Eating for Health
Spring is almost upon us and for many of us, it's a natural time of year to do a cleanse, incorporate a new activity, or consider making adjustments to your diet. I don't subscribe 100% to any of the dietary trends that are out there (and there are A LOT), but rather I do some research into them and incorporate them into my diet and the diets of my patients as appropriate. I truly believe that there is no one right way of eating for everyone, all the time.
A factor that is coming into play for many of my patients is extremism, within the scope of any diet. Humans actually need to eat foods from all three categories: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You can't eliminate any one of the three in an effort to have a leaner body, or lose weight more quickly, or simply because you've heard that carbs are bad for you.
Some of the trends that are finding their way into my kitchen this year include juicing (with a weekly delivery of organic produce), the blood type diet, a metabolic diet, and most recently, the paleo diet. I've also looked into a few of the protein shake-based programs that are out there on the internet, and in researching those I came to one conclusion: people are changing their diets for the wrong reasons. Any diet whose fundamental goal is to promote weight loss, is not only going to fail long term, but it's also often at a cost to your overall health. Somehow, the term "diet," which used to simply mean "way of eating," has taken on a whole other meaning. Let's examine a few of these dietary trends.
1) Paleo Diet - The paleo diet is based on the idea that the best diet for us is the one that we are genetically predisposed to digest, specifically, the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors from the paleolithic era. This means eating lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated sources of fats (avocados, olive oil), and nuts and seeds. This also means not eating grains, dairy, legumes, or anything processed. The men that have developed this diet have done extensive research over the past couple of decades and have determined that following this diet reduces the risk of (and potentially reverses the effects of) autoimmune disorders, obesity, acne, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. In addition, they've modified their program to suit the specific needs of athletes.
2) Blood Type Diet - "Eat Right 4 Your Type" defines foods as either "beneficial," "neutral," or "avoid" based on your blood type. The diet was based on the premise that the different blood types originate from different geographic locations and in different eras, thus we're coded to digest different foods based on the genetics of our particular blood type. My blood type is "B" for example, so I'm considered a nomad and on the blood type diet would do well with lean meats and vegetables, and am the only blood type that does well with dairy.
3) Juicing - Juicing has a long history of being used for cleansing, weight loss, and health improvement. I view it as a tasty way to get a lot of nutrients in a small package. Some of the things to consider when juicing are caloric content when using mostly fruit, and a decrease in fibre (juices are not a substitute for actual fruits/vegetables). I typically favor juices containing mostly vegetables, with some apple for taste, and using a high-end juicer that retains a larger percentage of the nutrients. Although it can be used safely in the short-term as a cleanse, juicing is not a substitute for a normal diet.
All three of these dietary trends have their place, and may very well result in significant health improvements for you and your family, when followed appropriately. I'm a believer of individualized diet plans - diets that are tailored to the person and his/her own specific needs, and that change as dictated by circumstances. Any diet that involves real food will likely result in health benefits for most people, simply because of the reduction in processed food and refined sugars. My emphasis is always on teaching people how to prepare, eat, and love real food. Food that is not genetically modified, food that is free of chemicals, and food that will make you feel good, and have more vital energy.
"Diets," as we've come to understand that word, don't work. Eating for your health, in combination with being active, and having meaningful relationships with the people in your life, will have an impact on your body, your overall health, and as a result, your weight.