Which Diet Do I Choose?
Mediterranean, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescetarian, Atkins, the DASH diet, Weight watches, intermittent fasting and the list goes on!! There are so many different diets out there, and they all claim that their approach is the best to lose weight, be healthy and live to a ripe old age without chronic illnesses. The thing is all of these diets are so different so that can't all be right, can they? What is the perfect diet?
I often see clients who don't feel well, want to lose weight or increase their energy …. and they want to know what is the perfect diet for them, what of the many diets out there should they follow? Which of the vast array of diets do I recommend as the magic bullet for them to feel their best …. well that depends on many things as there is no magic bullet diet and many dietary approaches out there would do well, if they are done right.
Different People have Different Needs
Also dietary needs change from when you are a child, to an adult and whenever life's circumstances change. If you are training for a marathon or play a lot of sports and then you suddenly stop, well your diet will also need to be modified too, as you will no longer be burning up all those high energy foods you were once consuming. If you are trying to lose weight but you are not having much "luck", well no matter how healthy your diet maybe, if it is not working it needs to change. Somebody with a chronic illness will have a different diet than somebody who is pregnant, there are many different diets and many different people all with different nutritional needs depending on their life's circumstances.
If you have found that a particular nutrition program works for you like Paleo or Vegetarian then that is awesome, keep doing what your doing but from time to time you may need to adjust your macronutrient ratio's, like protein, carbohydrates and fats, depending on life's circumstances. It's also important that you are not lacking any micronutrients, this is especially important for vegetarian's who are at risk of being too low in Omega 3 fatty acids, iron and vitamin B12. You may feel fantastic for a while eating in a particular way but nutritional deficiencies can creep up on you without you realizing. Common nutritional deficiencies in a Western diet include selenium, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, B vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids.
If you have found that a particular diet works well for you, as I said that is great but it does not mean that everybody should follow that diet, and that the diet will work for everybody else too. We are all different, not just in our physical needs, but you need to take the whole person into account and that includes emotional, spiritual, economics and lifestyle.
What Did Humans Evolve To Eat?
Throughout evolution many of the chronic illnesses that we have today like heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and obesity did not exist … yet people from around the world ate vastly different diets. The Innuit and Masai people ate a diet high in animal fat and very few vegetables, the Kitavan's of Papua New Guinea ate a diet very low in fat but high in carbohydrates from starchy vegetables, and Pacific islanders ate a high fat diet from Coconut oil. Vastly different diets yet the people that ate them were very healthy! But when you look closely at these diets they share some distinct similarities…
The common denominator between these three vastly different dietary approaches is that they do not include foods that are commonly consumed as part of a Western diet like grains, industrial processed vegetable oils like Canola oil, Rice Bran oil and Soy bean oil and sugar which people in the West are consuming in record amounts.
The Three "Foods" to Avoid!
Whats wrong with "healthy whole grains" are they not the base of the food pyramid and the cornerstone of a good diet! Humans evolved for hundred of thousands of years without eating grains at all and survived quite well, now the average Western diet involves cereals or breads for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, biscuits or some other processed grain product for a snack, and possibly finished off with pasta for dinner …. this is a dramatic change from what we evolved to eat.
What about the health benefits of grains like the fiber content you may ask? If you swapped grains for eating more vegetables, salads and fruit then you would get more than enough fiber in your diet, not only that but the fiber would be better quality and not so harsh on your gastrointestinal tract, it's not coincidence that the majority of people suffering from Irritable bowel do so much better with the elimination of grains, in particular the gluten containing grains. What about the vitamins and minerals in grains? Grains contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid and lectins that not only make the grains harder to digest but they make these vitamins and minerals difficult to absorb, you will obtain a lot more nutrition from vegetables.
Finally grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats contain gluten which can damage the intestinal lining leading to leaky gut, even in people who are not coeliac, this can lead to auto-immune conditions, inflammation and even affect brain health.
What about these industrial processed oils that are marketed as being "healthy" like soy bean oil which is found in nearly every commercial salad dressing and mayonnaise, safflower, sunflower and Rice bran oil. These are not part of a normal human diet and have to go through a lot of processing to make them "edible", they have only been consumed for the last 50 years, and were promoted as being healthy as they were low in saturated fats but now the latest research and science shows that these oils are producing inflammation in the body, which is the cause of all chronic diseases. The industrial processed oils are very high in omega 6 fats, which are essential to health but too much omega 6 compared to omega 3 oils will promote inflammation, we are now consuming 15-20 times the amount of omega 6 fats than just one hundred years ago. It is good to try and increase your omega 3 fats but it is equally important to decrease your omega 6 fat intake.
Most people are aware that too much sugar is not a good thing, but what most people don't realize is how much sugar that they are actually consuming each day. On average people are consuming 19 teaspoons of sugar a day, sounds like a lot but it is not too hard to do, sugar is found in cereals, breads, biscuits, in fact nearly all processed foods have added sugar (especially if they are "low fat") and one of the easiest ways to consume excess sugar is from drinks like juices, soda and the ever popular energy drinks.
What Do I Eat?
That's why it does not matter what label you put on the diet that you eat, if you just went one month without grains, industrial processed oils and sugar you would find that your health would transform! Weight would improve, energy increase, inflammation would decrease along with improvements in the conditions that this causes like arthritis, diabetes and auto-immune conditions. One month is not a long time, and while it may require a bit of effort and planning the benefits to your health will make it worth it.
In case your wondering what is left to eat …. real food that does not come in packets
This includes grass fed meats, free range chickens and eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, salads, herbs, spices and fruits and there is an endless combination of dishes that you can make from these foods.
As I have said already everyone is different and to really focus on what is the perfect diet for you a gene test will help to identify how well you metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins and is the best way to design a eating program according to your genes, so if you have struggled with diets this could be a good option for you.