Let me start by making a confession: I am fascinated by celebrity culture. As a nutritionist, I'm especially interested in what celebs eat to maintain incredible abs, honed legs and glowing skin.
If you've been keeping up with pop culture lately, you may have noticed that clean eating means different things to different stars. And their definitions aren't necessarily scientifically based or, in some cases, healthy.
Kate Hudson, for one, credits her slim and toned frame to an alkaline diet – at least, that's been her message during the recent promotion of her new book, Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body.
The idea behind the alkaline diet is that certain foods, including meat, eggs, dairy, wheat and sugary substances, make the body acidic, which can lead to health problems, including weight gain, osteoporosis, muscle loss, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, even cancer.
Eating only alkaline (non-acidic) foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and lentils, is thought to maintain the blood's natural pH level making it less acidic and, in so doing, averting countless health problems. At least that's what alkaline fans contend.
Yet, there's no evidence that certain foods can substantially alter the blood's acidity level. In healthy people, the body naturally regulates a constant pH in the bloodstream.
That doesn't mean that an alkaline diet isn't good for you, though.
A vegetarian diet based on fruit, vegetables and plant-based protein foods delivers plenty of fibre, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium and countless beneficial phytochemicals. And, it's lower in calories than a meat-and-dairy heavy, sugar-laden diet – so, a diet like this might help you slim down.
But, the acidity of your blood has nothing to do with these benefits. Following such a restrictive eating plan may be tough for many people. And without expert guidance, doing so could lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Hudson isn't the only superstar who lives by strict dietary rules. Last month, Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen's personal chef, Allen Campbell, revealed the couple's eating plan to The Boston Globe.
Meals served at Brady and Bundchen's home are organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, caffeine-free, mushroom-free, olive oil- and canola oil-free, eggplant-free, bell pepper-free and, mostly, tomato-free.
Sounds a little fun-free.
The celeb duo's meals also are 80-per-cent plant-based with grass-fed steak, duck, chicken and wild salmon making up the remaining 20 per cent. Lots of vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans and a little fruit thrown in, too.
Campbell's rationale for cutting out certain healthy foods is not based on science. He contends that olive oil and canola turn into trans fats when heated. Untrue: Trans fats are formed when food chemists pump hydrogen atoms into vegetable oils during a process called partial hydrogenation.
Nightshade vegetables – eggplant, bell peppers, tomato – are avoided because "they're not anti-inflammatory." There's no proof, however, that these nutrient-packed and antioxidant-rich foods promote inflammation.
That said, I do think the Brady-Bundchen diet is a healthy one. But that's not strictly because of what it lacks. This mainly plant-based eating plan is chock-full of health-promoting nutrients and phytochemicals.
Just because the diet is organic, gluten-free and GMO-free, doesn't mean it's more nutritious than one based on conventionally raised produce and meat, gluten-containing grains and genetically modified foods. These labels say nothing about nutrient content.
Brady and Bundchen's diet might sound rigid, but I certainly wouldn't call it extreme. I can't say the same for Amanda Chantal Bacon, who shocked the Twitterverse after she shared her food diary with Elle magazine last May. Bacon is the founder and owner of Los Angeles store Moon Juice, which sells juices, "moon" milks, herbal tonics and other exotic ingredients to Hollywood stars, including Gwyneth Paltrow.
Her breakfast apparently consists of three tablespoons of bee pollen, 16 ounces of unsweetened green juice, which she calls her "alkalizer, hydrator, energizer and overall mood balancer," followed by a handful of "activated" cashews (a.k.a. dehydrated cashews). That's just the beginning.
Between the many never-heard-of tonics, powders and juice shots Bacon consumes in a day ("Brain Dust," quinton shots, ho sho wu and Shilajit resin are just a few), there seems to be little solid food. It's definitely one of the strangest diets I've seen.
We're fascinated by what good-looking, physically fit A-listers eat. But that doesn't mean their diets are nutritionally superior and should be emulated.
Bacon's regimen, for instance, seems nutritionally lacking. Brady and Bundchen's diet – and Hudson's, too – appears nutritious, but seems like a heck of a lot of work. Not to mention hard on the wallet with all of those organic foods (at least in the case of Brady and Bundchen). Oh, and let's not forget the private chef.
Perhaps it's time to pay more attention to the unprocessed, wholesome diets our less-famous grandparents ate than the diets followed by stars who live in another world.