7 Fad Diets and How They Can Impact Autism

how fad diets impact autism

With the new year in full swing, you’ve got your eye on a few of those fad diets that have been circulating. They’ve worked for a few you know. Could they be helpful for you if you have autism? There are certain vitamins and nutrients that are especially beneficial for people with autism, meaning that it can help address some of the discomforting symptoms. Here are 7 fad diets and the truth about how fad diets impact autism symptoms:

1. Paleo Diet

Special Strong Find a Location Near Me

The Paleo diet aims to reflect the diet of early humans, back in our hunting/gathering days. Back then, food was scarce, and we were only able to eat certain food groups like meat, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. If you’re wanting to cut out processed foods, this might be the diet for you.

But how does the Paleo diet impact autism?

Processed foods are often the culprit of the most discomforting symptoms of autism, like hyperactivity, fidgeting, restlessness, anxiety, sleep issues, and more. Cutting these out can be a big help for those with autism!

2. Keto Diet

The Keto diet is so named because it is designed to put your body in a state of ketosis, in which your body feeds off of its own fat stores. The Keto diet manages to put your body in this state by cutting out carbs and increasing fats. (For example, you could eat butter — copious amounts of butter — but not very much bread, as your carb intake will be about 50 total grams per day.)

But how does the Keto diet impact autism? Because the diet is hyper-focused on reducing carb and sugar intake, it even restricts the fruits you can eat. Apples and bananas, for example, contain too much sugar. These can be great for regulating digestion (where irregularity is a common issue for those with autism) as they’re great sources of fiber and potassium, respectively.

3. Vegan Diet

While a vegetarian diet simply cuts out meat, a vegan diet cuts out all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey. The diet’s focus is eliminating cruelty to animals, but it can also be a great way to eat more fruits and vegetables if you normally have a hard time getting your fill for the day.

But how does a vegan diet impact autism? Many of those with autism have lactose intolerance, so this diet is simply eliminating a few more food groups. However, it is much harder to obtain protein, vitamin B12, and Omega 3s with this diet, all of which are good for those with autism, unless the dieter makes a conscious effort to eat plant-based foods with these nutrients in them.

4. Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet has been around for a while, and it’s characterized by cutting carbs while staying full. During the first few weeks, dieters are instructed to cut carbs down to 20 grams per day, while allowing unlimited fat and protein, making Atkins very similar to the Keto diet.

But how does the Atkins diet impact autism? Unlike the Keto diet, the Atkins diet allows dieters to add carbs gradually back into their diet at 5-gram intervals. This means that dieters are only severely restricted on their intake for the first few weeks, and they can go back to eating more sugary fruits (like apples and bananas) soon enough.

5. South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet is similar to the Atkins diet in that it restricts carbs, but the creator of the South Beach diet was concerned about allowing dieters to ingest fats without restriction. (He was concerned about developing heart conditions.) Instead, the South Beach diet is low carb, low fat, and high protein.

But how does the South Beach diet impact autism? Because the focus here is on increasing protein, the PROs of this diet on autism symptoms outweigh the CONs. Protein has been known to decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity in people with ADHD and autism.

6. Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers isn’t just a diet but a full-service meal plan. Rather than counting calories or carbs, however, they count points. This can help you change your mindset about food, which is one of the first steps you need to take to lose weight.

But how does Weight Watchers impact autism? Well, thankfully, Weight Watchers has a wide variety of foods to choose from and doesn’t focus on the exclusion of any particular food group. Rather, they focus on consuming in moderation, so you can continue getting all the nutrients you need here.

7. Nutrisystem

Nutrisystem is similar to Weight Watchers in that it’s a full-service meal plan, rather than a simple diet. When you purchase foods from Nutrisystem, you’ll know exactly how many calories, carbs, and nutrients you’re consuming. And best of all: No meal prep is required!

But how does Nutrisystem impact autism? Like Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem isn’t focused on cutting out any food groups. It simply aims to offer low-calorie options that taste great. You can still get all the vitamins and nutrients you need.

Exploring the Positives: Understanding Aspects of Fad Diets”

While fad diets are often criticized for their unsustainable and sometimes extreme approaches, it’s essential to acknowledge certain positive aspects that have contributed to their popularity. Understanding these nuances can provide insights into why individuals are drawn to fad diets and help foster a more balanced perspective.

1. Initial Motivation Boost and the Keto Diet in Autism

Fad diets often serve as a catalyst for change by providing a quick motivational boost, especially evident in the context of the keto diet and autism. The ketogenic diet, while not originally designed as a fad diet, has gained popularity for its potential therapeutic effects, including those observed in some individuals with autism. When parents or caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) see the rapid initial results that the keto diet can sometimes offer, such as improved focus or reduced behavioral issues, their motivation to adhere to a strict dietary plan intensifies.

This motivation is crucial, as it can lead to the exploration of more sustainable dietary and lifestyle adjustments tailored to the unique needs of their child. The early successes observed with the keto diet in autism cases underscore the importance of personalized nutrition and the potential for specific dietary interventions to kickstart a long-term commitment to health and well-being.

2. Structured Eating Patterns and the Keto Diet in Autism

Implementing structured eating patterns is a hallmark of many fad diets, but it takes on a unique significance when considering the keto diet and autism. The strict regimen of the ketogenic diet, characterized by high fats, moderate proteins, and low carbohydrates, necessitates careful planning and portion control. For individuals with autism, who may thrive on routine and predictability, the structured nature of the keto diet can provide a dual benefit. Not only does it introduce a sense of order to their eating habits, but it also brings about a mindful approach to nutrition. The dietary discipline required by the keto diet can enhance awareness of food choices and their impact on the body, promoting a more mindful consumption pattern that can support overall health and well-being in individuals with autism.

3. Increased Water Intake and the Keto Diet in Autism

A focus on increased water intake is another positive aspect often promoted by fad diets, and its benefits are particularly relevant when considering the keto diet in autism. The ketogenic diet encourages a significant increase in water consumption to counteract the potential for dehydration due to the diet’s diuretic effect and to aid in the metabolization of fat. In the context of autism, proper hydration is critical, as it can positively impact cognitive function, skin health, digestion, and energy levels. While the keto diet itself may present challenges, its emphasis on hydration underscores an essential component of wellness that can serve as a reminder of the fundamental role water plays in our overall health. For individuals with autism, maintaining adequate hydration levels can complement the dietary adjustments of the keto diet, enhancing its potential benefits and contributing to a balanced approach to health.

4. Introduction to New Foods

Some fad diets encourage the consumption of specific foods or food groups that individuals might not have considered before. This exposure to a variety of foods can broaden dietary choices and introduce individuals to new sources of essential nutrients.

5. Short-Term Detoxification

Certain fad diets incorporate detoxification principles that may encourage individuals to temporarily eliminate processed or unhealthy foods from their diet. Debates surround the long-term sustainability of detox diets, but focusing on whole, unprocessed foods in the short term can positively affect overall well-being.

6. Enhanced Discipline and Focus

Participating in a fad diet requires a degree of discipline and focus on dietary choices. This newfound awareness of food selection and commitment to a specific eating plan may instill positive habits that individuals carry forward even after transitioning away from the fad diet.

7. Community Support

Engaging in a popular fad diet often creates a sense of community among participants. Shared experiences, challenges, and successes can foster a supportive environment that encourages individuals to stay committed to their dietary goals.

8. Personalized Exploration

Experimenting with different fad diets allows individuals to understand how their bodies respond to various dietary patterns. This personalized exploration can contribute to self-discovery, helping individuals identify which aspects of a diet align with their preferences and lifestyle.

While acknowledging these positive aspects, it’s crucial to approach fad diets with caution and maintain a balanced perspective. Incorporating elements of motivation, structure, and exploration into a more sustainable, evidence-based approach to nutrition can contribute to long-term well-being and health. Always consult with healthcare professionals or registered dietitians for personalized guidance on achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Want to Take Fitness a Step Further?

If you’re ready to take your fitness to the next level, sign up for private training sessions or group classes with Special Strong. Our organization exclusively hires trainers with experience working with special needs and who have special needs certifications. Your fitness instructor will have full knowledge of your differing abilities and will be able to suggest workouts that will target both your discomforting autism symptoms as well as help you lose weight. Unleash the Special Strong Within when you sign up with Special Strong today!

Special Strong provides adaptive fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with mental, physical and cognitive challenges. Start your own Special Strong gym franchise today and create a lasting impact on your community.