The Top Five Health Trends of the UAE
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The Top Five Health Trends of the UAE

Detox diets, Paleo and Baby Food diets are some of the major health trends in the UAE.



The United Arab Emirates has seen a surge in population and wealth in recent years. With this expansion came an increase in western-style restaurants and consumer habits, with a particular affinity arising for fast-food joints. The multitude of McDonalds, Burger Kings and Taco Bells piled on top of the numerous preexisting fast food options, and a lack of an ‘exercising’ culture have led the UAE to a truly worrying obesity epidemic.

The region can now claim the second highest rate of diabetes in the world (some reports claim 20-25% of the population suffer from diabetes), and over two-thirds of the adult population are considered overweight. Though there are numerous differing statistics available, all reveal the same trend; that the UAE is getting fatter. This needs to be addressed before it becomes a strain not only on the individual’s lives, but on national healthcare. Obesity studies done by the WHO (the World Health Organisation) in 2009 deemed 40% of women and 26% of men in the UAE obese and this is a trend that will continue to worsen unless people (particularly the youth) are educated about health food options and encouraged to participate in exercise.

With that in mind, and with Diwali feasts finishing up and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners on the way, here are the top five health trends currently sweeping the UAE and where to buy the necessary health foods for them to help shed those excess winter pounds.

1. The Juice and Soup Diet (a.k.a the Detox Diet)

Details/Requirements: The Juice Detox Diet is a diet to cleanse your system and purge those pesky toxins out. If you’ve had one too many drinks on more than one occasion this month, or want to get over that whole smoking thing, or if you  just feel bogged down by stodgy, additive and preservative laden foods then this health trend might be for you.

The Juice and Soup Diet involves consuming (no prizes for guessing) …that’s right, Juice and Soup! And that’s all folks. This is a complete system cleanse meaning you cannot put any solids into your body whatsoever. The juices and soups are made from a variety of low-sugar fruits and vegetables, and are to be consumed for all your daily meals. There are various packages and programmes you can pursue depending on whether you purchase this deal from a vendor online, or have a go at making it yourself (though it is recommend paying attention to the amount of sugar that may be in your homemade juices). The Detox is available in 3-day, 5-day, 7-day or 12-day varieties, although I’m sure other lengths work as well.

Effectiveness: This diet will make you feel healthier (which you’d hope really); as a detox it is highly effective and should leave you feeling fresh, renewed and full of energy. However, be warned that this is not an ideal weight-loss diet. Results can differ greatly amongst participants and any slimming effects are temporary due to the low calorie intake over the length of the cleanse. The detox is a great kick-start to healthier eating habits, but you must choose to continue eating healthy foods after your cleanse. Returning to the same old eating, smoking and drinking habits you enjoyed prior to the detox will only quickly bring back the physique and feelings that made you detox in the first place, so don’t do it!

Where to get the health foods involved: Fruit and Vegetables should be available in your local supermarkets such as Organic Foods & Cafe, and Farmer’s markets like Baker and Spice’s market at The Terrace, Souk Al Bahar, Dubai. Make sure to get the freshest ingredients you can. Alternatively, if you are pushed for time or simply don’t trust yourself to make them, there are online retailers that will provide you with all the juices and soups necessary for the length of your cleanse in a nice variety and elegant packaging. Furthermore they include delivery right to your front door (for a small fee.) Online juice detox vendors include Detox Delight http://www.detox-delight.ae/ or for DIY juice making supplies you can visit www.juicemaster.com and even check out their juice bar in the Dubai Mall.

2. The Baby Food Diet

Details/Requirements: This diet is largely like the one above in that no chewable food can be consumed. Instead, this diet requires you to eat baby food for all your meals. These tiny, controlled meals of puréed food will have you going through 9-14 jars a day of a variety of fruits and vegetables so I’d get hold of a lot of them. The length of a baby food diet is entirely up to the participant (that’s you) so if you feel like it’s working, keep at it! Although feel free to change your jar of mush dinner with a piece of cooked fish or lean meat every once in awhile. This diet was a popular one amongst Hollywood ladies such as Jennifer Aniston and looking at her, we reckon it works pretty well.

Effectiveness: The baby food diet differs in long term effectiveness from the soup and juice diet above. Whilst it has the same purifying effects, it is suggested that this diet makes it easier for you to keep off the lost weight than the diet above as your stomach still has food to digest, just in puréed form. Good news for those looking to shed some pounds. However it has also been argued that removing the need for chewing your food and having all your meals puréed can lead to poor appetite control and overeating. Furthermore, prolonged use of this diet would, in my humble opinion, not be very satisfying at all. Teeth and jaw muscles have a purpose that they should be put to, and it’s perfectly possible to eat healthily whilst chewing as well.

Where to get the health foods involved: Fruits and vegetables can be obtained from a variety of markets and supermarkets and puréed at home. Alternatively you could seek out mother-care stores in your local area, or just buy baby food straight from the supermarkets such as Spinney’s, Choitrams, Union Co-Op and Carrefour.

3. The Raw Food Diet

Details/Requirements: So you want a healthier lifestyle, or want to kick-start that diet, but like chewing your fruits and vegetables instead of sipping them through a straw? Let me introduce you to the raw food diet. This is one of the latest diet trends sweeping the United States with several celebrities having tried it out; and if it’s a good enough trend for them, it’s certainly good enough for you. This is a diet that some people try out for a week and end up adopting for a lifetime, the results are supposedly that amazing.

The requirements for this diet are fairly self-evident. You must eat only raw, (preferably vegan) food. This means only fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. Most importantly, you cannot cook them. Simple! The raw food diet is based on the belief that cooking food causes the food to lose its nutrients. The temperatures involved in cooking are believed to destroy the good enzymes that you can get from food by eating it raw, and that help with health and digestion. If you’re thinking about embarking on the raw diet, but can’t live without your meat then adopt the same tactics as with veggies and eat only raw foods like sashimi, and cured meats like beef carpaccio.

Effectiveness: The raw food diet is a guaranteed way to lose weight. What’s more, it achieves this weight-loss in a healthy way that isn’t likely to make you spiral back into those negative habits when you stop. You must be conscious of maintaining a balanced diet though, as (particularly with the vegan variation)  it can be hard to maintain the levels of protein, vitamin D and vitamin B12 that we need. This is especially true in children. There is some evidence to suggest a 70-80% raw diet is the most effective whilst providing you easily with the other necessary dietary needs for healthy living.

Where to get the health foods involved: Vegetables, Fruits, Seeds and Nuts can be found in a variety of supermarkets, Farmer’s markets, and organic food shops like Organic Foods & Cafe. For cooking lessons, recipe ideas or just a raw-food dinner out try Magnolia Cafe in Dubai. RIPE farmer’s market (www.ripeme.com) hold Farmer’s Markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi weekly or will deliver the goods in a box to your door.

4. The Gluten-Free Diet

Details/Requirements: The single biggest diet trend of 2012 is the gluten-free diet and simply requires you to avoid all foods containing gluten. Gluten is not to be mistaken with carbohydrates, this is no Atkins diet trend. Instead, gluten is a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat that give bread its spongy , elastic properties. It is commonly found in baked goods and is used as a thickener for some sauces.

The reason for the diet relates to the fact that gluten is a protein that most of us find hard to digest. However, originally, a gluten-free diet was suggested for people who suffer from celiac disease, which is an inability to absorb essential healthy elements in food if you’ve eaten gluten. Gluten sensitivity might be more readily noticeable now, or it could be that this fad has taken off due to the results the diet offers. Participants should be aware that this diet requires you to pay careful attention to what you’re eating as many food products label gluten by other names such as ‘dextrose’.

Effectiveness: There are mixed reports regarding the success of this health trend. Mostly because people misappropriate the success of their weight-loss to an inability to process gluten. Whilst weight-loss results will be gained from this diet, it is simply due to maintaining a healthier diet in general and eating less food. There is nothing specific about gluten that is bad except for that it is present in many stodgy baked goods and in preserved or over-processed foods. Celiac sufferers aside, gluten is a great source of fibre, and is a vital source of protein for vegans. A gluten-free diet can lead to deficiencies in a variety of nutrients such as calcium, iron and riboflavin. But if you can maintain an intake of these things whilst avoiding gluten, then this diet should procure the results you want.

Where to get the health foods involved: Gluten-free goods should be available in most supermarkets, but specifically; Nutrition Zone, Carboholix and Organic Foods & Cafe and Spinney’s will stock them. You can also check out www.sweetconnection.com. Be sure to check the labels before buying foods as gluten can be disguised as ‘dextrose’ in some foods. Further information on gluten-free diets can be found at www.glutenfreeuae.com

5. The Paleo “Caveman” Diet

Details/Requirements: This diet harks back to the good old days when men wore loincloths made of cheetah and clubbed their dinner with big sticks (at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe.) The premise is that you can only eat the wild plants and animals that our hairy forefathers are assumed to have eaten thousands of years ago. If the Flintstones are anything to go by, that will be giant cartoon steaks then.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, this health trend focuses on removing processed foods and those foods laden with additives and preservatives. You can eat anything that could have been scavenged, gathered or hunted. So that includes fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, seeds, and for those with a sweet tooth, honey. Things to avoid include bread, or any baked goods, dairy, oils and anything that we ate as a result of agricultural development – ruling out potatoes. Sodas, candy, chocolate and any other processed foods are also obviously out. Proponents of this diet believe that our naturally obtainable foods from the prehistoric era provide a well balanced and biologically appropriate diet, preventing weight-gain and diabetes, and the science behind it seems to agree.

Effectiveness: Diets like this one are often touted as a healthy way to eat. Fresh, clean, lean and organic food will produce the best results. Overall, this diet should help you lose weight and increase your energy. Cutting out processed and preservative ridden food is always going to lead to better health, and so there are real benefits to the caveman diet.

However, as with most of these diet trends, there are notable problems. Most experts recommend a well balanced diet, that includes things such as wholegrain wheat and dairy. Leaving these out of your diet without gaining the necessary nutrients in other ways, will have negative health effects. Furthermore, a level of exercise must be maintained along with this diet. Cavemen had to run around hunting for their food, and a walk from the car into the supermarket doesn’t quite cut it. If done correctly though, the Paleo Diet, with exercise and supplements for Calcium and Vitamin D should work a treat.

Where to get the health foods involved: Assuming that actual hunting and gathering is banned in your local area, I would recommend the supermarket again, or a butcher’s if there is one available that procures fresh local meats. Make sure to choose unprocessed foods, and as with most foods, the freshest produce is preferred. I’ve listed several supermarkets in this article, but have a look below for some alternate options for getting the healthy food you need delivered straight to you.

Additional places to locate health food

Delivery Health Food: One of the biggest crazes throughout the UAE right now is delivery or ‘dial-a-diet’ services. These companies will deliver all the meals necessary for your the length of your diet straight to your door (or with some companies, just the ingredients for those of you who consider yourselves to be a bit of a Gordon Ramsay.) Peruse these sights for a diet that will best suit you, as they vary in meals they offer and of course, in price:

With a variety of options in both diets and health food outlets, it seems that the UAE is trying to overcome its obesity epidemic. As the trend for healthy organic food grows, let’s hope the UAE obesity rankings drop. Not only will a healthy lifestyle increase life expectancy and raise the quality of life, but it will reduce the future burden on healthcare. Best of luck to all of you embarking on the diets above.

(Disclaimer: This article is based solely on research. The author has embarked on none of the above diets himself. In fact, his diet is appalling. He should probably try one of these out really.)

Check out this article on the 5 health products that you really don’t need :
http://www.pacificprime.com/blog/five-health-products-that-you-really-dont-need.html

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