|The Perfect Diet
|Is there a perfect diet? In my opinion, no. My philosophy gravitates towards
balance. On the surface, there are reasonable ideas supporting each faddish
diet. Unfortunately, most of these diets have their downside after the desired
effect has worn off. Some diets preach fruit only in the morning; others
no carbohydrates and high protein; some say vegetarian or vegan is ideal.
Clearly, this can be confusing. There is a lot of misinformation that in
my opinion distorts the truth most of us seek.
There are circumstances where each of the above diets can be useful but
when followed in a unbalanced way, they are potentially harmful.. For instance,
the vegan whose diet consists of a high percentage of refined carbohydrates
- such as colas, and bagels or even too much organic brown rice - can develop
some serious symptoms such as insulin resistance, which has been linked
to the development of diabetes and other serious diseases.
My approach is to bring common sense solutions to each patient situation.
Often I will ask a patient to fill out a diet diary for one week and see
where there may be room for improvement. One person might be abusing sugar
and coffee, another dairy, and another animal protein. All might lack enough
fiber. No matter what a diet consists of, it is unusual for all the requirements
to be met. Supplementation usually is necessary despite our best intentions.
From a historical perspective, mankind ate a hunter/gatherer diet with the
emphasis on gathering for most of human history. The agrarian period and
the cultivation of grains is a relatively recent development. For some people,
their genetics are less adapted or not adapted to grains. I often find patients
with sensitivity to gluten, a protein fraction found in wheat, rye, barley,
oats, and spelt. A recent book, Eating Right 4 Your Blood Type talks about
Seven ideas that will simplify the subject
- Eat nutrient dense foods.
What I mean by this is eat foods that have low calories and lots of
nutrients. If two people have diets that contain 2000 calories, one
person might obtain those calories from sugar in their two to three
coffees per day, doughnuts, bagels, cookies, etc... There would be lots
of calories but little nutrition. Another person might have the same
calories in a given day but obtain them from fresh salads, beans, steamed
vegetables, limited animal protein, nuts, etc.... Obviously, all calories
are not equal and you will get more bang for the buck if you are less
like the first person and more like the second.
- Eat unadulterated and unrefined foods.
The more we mess with food, the less nutritious it becomes. Anything
that is packaged with a catchy decorative logo or design is usually
an inferior food choice. Cooking also destroys some of the good things
in foods. I am not saying that we should only eat raw foods but at least
some of our diet should include raw fruits and vegetables. Raw foods
contain enzymes that assist in our digestive process.
- Shorter shelf life = Better nutritional value.
If it cannot spoil, then there is nothing in it worth eating. For example,
refined flour, used to produce most breads and baked goods, lacks the
fiber and nutrients contained in unrefined, whole grains. The nutrients
in whole grains are perishable. Without them, products have a much longer
shelf life. This is why a package of white flour can sit on a grocery
shelf for an indefinite period of time without spoiling.
- Eat colorful foods.
Eating foods of different color is pleasing both to your eyes and your
health. Research shows that different antioxidants are found in yellow
foods, red foods, green foods, etc... The variety of nutrients helps
strengthen our immune system in many ways.
- Eat some fat.
We need fat in our diets. Some estimates say that up to thirty percent
of our calories should be from fat. Fat is needed for the production
of all hormones. Some fat in the diet helps us feel satiated when we
eat. This allows us to feel full and stop eating. Without this feeling
we may overeat and consume too many calories.
Keep in mind that there are different kinds of fat. If all your fat
comes from animal products and shellfish, you are eating too much unhealthy
saturated fats. You may want to eat less of those foods and more avocados,
walnuts, olive oil and fresh fish that contain healthy unsaturated fats.
Research is showing that saturated fat has more of a pro-inflammatory
effect in the body whereas unsaturated fat has an anti-inflammatory
effect. The medical term for inflammation is the suffix "-itis."
This is Latin for inflammation of whatever the prefix is. If the diagnosis
is colitis, then it means inflammation of the colon. If the diagnosis
is sinusitis, that means inflammation of the sinuses. As you can see,
there is a lot of inflammation contributing to ill health. If you are
a sufferer of an "-itis" then taking steps to reduce the inflammatory
process is a good thing.
It is also important to avoid false fats such as hydrogenated fats.
These are man-made, adulterated fats that increase the cholesterol production
within the body.
- Eat Fiber.
Most people do not eat enough fiber. One of the first books to address
its importance was The Save Your Life Diet by David Reuben MD in 1975.
In his book, Dr. Reuben documents how the high fiber diets of primitive
societies can be a useful deterrent for many illness of modern society.
James Anderson, author of Diabetes, a Practical Guide to Healthy Living,
took 20 non-obese men who were insulin dependent (that is, injected
themselves with insulin) and gave them 65 grams of fiber per day. After
16 days, the average cholesterol went down from 206 to 147. The insulin
needed was reduced from an average of 31 units to 16 units. Eleven out
of the twenty participants discontinued insulin injections completely.
One hundred percent of the participants showed clinical benefits and
the benefits continued at home when following the same program.
- Be aware of your special needs.
- Avoid foods that you are sensitive to.
Some people know from experience which foods they need to avoid. If
you have a lot of sensitivities, then chances are you need to do some
cleansing work. In addition to gluten, the foods that people are most
often sensitive to are dairy, sugar, corn, eggs and caffeine. An excessive
amount of any of these foods in a diet will cause different symptoms.
Children with chronic ear infections usually need to remove one or more
of the above foods from their diet. The same would be true of adults
with irritable bowel disease.
- Be aware of food combining principles.
This is important if you tend to have a lot of bloating or gas after
eating. According to food combining principles, it is better to eat
certain combinations of food at the same time. Look at the figure below.
The rule is: Where there is a line you can combine.