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Cold-pressed juice drinks and gluten-free eating are all the rage these days, but will you actually lose weight by jumping on either of these hot diet trends?
Avoiding foods with gluten, a mixture of two proteins found in grains like wheat and barley and commonly found in bread, pasta and beer, has become hugely popular. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus have reportedly gone gluten-free.
But TODAY nutrition expert Joy Bauer urges caution when you’re trying to lose those extra pounds.
“Unless gluten-containing foods are replaced with whole grains like quinoa or fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, people shouldn’t expect to lose weight,” she said on TODAY Monday. “In fact, those that regularly eat gluten-free junk food are at risk of weight gain.”
Many Americans have gone gluten-free, even though less than 6 percent of the population has celiac disease or a medically diagnosed gluten sensitivity. Sales of products without gluten are forecast to grow beyond $2 billion in the next few years.
Gluten-free advocates claim their choice is more about well-being than weight.
Still, NBC News medical contributor, Dr. Natalie Azar, says: “Advocates of gluten-free claim it can ease digestive problems, help with fatigue, headaches and even infertility, but unless you have an intolerance, wheat and grain are part of a healthy and balanced diet.”
Cold-pressed juice drinks are also hugely popular, with juice bars popping up nationwide. Some estimate it to be a $100 million market.
Juice plans vary widely, with some lasting one to seven days and calling for mixtures like lemon water and cayenne pepper, green drinks with fruit and vegetables or mostly fruit drinks. Some plans allow you to only drink juices while others allow an option of a “clean” meal once a day.
Bauer says that although juice drinks are usually low in things you want to avoid, like artificial sweeteners and dyes and added sugar and salt, they can leave gaping nutritional holes in your diet.
“Juicing is an easy way to shower your body with nutrients,” Bauer said. “But most juice plans are inadequate in protein, and the fiber is often lost during the juicing process, unless the pulp is added back in.”
“If total daily calories are in check, you will lose weight but at the same time you can’t live on liquid calories alone,” Bauer said.
Liquid calories don't have the same fill power as solid food. The calories in juice drinks come mostly from carbohydrates.“A high-carb and low-protein diet can cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar and lead to mood swings, dizziness, headaches and fatigue,” Azar said.
The bottom line?
“Just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it is right for you,” Bauer said. “Do your homework and choose something that you can stick with because being healthy is about balance.”
TODAY.com contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.