Jet-black ice cream, charcoal fish and chips, and venom cheese — all of these oddly-colored foods have one thing in common: They’re made with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is a porous form of carbon that’s used either as a powder or in a pill form. You might have thought this trend burnt out in 2017, but in 2018 it was added to many smoothie bowls, recipes, and “wellness” drinks and tonics. Some people take activated charcoal pills daily. The idea is that the absorbent nature of activated charcoal makes it a detoxifying agent — removing the “bad stuff” from your digestive tract. However, activated charcoal doesn’t discriminate when it comes to what it absorbs. The substance is going to soak up anything that surrounds it in your stomach, including your food, vitamins, and maybe even medication. Some people believe that ingesting activated charcoal could counteract birth control pills. Will activated charcoal kill you? Probably not. But it’s best to be informed before eating or drinking the compound — otherwise you may suffer some consequences.
Gone are the days of traditional juice cleanses — but the concept of a digestive detox has (unfortunately) stuck around in 2018. Mushroom elixirs, lemon- and charcoal-infused waters, and restrictive diet plans are advertised with the promise of “detoxing” your body. The popular chain Pressed Juicery, for instance, sells a “Charcoal Detox Shot” and a “Celery Juice,” both of which they claim can help with detoxification. But the body doesn’t actually need to detox at all. According to the National Institutes of Health, “There isn’t any convincing evidence that detox or cleansing programs actually remove toxins from your body or improve your health.” Your liver, on the other hand, does work to remove toxins from your body — and it actually requires a variety of nutrients to work properly. Depriving yourself of food in favor of these tonics could do more harm than good. “I like to encourage my clients to show their liver some love by eating well balanced meals,” registered dietitian Jillian Greaves said. “Include more foods with nutrients that support liver health, such as broccoli, beets, garlic, nuts and seeds.”
As ardently as you might have hoped that weight loss belts and other wearable “fat blasters” died in the days of Jane Fonda, they are unfortunately making a comeback. Kim Kardashian has been advertising her waist trainer for over four years, ignoring the backlash she receives in response. Thanks to her and other celebrities, in 2018, people are still buying them. Waist trainers, for those who are unfamiliar, are essentially corsets designed to “train” your waist into an hourglass figure. Some brands also claim to work magic on your workouts, making them more effective at burning fat and building muscle. Based on what science, you ask? None. This is some Titanic-era logic, folks. Ask Kate Winslet: Corsets are no fun. But alas, the celebrity endorsements continue. In September, Jordyn Woods (good friend of Kylie Jenner) started selling pants with built-in waist trainers as part of her self-described“size-inclusive” clothing line. Oh, the irony.
Replacing Everything With Cauliflower
Cauliflower is the new bread — or at least that’s what this trend would have you believe. Cauliflower pizza crust, cauliflower pasta, cauliflower rice, cauliflower mac and cheese… It seems like every carb under the sun has been replaced with florets of fresh cauliflower. But cauliflower is not, and will never be, an adequate replacement for the nutrients in these sources of carbohydrates. And as a result, it is not likely to ever feel as satisfying. Don’t misunderstand — cauliflower is great. It’s nutritious, versatile and (when prepared right) definitely delicious. “But if someone is replacing all grains and starches in their life with cauliflower, they are likely missing out on other important energy and nutrients,” says registered dietitian Jillian Greaves. “I’m all about finding creative ways to include more vegetables, but we still need to think about well balanced meals and meeting our basic macronutrient needs. I love my veggies, but there is no substitute for real pizza in my mind!”
Cryotherapy is a type of full-body physical therapy wherein you expose the body to subzero temperatures for short periods of time while nearly naked. Some cryotherapy involves temperatures lower than 200 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The health benefits promised by these therapies include things such as alleviating muscle soreness, clearing up acne, and preventing wrinkles. Some venues that offer the therapy even claim it can help you lose weight and improve your mood. However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there is no actual research backing these claims. There is evidence that such extremely cold temperatures can seriously injure the skin. The AAD says that these risks include suffocation, memory loss, frozen limbs, rashes, and frostbite. A frozen limb is as severe as it sounds — one woman who experienced this consequence had to thaw her arm slowly afterwards, suffering third-degree burns and painful swelling.
Trying an elimination diet is, essentially, exactly what it sounds like: eliminating a food or food group from your diet. A person with a dairy allergy, for instance, will likely be put on an elimination diet. Since they’re allergic, they avoid eating dairy. “These can also be very helpful for people who are having GI distress, bloating, and abnormal digestion,” registered dietitian Haley Hughes said. “It doesn’t hurt to use this diet as a technique to assess intolerances; it can be effective without serious risk of side effects like certain medications or invasive surgeries.” But recently, many people without corresponding health conditions (or with erroneous, self-diagnosed food intolerances) have given these diets a try. If you don’t have a health condition, going gluten-free, dairy-free, or free of pretty much anything else is actually pretty unnecessary. Despite what your favorite Instagram influencer might tell you, eliminating gluten probably isn’t going to solve your acne, anxiety, or depression. It will, however, be hugely inconvenient. And some elimination diets (such as a dairy-free diet) have uncomfortable and even harmful side effects.
Carb cycling is a diet trend that’s grown popular in the fitness community. The dieter will alternate their carb intake daily, weekly, or monthly in the hopes that strategically-timed carb consumption will manipulate their body composition. A person may, for instance, go ham on a ton of carb-heavy foods one day and then omit all carbs from their diet the next. The carb-loaded days are typically low-fat, while the no-carb days typically involve eating a lot of dietary fat.
Supporters of the diet claim that science is on their side. However, there aren’t actually any reliable, controlled studies on carb cycling at all. “The concept of ‘carb cycling’ is a fictitious, made up fad that not only has no basis in science but is also unnecessarily complicated and confusing,” said author, speaker and frequent television guest Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT. “All intact foods contain some combination of the three macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat), and trying to micromanage them can steer you in the wrong direction.”
Omitting nutritious foods (many of which have carbs) in the hopes of weight loss could do more harm than good. “A health-promoting, disease-fighting diet contains plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes,” Hever said. “These foods happen to be higher in carbohydrates, but that means they have plenty of crucial fiber, too. Eliminating or minimizing intake of these foods has long been shown to promote most chronic diseases.” Here’s a much healthier form of carb cycling: Ride your bike to a nearby bakery. That sounds more fun, anyway.