If you’re on the hunt for a diet to help you lose weight, chances are you’ve come across the Dissociated Diet. It includes a variety of different foods but has you eat them separately from each other – making it more appealing to many people than a super-restrictive diet that has you counting calories. But is it really less restrictive? And does the Dissociated Diet really work? Read on for my thoughts!
What is the Dissociated Diet?
Unlike most current diet advice that recommends balancing protein, carbohydrates, and fat throughout the day, the Dissociated Diet suggests keeping them all separate. That means you’d be limited to eating just one food group per meal or per day. This is basically a rebranded version of Food Combining, a diet popular in the 70’s that’s been claimed to be the brainchild of numerous naturopathic doctors.
The Dissociated Diet is based on the theory that eating acidic and alkaline foods at the same time slows digestion, throws metabolism out of balance, and causes weight gain. That’s allegedly because your digestive system gets overworked trying trying to create the perfect conditions for digesting both alkaline and acidic foods at the same time.
The Dissociated Diet focuses mainly on proteins, which are acid-forming, and carbohydrates, which are alkaline-forming. By not eating these two at the same time, your digestive system would (supposedly) run at peak performance, maximizing nutrient absorption so that you can run on smaller portion sizes.
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Following the Dissociated Diet usually goes one of two ways: you follow a weekly rotation, eating only one food group per day, or you rotate meals, eating only one food group per meal.
What do you eat on the Dissociated Diet?
Eating only one food group at a time doesn’t mean you get to eat only junk food for a whole day and call it a diet, though. The plan encourages eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and meat proteins as main food groups, limiting refined starches and fat, and cutting out all junk food.
The one hard-fast rule is that proteins and carbohydrates can’t be eaten within 4-5 hours of each other, until digestion is “complete”. Most followers of the diet don’t combine protein sources or carbohydrate sources either (for example, eating fruits and vegetables or meat and dairy together). Essentially, everything is eaten separately so your body can allegedly focus on digesting that one specific type of food.
If you’re on a weekly rotation, here’s what that might look like:
If you rotate ever meal, here’s what you’re looking at:
Does the Dissociated Diet really make you lose weight?
The Dissociated Diet’s basis has no scientific backing. There’s no proof that our bodies can’t handle breaking down protein and carbohydrates at once – especially since so many foods contain more than one macronutrient. Nuts, for example, combine protein, carbs, and fat, and our digestive systems do just fine with them.
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Even if we did have evidence saying that eating alkaline and acidic foods separately improves digestion, there’s no saying that would make you lose weight.
If you lose weight on the Dissociated Diet, it’s likely because you’re dropping calories, not because your digestive system is suddenly working perfectly. I could only dig up one study comparing a dissociated diet (that rotated food groups every meal) to a balanced diet for weight loss, and it found no difference between the diets in terms of resulting weight loss, insulin and cholesterol levels, or blood pressure after six weeks.
Is the Dissociated Diet Safe?
Cutting down on junk food and refined carbs is a great idea for anyone – but doing it in a way that only lets you eat one food group at a time isn’t so smart. Who wants to eat a bowl of rice without veggies or protein? Or a plate of eggs without sautéed vegetables or whole grain toast? Your meals would be super boring and I’m all about enjoying your food!
Not only is the Dissociated Diet unsustainable (you’re way more likely to binge and gain weight right back after such a restrictive regime), but if you do the version of the Dissociated Diet that’s a whole day of eating one type of food, there are some concerns.
Yes, fruit is healthy, but it’s also high in sugar. Eating nothing but fruit for a day means you’re not getting protein or fat to help slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream, so your blood sugar could go way out of balance.
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Fruits and vegetables are also chock full of fat-soluble nutrients that your body won’t be able to absorb without a little fat during the day, and the lack of protein means you’re likely to lose muscle.
On the days where you eat nothing but protein, you’ll be lacking crucial vitamins and minerals found in fruits and veggies, and your energy could take a serious slump without any carbs. Inevitably, you’ll be missing out on key nutrients every day of the week – no matter what food group you’re skipping.
Alternating food groups for every meal, rather than every day might give you some relief from that, but it also doesn’t do much for you in the way of weight loss.
Without any proven weight loss or other health benefits, is it worth the restriction and boring meals?
The bottom line on the Dissociated Diet
The dissociated diet does give you a few guidelines for a healthy diet: focus on real food that’s nutrient rich and steer clear of empty calories. But the eating pattern suggested in the diet is unrealistic for a long-term lifestyle change and could leave you with nutrient deficiencies, like water-soluble vitamins that your body doesn’t store, if you don’t get enough variety.
Eating only one food group per day means you’re constantly nutrient deficient and constantly unsatisfied – all for results that haven’t been proven. You’re much better off applying those healthy guidelines of eating real food to a sustainable healthy eating plan that’s more realistic for long term weight loss.