumes are a great vegetarian protein source, along with fiber and other nutrients.  Dairy is best known as a source of calcium, but is also a good source of protein, phosphorous, and vitamin D.  If dairy isn’t included in one’s diet regularly, finding alternative sources of calcium is very important.  

Additionally, having less variety of whole food options to choose from can make cooking and preparing meals more challenging.  The other disadvantage of following the Paleo diet is it can be very limiting when eating out or in social settings.

What is a Detox:

What is a Detox?  

Detox and cleanses are two words that often are seen together.  There is no standardized definition of what this means.  Often, these words are used to advertise or sell different products or supplements.  Things like a “juice cleanse” or “green tea detox.”

Is a Detox healthy?  

Our bodies have great detox systems in place already!  Our liver, kidneys, skin, and digestive track are helping us to stay “detoxed” all the time by excreting (releasing) toxins through urine, sweat, and stool.  The idea that we need to help our body detox often comes down to marketing.  Many of these products come with a high price tag and big claims about all the miracles they can perform.  With all of the health claims and buzz around them, there is little to no evidence that they actually do anything to benefit the body.  Fiber, water, and a variety of foods can help keep our system naturally feeling its best!

Bone Broth

What is Bone Broth?  

Bone broth is a broth or stock that is made by simmering bones (typically chicken or beef) generally for at least 12 hours, and sometimes for more than 24 hours, to have the bones release the collagen and nutrients that are typically locked inside the bones.  Some bone broth recipes may also include adding vegetables during the cooking process.  This can then be drunk on its own or used as a base for soups or in other recipes.

Is Bone Broth Healthy to Consume?

Bone broth can certainly provide many great nutrients and have some health benefits.  Collagen can help with skin and joints and there are also claims that bone broth helps with digestive inflammation.  While bone broth can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet, it is important to remember that no one food is the answer to all health and wellness questions and concerns.  

So, if you want to try making your next soup with bone broth instead of with a traditional stock, or sip broth instead of your morning coffee, go for it!  If you’d rather not, there are still plenty of other ways to take care of your body every day.

Final Thoughts on Nutrition Buzzwords & Trends

A quick Google search of most nutrition topics will give you a wide variety of opinions and very conflicting advice.  It can all be enough to make your head spin!  So, next time you’re watching Tik Tok or reading a blog or doing just about anything on the internet, take note of the nutrition “facts” that you’re seeing.  

Before believing it all to be true, do a little investigating.  It is especially important to consider the source of information; is the information coming from someone reputable or someone trying to sell you something? 

 As dietitians, we love helping our clients separate fact from fiction, and assisting them in making the choices that make the most sense for them, based on their individual needs and health goals!

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