Do you feel confused by all the latest dietary trends? Although there seem to be hundreds of ways we are advised to eat, most diets can be grouped into three categories based on their similarities:
PALEO refers to a diet made up of foods presumed to make up the diet of early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food. Similar diets are Atkins, Wahl’s, Grain-Brain, and Dr. Gundry’s Matrix Diet. Usually, those following this plan keep carbohydrate intake very low (thus the most gluten-free) and allow unlimited animal protein, green vegetables and fat intake.
Authors such as Loren Cordain, Gary Taubes, Bill Davis, Steven Gundry and Robert Atkins review the evidence for following this diet with claims of reducing heart disease and other disorders caused by inflammation.
MEDITERRANEAN diets emphasize whole foods, plenty of fish, healthy fats, and a variety of vegetables and fruits. Grains and red meat are moderately used. Diets that align with this category include South Beach, Zone, DASH, and have been written about by authors such as Barry Sears, Wayne Andersen, Mark Hyman, and Arthur Agatston. The claim to fame for this category is that they tend to correlate with less heart disease and can be effective in controlling blood sugar.
VEGAN & VEGETARIAN diets avoid animal products or selectively limit them. Fat intake is kept to extremely low quantities. These diets tend to be more defined by what one does not eat (animals) than what one should eat. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are the key foods in this diet. The leaders of this perspective such as Dean Ornish, Nathan Pritikin and T. Colin Campbell describe reduction of cancer and heart disease as positive outcomes.
So with all of these claims sounding similar, how can we find options that are best for us? There are some pillars on which all of these researchers agree, and these should be the basis for choosing your dietary plan:
• Eat lots of plants. Make colorful vegetables the mainstay of your diet. Phytonutrients present in whole vegetables and fruits provide fuel for our mitochondria to build energy.
• Avoid processed foods which expose us to toxins and unhealthy fats and added sugars. Almost any processed food containing oils will be high in an unhealthy form of omega-6 fatty acids, which increase bodily inflammation and oxidative stress.
• Maintain steady blood sugar levels, as rapid spikes and blood sugar crashes seem to be a key culprit in causing disease. Eat a low-glycemic diet regardless of the type of plan you choose.
• Portion control. Repeated studies connect smaller amounts of food consumption with longer life. Our calorie intake has gone up 425 calories a day since 1970. During that timeframe obesity and lifestyle-based disease have become epidemic.
• Awareness and Appreciation. Noticing the beauty and joy of our food requires that we let our minds pause while eating. Eating slowly gives our body time to send signals to our brain indicating we are full. Feel appreciation for those who grew our food, the earth for its bounty, and our own value in receiving our food.
Wisdom and cheers to you this summer as you make your next choices for health!