Diets are so confusing!
There are hundreds of diets, each using pseudo-science to justify the sale of the thousands of books and articles supporting the diet industry. But which one is the correct diet for YOU? Here’s how to decide…at least, here is ONE WAY to help you decide…
What is your dietary objective?
If it is to lose weight, you must also decide over what time frame you desire to maintain your weight loss. The reality is that almost every diet will help you to lose weight in the short-term. That short-term can range from a few weeks to one or two years. A crucial element of your weight loss program is to pick your time horizon.
If you expect or desire to lose weight and to keep it off for many years, even the rest of your life, then your diet has to be one that can fit into your lifestyle with the least amount of effort. That may rule out keto-diets, fasting diets, high-complex carbohydrate diets, low-carbohydrate, (aka, high protein animal) diets, and on and on.
If your objective is to keep your arteries clear of harmful plaques and to protect yourself from heart attacks, rapid ageing, strokes, etc., you need to lean on diets with long-term proof of producing those results. By long-term, I do mean decades, not merely a few years, and not as few as 5 years that is the horizon used for “long term” in medical statistics.
Can you sustain the lifestyle demanded by that diet?
It is not easy to adopt any diet that requires conscious thought about selecting your meals. Meats are always tasty and relatively easy to prepare. Meats, even the leanest cut of meat, is very high in fats. Fats taste great when cooked. So, it’s a shoe-in to favour high-protein, high-fat diets.
Ever since the mid-1800s there have been all manner of diets and studies pushing the use of high-protein diets. And the results, in terms of chronic diseases on nations, have been atrocious. But maybe after almost two CENTURIES those diets that are nothing more than remakes of the mid-1800 high-protein diets may someday be made to work by tweaking this or that variable within their protocols? For example, blame is now being placed on high sugar diets, or stated more precisely, diets that have a component that is high in SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES, such as sugar and fructose. The argument goes, “This or that diet would work if not for sugar…”
There is almost no question that sugar is a great evil waged upon society. It has many health issues related to its consumption. So, regardless of your diet, cut back or eliminate all forms of sugar, added sugar, fructose, cane sugar, or sweeteners from juices, etc. [But it may not be a good idea to shy away from eating the whole fruit itself.]
Do you get enough energy from the diet of choice?
One of the nonsense arguments advanced for high-protein diets is, “If we need protein, and if some protein is good for you, then lots of protein is better.” Nope! Too much protein is linked to many forms of chronic diseases. Moderation may be your wisest choice, even if on a pure protein diet. Almost any diet will provide enough energy in the short-term. But to sustain the diet for a lifetime, you need to feel that it meets all of your energy needs over the months and years.
What about nutrients?
Knowing that many of the vitamin supplements may contain harmful products, or even fail to deliver the promise on its label of contents, one needs to eat a balanced mixture of foods to help meet the body’s nutrition requirements.
A high-fat, or high-protein diet, possibly even some all-vegan diets, may not deliver all the nutrients you require. So, you may need to supplement with vitamins. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to know which vitamins are superior unless you can find an auditing body such as Consumer Reports Magazine or an independent, ethical testing lab with no conflicts of interest. Know before you swallow that some supplements may contain “stuff” not stated on the label or may fail to deliver the full dosage as claimed on the label. Without laws stating the need for high-quality conformance to labels, the vitamin industry can expose you to unwanted additives or cheat you of your money by failing to deliver what it states on the label.
What of INFLAMMATION that I am now hearing so much about?
One of the emerging fads is to focus on a low-inflammation diet. The theory is that foods can be a source of inflammation affecting the arteries or your overall health. Certainly some disease states are related to inflammation and worsened by some foods. For that reason if you suspect you are suffering from mild or severe inflammatory responses to foods, you’d better go visit your doctor for a diagnoses and a treatment plan.
But what of, what I will call, “quiet” or “slow-moving” inflammation? The kind that today’s theories state is taking place inside our arteries? Well, some researchers claim it is because of foods eaten over a lifetime; others, a possible list of artery-irritations that can be as long as 15 or 16 different “triggers”. Some of those irritants may include some foods, internal infections, heavy metals, fluoride in drinking water, agricultural pesticides consumed, and so on. Though I have no proof of this, I would add the possibility of the poorly-tested-on-human-health-and-longevity mutation of foods using GMOs.
Animal products help us to avoid pesticides and GMO plant foods. Or does it? Nope!
By the way, if you are using the notion that vegetables and fruits are high in pesticides as your reason for avoiding whole-plant-based foods, you need to understand more about bio-assimilation. The meats you eat come from animals that LIKELY consume very large amounts of pesticide-treated vegetables and grains, GMO products, which they digest to incorporate into their DNA and RNA and often sock away to store in their fat cells. And, remember, ANY meat is very high in fats. Some soruces suggest the leanest cuts of meats are still approximately 30% fat. So, by eating animal products, you eat a concentrated form of whatever they eat and turn into their meat and into their fats. In other words, we can’t use the argument that we are avoiding GMO or pesticides by eating animal products…unless you have some guarantee that those animals have been fed pesticide-free, GMO-free foods…in which case you’ll need to have a very high-income job to pay for a lifetime of the premium charged for such animal foods.
Are you “Nutrient-Wise”? Can you stomach the vitamin regime required to supplement nutrients you are not getting in the diet?
A limiting factor for some people may be the amount and frequency of pills and mixtures required to meet one’s daily needs for a cross-section of nutrients to compensate for what is not in the foods on that particular diet. Some people just can’t tolerate taking handfuls of pills or drinking unsightly mixtures. Certainly, high-fat or high-protein diets won’t provide the balance of nutrients you require. So, either you must chow down on handfuls of pills or vitamin cocktails, or you need to vary your intake of foods to cut across a broad spectrum of nutrients. In other words, know what’s in the food and, especially, know what’s NOT in the food. Be nutrient-wise, and ensure your body is getting sufficient nutrients to remain healthy over a lifetime on your specific diet.
How do you feel?
This is probably a great indicator to keep in mind. Since no two bodies react the same way to almost anything in medical science, expect that you may FEEL differently than your friend who is recommending this or that diet. Some people can handle a high-protein diet lifestyle with no apparent ill effects, IN THE SHORT-TERM. But there is a lot of information out there that makes one wonder if the long-term effects can be disastrous.
Even short-term consequences may quickly manifest themselves. One common problem with diets avoiding complex carbohydrates, (veggies and fruits), is constipation. If you are constipated, your diet may not be the right one for you in the long term. Watching TV commercials, one can’t but wonder at how many people are literally suffering when on the toilet. Low-carbohydrate diets are great for the book industry while you struggle on the toilet, but maybe not so good for your health. Think: hernia or hemorrhoids from pushing so hard when trying to have a bowel movement to overcome constipation. Also, another warning: if you must take laxatives, or even “mild stimulants”, to have a bowel movement, you are likely on the wrong diet for your body type or have a medical problem. Either way, check with your doctor. A lifetime of having to compensate for your diet choice by living on laxatives or mild stimulants for stool softeners may not be your wisest diet choice.
Another long-term consequence of avoiding the nutrients in vegetables and fruits, (complex carbohydrates), may be increasing blood pressure and increased risk of diabetes. But, your body may react differently and may be able to tolerate a diet that, for other people, may cause these problems. Buy a blood pressure cuff, [often available for less than $100], and rather than monitor your EXACT blood pressure, use it to determine if your blood pressure is INCREASING over time…months or years. Veggie-fruit, (COMPLEX carbohydrate), diets often provide many of the nutrients that help control long-term blood pressure. If those nutrients are not in sufficient quantity from your diet, you may need to supplement with vitamins or medications. [Avoid treating and diagnosing yourself. If you suspect your blood pressure is rising or is an issue, run to your family doctor for professional advice.]
The BEST DIET IN THE WORLD?
For your body type, that is for you, specifically, you may have to test-drive a few diets. But do remember, that for almost 200 years, the food industry has tried every way possible to sell you on the notion of eating more animal products and more sweeteners, including artificial sweeteners. Maybe there is no association, maybe there is, but chronic disease is running rampant, from strokes, heart attacks at earlier ages, to a long-list of other chronic diseases. Through all that noise, the diet that seems to be working the best, overall, across large swathes of populations, is vegan, or as close to vegan as you can tolerate, unless you have some medical condition that precludes such a diet.
Let me quote from a recent DR. MCDOUGALL NEWSLETTER:
“Green and yellow vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, peapods, green peppers, and lettuce, are too low in calories to provide satisfaction. The primary purpose of eating is to obtain life-giving energy. This is accomplished safely only by whole plant foods plentiful in carbohydrates. These special plant foods are known as starches. Because of their natural satisfying properties people refer to potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, and corn as “comfort foods.” In addition to “clean and efficient energy,” starches provide an abundance of other nutrients, such as proteins, essential fats, vitamins, and minerals. Single starches, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, are “complete foods” and can easily meet all of our nutritional needs.”See End Note 1
[WARNING: be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, exercise, medications, or even your supplements. The above is for information and interest purposes only and is NOT a recommendation. Always: check with your doctor qualified to diagnose and prescribe treatment protocols.]
- Dr. McDougall, by the way, is one of the doctors helping to stop and even reverse chronic diseases such a artery problems, strokes, heat attacks, and many other chronic diseases. These types of doctors all favour vegan and near-vegan diets for a lifetime…indicating it is never too late to start soon.