There is plenty of controversy about what type of Diet we should be on. I would like to first clarify the term diet. According to Merriam-Websters Dictionary there are 4 definitions of diet: 1. Food and drink regularly provided or consumed. 2. Habitual nourishment. 3. The kind of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason. (Low sodium diet) 4. A regimen of eating and drinking sparingly to reduce one’s weight. (Going on a diet)
When I refer to diet I am referring to number 1 and 2. These are the things we are accustomed to eating and we do not give much thought to apart from taste and convenience. Our circle of friends and social environment also influences our food choices making up our diet. Number 3 is a specific diet an individual is on because of a medical condition or food allergy. Now when we get to number 4, this is where I see a problem. Unfortunately when the term diet is used, this is the first thing that comes to peoples mind. They think restricting food intake or making drastic changes to rapidly reduce weight. The first problem with this is that for many people this diet is only temporary until the weight goal is achieved. Then when they resume their habitual diet which is what lead to the overweight condition and poor health to begin with, they gain all the weight back. The majority of people who go on a diet, end up quitting before they reach their goal or even after reaching their goal gain all the weight back and even more most times until they go on the next diet. This yo-yo dieting is devastating to our system and we always end up losing health in the process. I do not recommend going on a diet, but I do recommend making lifestyle changes to number 1 and 2 above that lead to a better diet and improved health.
So here is the real controversy. As a species what is the best long term sustainable diet for us?
• Low fat-high carb
• High fat-low carb
Depending on who you ask, you will likely get one of the above responses along with the reasons that individual or group believes that is the best diet for humans. There is research on all sides reporting why one is better than the other. Then there are the food companies who quietly in the background put up the money for some of these studies or flat out pay researchers to find the conclusions that they are looking for. Once they have the smallest amount of information that they can use, they use this for advertising in order to make more profits. No where is your health of actual concern to these companies, but they sure will make it sound like they are looking out for you, using data from faulty studies. A perfect example of a company using its influence for profit is the Coca Cola while hurting the consumer. Warren Buffett who’s company owns over 9% of the Coca Cola Co. that’s over $400,000,000, and has an image of his face on cans produced in China has actually said that Coca Cola is good for you and helps his brain work better. Despite real research stating that sweetened beverages like Coca Cola contribute to nearly 137,000 deaths a year from diabetes, 45,000 deaths from heart disease, and a few more thousand a year from Cancer. So unless you are Warren Buffett, I would avoid Coca-Cola like the Bubonic plague. We should just refer to that stuff as Black Death.
I personally have been on and have recommended some of the above listed ways of eating for years at a time. Except for the Vegan, not ready for that yet, but not ruling it out either. From my experiences, my observations of patients and friends and plenty of reading and looking through actual research I have to agree with Dr Mark Hyman, head of Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. That the best long term, sustainable diet is actually what he calls a Pegan diet. This involves a combination of the Paleo and Vegan lifestyles. Both of which have the underpinnings or base of the Mediterranean diet. The number one reason I prefer this is there is no restriction on how much you are eating. Because you are eating natural whole foods your body no longer has cravings for all of the harmful and addictive additives that are added to the manufactured food.
When I decided to make some changes last year, about 18 months ago, I lost 18 lbs I went from 208 to 190 within a couple of months. I am 6 feet tall and at 208 lbs I was definitely over weight. With BMI over 28 I was approaching Obesity. My BMI is now just over 25. Yes anything above 25 is still overweight but I feel good at this weight and I still have some muscular bulk from my weight lifting days. My ankle has only had one flare up of pain during this period. And that was on a day I had 4 slices of pizza. Never said I was perfect. Since I have started eating cleaner, whole foods I can tell when I have eaten something toxic within hours, sometimes minutes.
Notice I said make some changes, not go on a diet. We are all on a diet, a diet of your choosing. Nobody is making you eat that cheeseburger or drink that black death or green death if you prefer Mountain Dew. Oh, let’s not forget the potato, fried in vegetable oil. It is your choice what you are putting into your body. Remember not only does everything you eat become part of you, but also sets in motion a cascade of chemical and hormonal reactions in your body that will either bring you health or disease. The choice is yours.
Here are some recommendations of stuff you should avoid and some recommendations of food we should all be enjoying, the way nature intended.
Start eliminating these from your diet:
• High fructose corn syrup and its new name corn sugar (don’t be fooled)
• Gluten: found in bread, refined carbohydrates. Gluten sets off an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine and sometimes causes joint pain.
• Trans fat: found in fast foods and other fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, donuts, crackers and most stick margarines. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient labels.
• Omega 6 fatty acids: found in oils such corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.
• MSG: This chemical can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation, and affect liver health.
• Processed foods: canned, boxed goods and processed meats.
• Avoid shopping down the aisles of most grocery stores. This is where all the processed food like stuff is. The whole, natural foods are located on the perimeter walls of the stores.
Eat more real food
• Fish: Omega-3-rich fish include salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring.
• Good oils: Olive oil, Avocado and safflower oils have shown cholesterol-lowering properties, while walnut oil has 10 times the omega-3s that olive oil has.
• Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries
• Leafy green vegetables.
• Nuts: Walnuts and almonds are best.
• Green tea
• Grass fed meats with no antibiotics or hormones. Including beef, chicken and lamb.
• Eggs preferably farm fresh, if you don’t have access to these than make sure they are from cage free chickens that were never given hormones or antibiotics.
• Real butter again from grass fed, pasture raised cows.
Most people may find it difficult to remove the items from the eliminate list all at one time.
I suggest picking an item or two to eliminate and one or two to add for the good list that are easy for you at first. Once you have been able to make this change and incorporated it into your regular diet or lifestyle, then come back to this list and pick a couple more. Start with the easy ones first get some confidence that you can make these changes permanent than pick some that may be a little harder for you. Keep doing this until you have worked your way through this list. for more detail read my post on habits. These two lists are a good starting point. Bookmark this page or follow us on Facebook for regular updates.
If you are not sure why you should add or eliminate any of the items in the above lists or you need some motivation just search for the harmful effects or beneficial effects of the item you are not sure about.
I would also strongly recommend reading the Book Eat Fat, Get Thin by Dr Mark Hyman. Every patient I have recommended this book to, that has actually bought and read the book, has lost several pounds, is feeling better and had more energy.
As always, if your are on a specific diet prescribed by your healthcare provider or you suspect you have a medical condition, you should consult with your personal healthcare provider prior to making any dieatary changes or starting any new exercise programs.