If you know very little about me, you probably still know that I’m all about health and wellness. That being said, one might think that I love how inundated our society has become with “health” news, diets, and recipes. But the truth is, I’m not entirely thrilled with all of this health chit-chat. Why not, you ask?
Food trends have been around for ages, and albeit, it is nice to see some of these trends take a healthier spin, they are still mere trends that will fade, I’m quite sure. Often the problem is that one-size-diets really DON’T fit all. What I eat to feel at my best is not likely what you should be eating to feel your best. Fresh, real, natural foods ought to be consumed most often, but which foods specifically vary from person to person. Some people really would be better without dairy while others achieve long-awaited improved gut health by the addition of healthy dairy into their diet. Some should steer clear of most grains as it may cause severe gastric upset and disease flare up while others are meant to be vegetarians with a healthy amount of whole grains and legumes. Some people have a very difficult time breaking down meat fibers for comfortable digestion while others truly do best when they consume high animal protein diets. Again, it’s VERY different from person to person. So when you follow just one trend, it’s not likely going to work for you and your body.
And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t try different types of food—I do! Paleo brownies are one of my favorite treats and vegan lentil loaf makes my mouth water. But don’t think that you have to stick to one diet because you read a blog that said it would make you feel your best. Correction—it made the author feel their best. You and the author of that blog are likely to be quite different in many respects. So let’s take a quick look at just a few food trends. I’ll share my personal opinion, and please feel free to leave a comment to share yours, too!
A paleo diet can be healthy and balanced, but I do think that many people misunderstand the purpose behind this “diet.” Some people may try it out as a means to lose weight, when truly, it’s not meant for that. Some people have a hard time digesting animal proteins (as aforementioned), and may find that they must start purchasing and taking (sometimes expensive) digestive enzymes just to help them feel less bloated after meals. A paleo diet is not low carb, either (a common misconception.) It’s really just about eating little to no grains, especially processed types and consuming more naturally raised animal products, nuts, seeds, and plants. So, in theory, this isn’t a bad idea. However, it can feel too restrictive for some people.
LOW CARB / KETO
Speaking of high fat…
I think that a low carb diet can be healthy… or, it can be extreme and even dangerous. There are many people who do not approach this type of “diet” correctly and often will suffer from nutritional deficiencies. It’s also very limiting, heavy, and can be quite unbalanced. “Low carb” is also different for each individual, so if you read an article that tells you exactly how many grams of carbs you should consume in a day, you can be sure that it ought to not be trusted. Does the author know your age, gender, activity level, health conditions, mental and psychological background, hormone levels…? All of those come in to play when considering how much carbohydrate you need in your diet. Low carb is a meaningless phrase, so really I feel that too many people misuse this type of diet and can and do cause harm to their body.
Vegetarian and vegan diets can be balanced, however, imbalanced vegan diets can lead to various deficiencies. It’s important to expand your horizons at all times, trying new and different foods and enjoying an array of flavors and textures. It’s not a difficult diet to follow, but it may be overwhelming to those who are used to consuming animal products (especially when you are out to eat.) So, if you’re delving into this arena, be sure to eat a well-rounded diet chock full of variety! Beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, tons of fruits and veggies, and whole grains are all musts in this type of diet.
What is gluten? It’s a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. If you have celiac disease, your immune system attacks the protein and in the process, wrecks havoc on your intestines. Eventually, if you continue to consume gluten, you may end up with some serious physical ailments, such as various nutritional deficiencies, amenorrhea, and even cancer. If you have gluten sensitivity, you’re not actually causing physical harm to your intestines, but you may be tormented by other symptoms, such as compromised gut health (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, etc.), joint pain (chronic inflammation), and even psychological illness. There are many people who do not think that gluten sensitivity is real. And yes, that is debatable. But if you remove gluten from your diet, and you feel remarkably better, then I would say…haters gonna hate. In other words, do what you know is best for your health, and forget the rest. Doctor David Perlmutter (author of Grain Brain) actually goes as far as to say that gluten is the tobacco of our generation. He also believes that grains, including those containing gluten, may cause/worsen Alzheimer’s disease.
Cooking some types of food, does lead to less nutrition. High temperatures can damage nutritional properties and weaken enzymes. Raw foodists consume 75-100% of their nutritional intake from foods prepared at temperatures less than 118F. If you’re a skeptic of the benefits of this type of diet, well just watch this video about a woman who has eaten a raw diet for years. It’s kind of incredible. I’m not saying that it’s for everyone, because, again, there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Some people struggle with various medial conditions, which make consuming and digesting raw fruits and vegetables very difficult. So obviously, there are many reasons why this diet might not work for you. Though, I would urge all of us (myself including) to eat more raw foods – nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, soaked grains rather than cooked ones.
NUTRISYSTEM / MEDIFAST / JENNY CRAIG…
Do I really need to even discuss these? I don’t like any diet that forces you to purchase their very specific, processed food-like products.
The premise behind Weight Watchers is basically about counting calories. You’re given a certain number of “points” (AKA calories) per day. Each food you eat is classified as having a certain number of “points” (calories), and you stop eating when you’ve consumed all of your “points” (calories) for the day. Does it work? For some, it may help to kick-start weight loss, the same as counting calories works. However, by now, you must know that I’m not a fan of counting calories. It’s unrealistic, time-consuming (and who has time these days to spend time calculating calorie intake!?), fruitless, and most often, it does NOT lead to improved health.
Below are a few simple tips for healthy eating. Follow these sorts of tips instead of random diet trends…
1. Eat real food – get ride of the processed foods in your diet. This may include many types of cereal, breads, crackers, granola and snack bars, some frozen foods, condiments, dressings, peanut butter, etc. There are good versions of these foods, but they may cost a bit more. So, if cost is an issue for you, simply eat natural foods that are much cheaper. For example, dried beans, lentils, rice, nuts and seeds (buy in bulk), oats, in season local produce, olive oil, frozen fruits and veggies with nothing added to them, vinegars, and plain water. You can eat healthy food for not much money, but if you choose to buy specific products to replace your old “processed” products, you will be paying more. Yes, an organic, natural almond butter will cost quadruple that crappy peanut butter you’ve been using. But the ingredients are likely to be 100 times better for you. So, put into prospective, it’s worth the cost. However, if that just isn’t an option, use nut spreads less often! Expand your breakfast horizon outside of toast with peanut butter. Have some fresh eggs with sautéed veggies, or try steel cut oats with frozen fruit and coconut milk. Better yet, make a big batch of whole grain homemade pancakes, and keep them in the freezer for a fast and delicious breakfast option.
2. Eat a lot more vegetables and limit your fruit intake to 2 servings per day (on average). Fruit is healthy, of course, but it still contains quite a bit of sugar (fructose), so limit how much you have per serving and per day. A good evening snack is frozen/thawed peaches topped with a few tablespoons of real organic cream or coconut milk with some chopped nuts. YUM!
3. Make more of your own kitchen creations! Don’t be afraid to explore new foods, new tastes, different cooking methods. Dehydrate your own fruit in the oven; get out that old crock-pot and toss in dried beans, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, chilies, frozen corn, and spices (vegetarian chili!); make old fashioned oats into hearty Sunday morning pancakes; sauté apples with cinnamon and coconut oil and serve over warm quinoa with almond milk. There are so many different foods to try—why not start now?
4. Work towards listening to your body. Eat when you are hungry, stop when are full, say no to food that you don’t truly want, indulge in small amounts, savor flavors, and tune in to your senses (taste, smell, sight, hunger, fullness). Work with your body instead of working against it. If you work with it, you will treat it right, mending it rather than harming it. And when you harm your body, you harm yourself. When you heal your body, you heal yourself.
5. MOVE. I’ll be honest, I get stuck in the same ole exercise routines, and yes, I hate those routines. I go to the gym (I won’t name names here, but I loathe my gym…), and I work out like a hamster on the treadmill, elliptical (which I still debate whether or not that’s even doing anything for my body’s health), stationary bike… and I watch mindless TV. I don’t even pay attention to my body! When I close my eyes and think about what my body wants, I realize that it want to hike up hills, dance around like crazy, and be in the open air. So try to listen to what makes your body fit and happy, and do that. I’ll work on it if you work on it ;)
If you have other healthy suggestions, share them in a comment. And as always, happy, healthy living :)