U.S. News Best Diets 2022: Galveston Diet – WTOP

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U.S. News & World Report
November 28, 2022, 7:00 PM
To help women in all phases of menopause — including perimenopause — avoid unwanted weight gain, a Galveston, Texas-based doctor named Mary Claire Haver created the Galveston diet.
As a board-certified OB-GYN, Haver has delivered thousands of babies during her career. As her patient population has aged, Haver says, she was overwhelmed by the number of concerns she heard from patients gaining weight while going through menopause. For years, she advised patients concerned about menopausal weight gain to eat less and exercise more. It wasn’t until she, too, experienced mid-life weight gain that she realized this approach wouldn’t work.
To help these patients, she created the Galveston diet in 2018. Haver claims that the Galveston diet is the only eating regimen designed to help women address fat gain associated with perimenopause and menopause.
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Perimenopause occurs during the six to 10 years in a woman’s life before her last menstrual period. When a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months, she’s considered to be in menopause — assuming there is no other cause, like pregnancy. The average age for menopause is 51.
During perimenopause, estrogen levels fluctuate, which causes symptoms that can include increased belly fat, hot flashes, irregular periods, hair loss, memory loss, bladder problems, mood shifts, sexual dysfunction and muscle or joint aches.
The Galveston diet eating regimen is similar to the Mediterranean diet in that it emphasizes the consumption of whole foods, but it also recommends intermittent fasting.
[SEE: From Fat to Fit: Tips for How to Lose Fat Fast]
What Is the Galveston Diet?
“The diet emphasizes limiting intake of processed foods that contain added sugars and artificial ingredients, including colors and flavoring,” says Lana Nasrallah, manager of clinical nutrition at UNC Health, a not-for-profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill.
Foods with added sugar tend to have higher glycemic index scores, which increase blood sugar levels more rapidly than foods with a low score. Research suggests that limiting the intake of foods with higher glycemic index scores can help with some symptoms associated with menopause. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that diets rich in foods that dramatically increase blood sugar levels could be a risk factor for insomnia in postmenopausal women.
Intermittent fasting
The Galveston diet doesn’t focus on counting calories. Rather, it recommends that its adherents — Haver calls them “students” — adopt intermittent fasting, an eating regimen in which all calories are consumed within a particular window of time each day. It recommends the 16:8 approach, in which all calories are consumed within an eight-hour window each day. Haver says most of the people who subscribe to the diet adhere to this approach.
Elimination of inflammatory foods
As the second component, the Galveston diet encourages limiting or avoiding foods associated with inflammation, including white flour, white rice, refined sugar and foods with high fructose corn syrup.
Fuel refocus
Adjusting your food intake to enhance your body’s burning of fat for energy is the last pillar or the Galveston diet. The online Galveston diet program and the upcoming “The Galveston Diet Book” — which is scheduled to be published in January 2023 — both provide specific ratios of fat, protein and carbohydrates to consume for optimal fat burning for energy.
All the foods that are recommended — including fruits, vegetables and high-quality proteins like lean meats — are anti-inflammatory, Haver says.
[READ: Does Keto Cause Menopause?]
Galveston Diet Costs
The diet has three different levels, Haver says. The Program level costs $59, a one-time fee that doesn’t require an ongoing subscription. At this level, you get access to all of the diet’s course material, which provides a step-by-step plan to begin using the Galveston diet lifestyle.
Next, at the Program+ level, for a one-time $99 fee you get lifetime access to the Galveston diet program, a recipe collection, an exercise program and daily motivational reflections. Finally, there’s the Platinum Coaching program, which provides access to the entire Galveston diet program with step-by-step guidance through the curriculum from coaches trained and certified by Haver. These are women who went on the Galveston diet, and were trained for three months by Haver.
As of late November, about 100,000 people are signed up for the Galveston diet, Haver says. Many family members of perimenopausal or menopausal women who’ve signed up for the Galveston diet have also benefitted by following it and have lost weight, she says, noting that women tend to be in charge of cooking in the household.
Galveston Diet Pros
There are pros and cons to the Galveston diet, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia.
An emphasis on whole, healthy foods
The foods the Galveston diet emphasizes are very similar to the ones in the Mediterranean diet, which is rated the top diet overall by U.S. News’ team of experts.
Limited intake of unhealthy foods
The Galveston diet recommends limiting or avoiding alcohol, fried foods, refined grains and cooking oils that may cause inflammation, such as canola and vegetable oils. Collectively, consuming excessive amounts of these foods are associated with diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases.
The diet’s designed to fight inflammation
The Galveston diet eating regimen, including limiting sugary and processed foods as well as intermittent fasting, is designed to fight inflammation in the body, Haver says. Research suggests that inflammation is associated with a number of health problems.
For example, research published in 2019 in the journal Nature Medicine suggests that social, environmental and lifestyle factors can lead to systemic chronic inflammation. In turn, such inflammation is can lead to an array of health problems, including:
Autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases.
Cancer.
Cardiovascular disease.
— Chronic kidney disease.
— Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
It can be effective for weight loss and management
By limiting the intake of added sugars, fried food and processed foods, and the hours in which Galveston diet students can consume their calories, the eating regimen “seems to help people lose stubborn pounds gained in their perimenopausal years,” says Lisa D. Ellis, a registered dietitian in private practice in Manhattan and White Plains, New York. She’s also a certified eating disorder registered dietitian and a licensed clinical social worker.
Galveston Diet Cons
If you’re considering the Galveston diet, here are some things you should keep in mind.
The restrictive nature of the diet may cause overeating
Intermittent fasting may help some people lose weight, but it could trigger overeating after periods of restriction, Ellis says.
The Galveston diet may be difficult to follow in the long run
The fat-loss phase of the Galveston diet is a low-carbohydrate eating regimen, and some people find low-carb diets restrictive, Jones says. Such individuals may have difficulty staying with the diet long-term. Haver notes that the low-carbohydrate phase is temporary, and include in the plan for fat loss.
After the low-carbohydrate phase (which lasts varying amounts of time, depending on how much weight you want to lose) carb intake is increased to a moderate level for long-term weight maintenance.
It may be a challenge to get enough fiber on the Galveston diet during the fat-loss phase
The fat-loss phase of the Galveston diet is a low-carb eating plan, and may not provide enough fiber, Jones says.
“When you cut back on carbs, you can reduce your fiber intake,” she says. “Including lower-carb, fiber-rich foods like non-starchy vegetables, avocados and berries is important when following a low-carb eating regimen like the Galveston diet.”
Fiber supplementation may be necessary to achieve the recommended 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams a day for men, Haver says.
A lack of scientific research
To date, there are no peer-reviewed studies evaluating the effectiveness of the Galveston diet.
[See: 7 Diet Mistakes Sabotaging Your Weight Loss.]
Health Benefits of the Galveston Diet
One of the health benefits of the Galveston diet is that it emphasizes consuming healthy, nutrient-dense foods that research suggests can reduce inflammation in the body, says Sharon Collison, clinical instructor of nutrition in the department of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware.
In terms of recommended foods, the Galveston diet parallels the Mediterranean diet. “Science consistently supports the Mediterranean diet as the best (eating regimen) for disease prevention and overall health,” she says.
However, there is a raft of research suggesting the Mediterranean diet, which the Galveston diet is similar to, is effective for weight loss and cardiovascular health. The two diets are similar in that they both consist primarily of vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, extra-virgin olive oil and avocados. Both diets recommend avoiding added sugars, refined grains and processed foods. The high fiber content associated with both diets likely stabilizes estrogen levels, Haver says.
Research published in Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders in 2020 suggests that the Mediterranean diet has been consistently associated with reduced cardiovascular disease and lower rates of non-communicable diseases and total mortality in prospective studies. The diet “might also be used advantageously for weight loss,” researchers wrote.
Health Risks of the Galveston Diet
Research suggests intermittent fasting provides an array of health benefits but could also be disadvantageous for some people.
Research suggests that intermittent fasting could provide health benefits to a wide range of people, including older women concerned about weight gain. For example, research published in 2021 in the Annual Review of Nutrition suggests that “intermittent fasting is a safe diet therapy that can produce significant weight loss in individuals with overweight or obesity.” Researchers wrote that intermittent fasting regimens may also improve certain aspects of cardiometabolic health, such as blood pressure and insulin resistance.
Additionally, research published in 2019 in the journal Nutrients suggests that intermittent fasting “reduces many risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease” and therefore the occurrence of such disease. Intermittent fasting is also beneficial for the prevention of hypertension, researchers wrote.
However, intermittent fasting could be dangerous for individuals in certain groups, including:
— People with diabetes.
— Individuals with hormonal imbalances.
— Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding.
— People with a history of eating disorders.
Additionally, a small study published in 2020 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that “time-restricted eating, in the absence of other interventions, was not more effective in weight loss than eating throughout the day.”
Collison says she thinks people should pay attention to their hunger and fullness cues, and intermittent fasting “goes completely against that. Most people are awake at least 14 hours a day,” she says. “Telling someone they’re not allowed to eat when they’re getting hunger signals can be very damaging, especially for people who have disordered eating. Their relationship with food is not great, so putting all these restrictions into place and not letting people honor their feelings of hunger goes against what is good for one’s mental and physical health.”
She also notes that many high-functioning athletes need a higher level of calories than usual when they are training, which can be a challenge if they have to adhere to intermittent fasting.
Can I Lose Weight on the Galveston Diet?
Yes, you can “absolutely” lose weight on the Galveston diet if you follow its food and intermittent fasting guidelines, Collison says. But staying with the diet, in the long run, could have health trade-offs, she says.
For example, adhering to intermittent fasting may cut down on overeating at night. “Overeating at night is not good,” Collison says. “But not eating at all is also not good as it doesn’t promote a healthy relationship with foods.”
Galveston Diet Foods: What Can I Eat?
Foods recommended by the Galveston diet include:
— Dairy.
Fruits.
— Healthy fats.
— Lean proteins (meat, poultry and fish).
— Legumes.
Vegetables.
— Whole grains.
The Galveston diet also recommends limiting the intake of:
— Alcohol.
— Cooking oils that may cause inflammation (canola oil and vegetable oil).
— Fried foods.
— Refined flours and grains.
How to Get Started on the Galveston Diet
Before incorporating the Galveston diet into your lifestyle, Haver and her staff recommend that you consult with your health care provider. Once you have your provider’s approval, they suggest slowly easing into intermittent fasting action. Consistently delay your first meal of the day by 15 to 30 minutes to gradually achieve a 16-hour fast. In doing so, your body has time to adjust and you should avoid any unpleasant side effects, Haver says. It’s important for you to be patient with the process and listen to your body.
The anti-inflammatory approach to nutrition can be phased in by slowly phasing out inflammatory-causing foods and increasing the amounts of anti-inflammatory foods you consume. The Galveston diet curriculum contains lists of specific foods to avoid, such as refined carbohydrates, and foods to increase, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.
Recipes and Meal Ideas for the Galveston Diet
Here are a handful of Galveston diet meal and snack recipes:
Egg scramble (serves one)
Ingredients:
— 2 eggs.
— 1 cup fresh spinach leaves.
— 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped.
— 1 tablespoon of butter.
— Salt and pepper to taste.
— 1 cup of raspberries.
Directions:
— Crack the eggs into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and whisk until blended.
— Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
— Pour the egg mixture into a saucepan and cook until a thin layer of cooked egg appears around the edge of the saucepan. Fold the eggs gently. Continue to cook, pushing and folding eggs around the pan occasionally.
— Halfway through cooking, add the spinach and tomatoes. Continue pushing and folding eggs until eggs are barely set. They should look a bit runny on top.
— Serve the scrambled eggs with a small bowl of fresh raspberries.
Grilled chicken salad (serves four)
Ingredients:
— 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast.
— 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
— 1 ½ teaspoons of paprika.
— 1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped.
— 1 lemon cut into 4 wedges.
Directions:
— Heat one side of your grill on high and the other side on medium, or grill the pan over medium-high heat.
— Pat chicken dry and coat with olive oil and paprika, or seasoning of your choice.
— Brush grates with olive oil and place chicken on the hot side of the grill (or grill pan). Don’t touch the chicken until the pieces start getting some grill marks.
— Let the chicken brown on one side, turn over and move to the cooler side of the grill.
— Remove from the grill when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
— Cover chicken with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve over a bed of Romaine and dress with a fresh lemon.
Snack: crunchy kale chips with pecans (serves four)
Ingredients:
— 1 large bunch of kale.
— 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
— 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
— 3/4 cup of pecans.
Directions:
— Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
— Remove the kale from the stems, wash it, and dry it off well.
— Add kale to a Ziploc bag with oil and shake well so that every piece is coated.
— Put the kale onto a baking sheet, spread it out and flatten the leaves.
— Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, add sea salt and enjoy with pecans.
Galveston Diet Success Story
Sometime in late 2021, Diana Johnson was having a bad time. She was experiencing hot flashes and knee and hip pain from carrying more weight than usual in her midsection. “I felt awful,” says Johnson, 57, who lives in Galveston, Texas.
Johnson’s primary care physician told her she was experiencing symptoms of menopause. She tried dieting and exercising to lose weight, to no avail. Johnson’s doctor told her about some of Haver’s educational videos she’d seen on social media. Intrigued, Johnson watched some of Haver’s videos and read some of her blog posts. She called Haver’s office, met her, became a patient and adopted the Galveston diet. Online, she worked with a Galveston diet coach who helped her through the program.
About a month into the regimen, Johnson began seeing results. “My knees and hips didn’t hurt as much,” she says.
Johnson notes that inflammation is also associated with weight gain, and she believes her weight loss is another sign that her inflammation has been going down since she started the diet.
“Based on my results, I believe my inflammation was decreasing. Before I started the diet, it was difficult for me to walk up flights of stairs or sit on the floor and get up by myself, because my knees and hips hurt so bad, because of inflammation. After being on the regimen, I could do those things without pain. I knew my inflammation was reducing.”
Before adopting the diet, Johnson hit the scale regularly. Though she’s no longer obsessed with weighing herself, Johnson has dropped 25 pounds and hopes to lose another 40 or so. “In general, I just feel so much better,” she says.
More from U.S. News
Best Foods to Eat for Your Mood — and a Few Bad Ones
Best Diet Programs: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Signs and Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance
U.S. News Best Diets 2022: Galveston Diet originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 11/29/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.
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