The Dissociated Diet, also known as the Hay Diet, was one of the top-searched diets of 2016—alongside other searches like the “taco diet” and the “pizza diet.” While pizza and taco definitely garner attention, we couldn’t help but wonder about the method behind the century-old Dissociated Diet, where you eat only single food groups, never mixing them together.
The basic premise is that eating alkaline foods (like meat or dairy) with acidic foods (like bread or starch) causes weight gain because due to an imbalance of digestive and metabolic enzymes that the body can't process, registered dietician Lauren Blake said to Women’s Health.
William Howard Hay, a doctor in New York, started this popular nutrition approach in the 1900s when he separated foods into three groups: alkaline, acidic and neutral. In general, fruits and vegetables make up your alkaline foods, and carbohydrates, starches and proteins are thought of as acidic, according to Fitness Venues. Neutral foods like nuts, except for peanuts, can be combined with proteins.
And while you’re eating real foods with the Dissociated Diet, there’s no research to back that the diet works solely because of the separation of foods. Rather, people likely lose weight because they’re consuming fewer calories by choosing more whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
“There's a focus on real, whole foods with an emphasis on increasing plant-based foods and limiting animal and refined products," Blake said. "Increasing your intake of plant-based foods correlates with a higher fiber intake, which can keep you satiated and aid in weight loss."
Most typically follow the diet one of two ways, according to Women’s Health. They either divide their days by food groups: eating only fruits and vegetables one day, protein the next, and then whole grains, etc. Otherwise, they only eat a designated food for each meal—only eating fruit for breakfast and protein for lunch, for example.
While this is certainly healthier than the taco or pizza diets, there is still a lot to be desired as this is a hard diet to stick with long-term. Plus, your body starts to miss out on key nutrients from large food groups you’re eliminating. So while we may not jump on this trend, the approach is certainly interesting!