Brazilian Diet

A close-up of Brazilians making fresh salads and salsas at an outdoor table.
A close-up of Brazilians making fresh salads and salsas at an outdoor table. (Image: Kim Carson/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Brazil often conjures up thoughts of fit, bikini-clad women frolicking on the beach. A number of diet pill and weight-loss plan developers have tried to capitalize on this image by purporting that their products or programs will help you lose weight the way Brazilians do. Not all are supported by scientific research, and some may be harmful. The healthiest Brazilian-style diet may simply be patterning your eating habits off of those of traditional Brazilians. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting any weight loss program or making any large changes to your regular diet.

Brazilian Diet Pills

A number of manufacturers sell diet pills containing ingredients supposedly obtained from Brazilian rain forests and allegedly used safely by natives to suppress appetite, increase metabolism and promote the breakdown of fat cells. These ingredients include yerba mate, guarana, cha de bugre and damiana. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against these pills since they contain chlordiazepoxide HCl and fluoxetine HCl, drugs which can cause side effects such as severe mood swings, heart palpitations and chest pains. Do not use any type of Brazilian diet pill until you've consulted with your doctor about the possible health effects.

Brazilian Bikini Body Program

Detailed in Regina Joseph's 2007 book, "The Brazilian Bikini Body Program: 30 Days to a Sexier Body and Mind," this weight-loss plan focuses on teaching followers to eat and exercise in a Brazilian-inspired way. Joseph encourages dieters to consume plenty of lean meats and seafood, nuts, legumes, vegetables and fruits, with a special emphasis on the acai berry, which she calls a superfood. Native to South American countries like Brazil, the acai berry is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis says there is no scientific evidence to prove that it can promote weight loss. Joseph suggests practicing Pilates and capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, for exercise.

Traditional Brazilian Diet

According to Oldways, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping people eat healthier by connecting with their culture's eating habits, the traditional Brazilian diet is primarily plant-based, with every meal containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts or seeds. Animal-based foods are consumed far less often: seafood, twice weekly; poultry, dairy products and eggs as little as once a week; red meats like beef and pork, only occasionally. Sweets are also consumed infrequently. Alcohol is a regular part of meals, but in moderation.

What the Research Says

A study published in "Obesity Research" in January 2002 supports the theory that following a traditional Brazilian diet can help with weight loss. The researchers studied three groups of people -- individuals eating a traditional diet based on beans and rice; individuals following a Western dietary pattern with more sugar, fat and dairy products; and individuals who regularly consumed foods from both cultures. Of all three dietary patterns, the one associated with the lowest risk of obesity was the traditional diet. Men were 13 percent less likely to be obese than their counterparts, while women were 14 percent less likely.

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