21 March 2013

How to Choose Your Diet

It is amazing how much our lives are centered around food. It is natural, of course, since consuming food not only fuels our bodies but also our emotions. (Hello, emotional eaters!)

But how do you chose your diet? Do you base your decision upon fashion, religion or phase in life?
how to chose your diet to best suit your needs

I don't blame people who eat junk food, I think there comes a moment in life when something clicks, your eyes open wide and you are able to see what used to be invisible before. This enlightenment happens to all of us and when we look back we cannot fathom how we were able to eat such unhealthy diet for so long and get away with it.

But not all get away with a bad diet. The influence of diet upon health has been proven and a lot of research shows the benefits of eating organic, raw, vegetarian and even vegan.

But there is also a great deal of contradicting research. With the advance of the Internet age the information becomes more and more. Now picture yourself in the middle of this vast ocean of information. How do you know where to look? How do you know what to believe? Here is the latest post by Elephant Journal disclosing worrying information about eating organic: Eating Organic May be Harmful.

I take pride in imposing a healthy diet on my family. We eat a lot salads, fruits, but we also eat meat, a few times a month, mostly chicken. We eat plenty of fish, grains and seeds. We love feta cheese and yogurt, the one with Lactobacillus bulgaricus that will ensure we live to 100. We don't drink soft fizzy drinks, and when it comes to sweets, we mostly eat dark chocolate, 70% cocoa. We have replaced sugar with Stevia and drink a lot of water.

Is this enough though? Should I chose a label and put it on my diet? Maybe tweak a bit? If you are asking yourself the same questions, follow along to a pro and con review of some of the most popular diets. 
vegetarian diet
Could you easily go without meat? The vegetarian diet might be for you.

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat – red meat, poultry, seafood and the flesh of any other animal; it may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter, such as animal-derived rennet and gelatin.

  • Vegetarians are 50% less likely to develop heart disease, and they have a 40 percent lower cancer rate of meat-eaters.
  • Meat-eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than vegans (who don't eat any animal products) are.
  • Vegetarians have stronger immune systems than meat-eaters.
  • Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.
  • According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, a vegetarian diet is far from ideal, mostly because it lacks animal fats, which some experts say are necessary for human health.
  • 2 in 3 vegetarians are vitamin B12 deficient compared to 1 in 20 meat eaters according to a peer-reviewed July 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  • According to Weston A. Price Foundation Vegetarianism that includes eggs and raw (unpasteurized) dairy products, organic vegetables and fruits, properly prepared whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and excludes unfermented soy products and processed foods, can be a healthy option for some people. However, some people have difficulty assimilating vitamins, minerals, protein, and other factors from plant foods. These individuals may need a higher proportion of nutrients from animal foods to achieve optimum health.
  • Vegetarians may tend to eat too many grains as they shy away from meat. Eating too much grain, especially if it is processed white flour, can lead to weight gain. Eating sweets instead of protein increases your sugar intake which is even worse.
how to chose your diet
Vegan shashlik
Don't care much about meat and animal products? How about becoming a vegan?
Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals.

  • May help lower cholesterol: According to a study in Diabetes Voice in 2007 people with Type 2 diabetes who adopted a vegan diet reduced their LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol by 21 percent — significantly more than the 9 percent drop seen by another group on the American Diabetes Association diet.
  • May help lower blood pressure: According to a 2009 position paper of the American Dietetic Association, vegetarian eating is linked with decreased risk of death from ischemic heart disease. The report also concluded that people who eat a vegetarian diet tend to have lower LDL levels and less incidence of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes in comparison to non-vegetarian
  • Increases antioxidant intake: Vegan eating usually increases intake of wholesome foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes and whole grains, which is a great opportunity to get plentiful antioxidants, dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals.
  • Potential interference with existing medical conditions: If you have a condition such as osteoporosis or diabetes, it is critical to consult with your physician and a registered dietitian when starting and implementing a vegan eating plan, as a vegan diet may interfere with your condition.
  •  Loss of essential vitamins and minerals: There is evidence to show vegan diets do not contain vitamin B12, an essential nutrient. "Vegans can get vitamin B12 from fortified foods (some brands of soy milk, fake meats, breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast) and from supplements. Vegan diets may be low in calcium and vitamin D although there are vegan sources of these nutrients," says Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, nutrition advisor for The Vegetarian Resource Group (vrg.org).
how to choose your diet
Raw food
Do you think you could live on uncooked vegetables and stay away from meat, animal products and baked products? Consider embracing the raw food diet.
Raw foodism (or rawism) is a diet consisting of uncooked, unprocessed, and often organic foods or wild foods. Depending on the type of lifestyle and results desired, raw food diets may include a selection of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds (including sprouted whole grains such as gaba rice), eggs, fish (such as sashimi), meat (such as carpaccio), and non-pasteurized/non-homogenized dairy products (such as raw milk, raw milk cheese, and raw milk yogurt).

  • Increases the level of energy and body health.
  • Beneficial to the skin.
  • Positively improves your digestion and helps you lose weight.
  • Decreases the chances of developing heart and cardiovascular diseases.

  • I will start by opposing one of the pros above. According to a German study that gathered data on subjects whose diets consisted of at least 70 percent raw foods -- primarily fruits and vegetables, the raw food diet had a positive effect on levels of "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides, but it appeared to raise levels of homocysteine -- a type of amino acid believed to increase your risk of heart disease -- and lower levels of the "good" cholesterol that protects the heart. 
  • According to a number of studies, the raw food diet increases death rates from heart disease compared to a vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs.
  • Read this mind boggling article by a well-known raw food author, admitting that due to health problems she couldn't continue with her vegan/raw-food lifestyle. Kristen's confession answered a lot of questions I have been asking myself.
What if you like seafood? You might add a twist to vegetarianism by becoming a pescetarian. 
Pescetarianism is the practice of a diet that includes seafood but not the flesh of other animals. A pescetarian diet shares many of its components with a vegetarian diet and includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, eggs, and dairy, but unlike a vegetarian diet also includes fish and shellfish. The Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the origin of the term "pescetarian" to 1993 and defines it to mean: "one whose diet includes fish but no other meat".

  • Pescetarians consume enough Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, which ensures them a healthy heart. If you have a desire to be vegetarian but are concerned about getting adequate amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, you might want to try flaxseed oil. It can be added to many recipes during food preparation, and it's virtually undetectable in smoothies. You can take a flaxseed oil supplement as well.
  • Seafood is a good source of iron. Because of this, pescetarians are at a much lower risk of having iron deficiency, which is common amongst vegans and vegetarians. 

  • Depending on the quantity and type of fish you eat as a pescetarian, excess mercury consumption might be a concern. To minimize your exposure to mercury, limit your consumption of larger fish. This is particularly important if you're pregnant. If you're pregnant, ask your obstetrician what types of fish and how much fish you can safely consume. Reduce your exposure to mercury by buying wild fish rather than farm-raised whenever possible. The only downside is cost; wild fish is typically more expensive. Change the variety of fish you eat so you don't consume an abundance of any one particular fish. What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish.
  • The pescetarian diet severely limits your protein sources.
how to choose your diet
Pork chops
Are you allergic to milk but love meat? Would you feel fine if you left refined sugar and salt behind? Consider the paleolithic diet.
The paleolithic diet, also known as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era, which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets. Centered on commonly available modern foods, the "contemporary" Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

  • The Paleo diet is one of few diets to manage to offer a sufficient amount of potassium, which decreases bone loss, and reduces the risk of developing kidney stones.
  • Eliminates reliance on white refined carbohydrates. 
  • By embracing the Paleo diet you will certainly eat lots of vegetables.
  • No more processed snack foods, which are high in calories and low in nutrients.

  • Calcium is essential not only to build and maintain bones but to make blood vessels and muscles function properly. Because you’re not allowed dairy or fortified cereals, you’ll likely only get about half of the recommended daily amount from a Paleo menu.
  • Beans and whole grains, which are not allowed in the Paleo diet, are an important source of nutrients and fiber, plus an eco-friendly source of protein.
  • Refraining from legumes and whole grains has been shown to increase the risk of disease and heighten insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, not to mention increase BMI.
  • The Paleo diet is too hard to maintain over a long period of time, which leads to yo-yo dieting and can mean poorer health.
how to choose your diet
Gluten-free Caprese
Do you have celiac disease? This is the only reason to go on a gluten-free diet.
The gluten-free diet excludes foods containing gluten -- the protein complex found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Corn and rice also contain gluten, but are considered gluten-free, as the gluten in these species do not cause celiac disease. A gluten-free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease, the related condition dermatitis herpetiformis, and wheat allergy, but not gluten allergy. Although the gluten-free diet has recently become a fad, there is no evidence to suggest that following a gluten-free diet has any significant benefits in the general population. On the contrary, there is some evidence to suggest that a gluten-free diet may adversely affect gut health in those without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

  • Some people have a condition “where gluten damages the little fingerlike vili in their small intestines, causing discomfort in their bowels. They may also have constipation, diarrhea or blood in their stool. The condition is diagnosed through blood test and biopsy. Depending on the results, the diagnosis will be either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. These patients must follow a gluten-free diet throughout their lives. If you suspect you have celiac disease and would like to be tested, it’s important to eat regularly and not follow a gluten-free diet, as this may skew results.
  • Because of the restriction of gluten, a greater emphasis is put on fruits and vegetables, which are often lacking in the typical American diets.

  • If you’re following a gluten-free diet with the intent of losing weight, you’re often eliminating entire categories of food — such as whole-grain breads — and as a result you run the risk of cutting out sources of necessary vitamins, particularly the B vitamins, niacin, folic acid, iron and zinc.
  • With a gluten-free diet you might chose less healthy foods. Often people substitute high-fat items for the gluten. A label may say the product is gluten-free, but it may be high in fat or sugar.

Feeling confused? Don't worry, you are not alone. There is so much conflicting information regarding healthy eating and proper nutrition. If you want to get some questions answered (or possibly get even more confused), I would like to encourage you to attend THE HEALTHY LIFE SUMMIT, March 24-30, 2013, it's free! You will learn about metabolism and stress, the war on milk, techniques for making real food, how to recover from autism with diet, and so much more. Here is a short preview of the wealth of information that awaits you on the summit.

But while the experts continue the battle over the best diet, you can rest assured that there is no right diet for everyone. You need to eat a diet that feels right for you, gives you energy, increases your health, and strong physics. Balance is the only answer.

Now is your turn, what are your eating habits and do you plan on changing them?



This post is part of Eat Healthier month on Kanelstrand. Read the rest of the posts here and join in the discussions, we'd love to know what you think!