So what exactly are all these diets anyway?
Well, first lets replace that word “diet” with “way of eating”.
Here are the definitions of the word “diet” as described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed
b : habitual nourishment
c : the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
d : a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight <going on a diet>
Definition ‘a’ is what I wish to discuss. Whereas definition “d” is the one we most associate with the word diet…and notice the term “sparingly”, indicating a reduction in food quantity.
A person’s diet, or way of eating, should be one that provides nourishment…and this should be both physically and emotionally, sometimes denying yourself that special treat can do more harm than good in term of your mental wellbeing…
Which brings me to point number two, it should be enjoyable. The relationship that we have with our food has so much to do with the metabolism of our food. If we eat in a stressed out state we lose up to 70% of our digestive capability. That’s a lot.
As an example: if Person A sits down to eat a nice healthy salad, but does so reluctantly because what he or she really wants to be eating is a big fat steak, he or she may not absorb even half of the available nutrients from that meal. Digestion is shut down.
Whereas if Person B sits down to eat a burger (lets pretend its one of the healthier, gourmet ones that are popping up everywhere), and does so with appreciation and gratitude for the meal, enjoying every little bite, Person B is likely to receive more nutrition from his or her meal than Person A, even though there may have been more nutrients up for grabs in the healthier salad.
Your way of eating should also be sustainable. It should be a way of eating that you could continue for the rest of your life.
I would like to add that if you are in a position where you feel like you need to go on a “diet”, embrace it as lifestyle change. This will include an overhaul of not just what you are eating, but also a change in your attitude towards food and drink as well exercise.
You are where you are as a result of your past actions. Should you return to your old ways after a period you will also return to your old body. Cause and effect. This includes your physical, mental and emotional state.
As we are all unique individuals, no one way of eating is going to be everyone’s perfect fit. You need to learn what makes your own body feel best. Often taking bits from a few different styles.
To help you discover which may or may not suit you and your body, here is a breakdown of the various Ways of Eating that are trending today:
I’m going to kick it off with my favourite:
LOW CARB HIGH FAT (LCHF)
This is a favourite for me because it works for me. And the food is delicious! I might go ahead and make an assumption: If your eye was caught by the title of this blog I could wage a bet that you have likely struggled with some aspect of your weight at one point. I definitely have, most of my life in fact. I have come to believe through research, investigation, as well as trial and error, that I am what is known as “insulin resistant”. This in a nutshell means that my body just does not like carbohydrates. At all. I gain weight super quick, I get sugar comas, I feel like I have cotton wool in my head, my cravings shoot through the roof, I am never satisfied after eating, all I want to do is sleep, and I am cranky to boot!
Low carbohydrate: Less than 50g of net carbs are consumed per day, with 30g often being the magic number. Ideally most of these carbs will come from your vegetables.
High fat: around 70% of your daily calorie consumption should come from healthy fats. Which sounds a lot, but as fats are more calorie dense than your carbohydrates and protein the quantity of food eaten will actually be less (there are 9 calories per gram of fat, as opposed to 4g calories per gram for protein and carbs).
Moderate protein: Around 20% of your daily food intake.
What to eat:Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables growing above ground and natural fats (like butter).
What to avoid: Sugar in all its forms, starchy foods (such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes), beans, legumes and dried fruit, beer, cider and liqueurs, lollies, cakes and chocolate.
Here is a link to a super simple LCHF friendly homemade chocolate recipe: Raw Chocolate
For a complete breakdown of foods click here: Downloads (LCHF Real Food Lists)
Who it’s good for: Almost everyone, but especially those with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes or weight management issues.
I could keep talking about the wonders of LCHF for hours, but in the interest of this blog I’m going to keep it short and stop there.
The next hot trending way of eating:
THE PALEO DIET:
A little definition from our friends at Wikipedia:
“The paleolithic diet, also known as the paleo diet or caveman diet, is a diet based on the food humans’ ancient ancestors might likely have eaten, such as meat, nuts and berries, and excludes food to which they likely wouldn’t have had access, like dairy.”
The Paleo Diet is often associated with Chef Pete Evans as he is a huge advocate for this way of eating. I love and admire the work he is doing in challenging our current (and not working) food pyramid and dietary guidelines. Taking on the Heart Foundation “Tick” is among his efforts.
The Paleo Diet is actually quite similar to LCHF, but the macronutrient percentages are a bit different (macronutrients are your fats, proteins and carbohydrates). Research from Emory University suggest that Paleolithic people obtained about 35 percent of their calories from fats, 35 percent from carbohydrates, and 30 percent from protein. Typically more nuts and seeds are eaten.
Eat: Veggies, leafy greens, seeds, fruit, nuts, fish, shellfish, poultry, meat, eggs
Avoid: Processed foods, grains and pseudograins, dairy, soda, partially hydrogenated oils, legumes
Who it’s good for: Almost everybody. It can help with weight loss, energy, mental and athletic performance, and does wonders for those that often suffer from “hangriness”.
Again quite similar to the LCHF, both have the goal of achieving a metabolic state called ketosis. Not to be confused with ketoacidosis which is a life threatening condition affecting people with diabetes. The ketosis I am referring to is a normal metabolic process where the body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose, and in doing so produces ketone bodies. This is an extremely beneficial process and helps the body survive during times when no food is available. Once the body has become “fat adapted”, or has switched over to this process of burning fat for energy, many notice an increase in mental and physical performance.
I really enjoyed watching the documentary “Cereal Killers” (available online), it followed a professional footballer’s journey of following a high fat diet. He beat a few of his own personal bests as a result. And all his blood work markers improved. And his muscle mass went up. And his body fat down. Amazing.
Eat: Combine the lists from LCHF and Paleo
Avoid: Processed foods, sugar and starches, soft drinks, refined fats and oils, alcoholic sweet drinks, tropical fruit (high sugar)
Who it’s good for: Diabetics, those with insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, those looking to lose a few kilos, as well as the aforementioned hangry folk. People with high triglycerides or “fatty liver” may benefit from this way of eating too.
A ketogenic diet has also been shown to improve disease conditions such as epilepsy, autism, Alzheimers, cancer and others.
Dr Sue Shepherd is the brains and beauty behind this way of eating. FODMAP’s is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.
Say that ten times fast!
Sue has proven through scientific research that limiting the consumption of FODMAP’s (different ones for different people) is a very effective treatment for those suffering from symptoms of IBS.
Some people poorly absorb a certain selection of molecules (the FODMAP’s) in their small intestine and as a result the food continues on to the large intestine, where it provides plentiful food for the bacteria that call this part of the body home. This then results in fermentation which produces symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, nausea, as well as changes in bowel habits (could be constipation, diarrhea or a combination of both).
The FODMAP diet is not one that you stay on forever and ever, there are many highly nutritious foods that happen to contain a lot of FODMAP’s. You just need to figure out which ones may not be so suitable for you, or the quantity that your body can handle before developing symptoms. Remember, we’re all different.
It is broken down into two phases, basically restriction of FODMAP’s for the first 6-8 weeks, followed by slow reintroduction to identify any trigger foods.
What to eat: Foods low in FODMAP’s! Hehehe. The foods don’t fall into the usual vegetable, fruit, legume etc categories as different ones have different levels of FODMAPS and the list is a bit too detailed for this blog. Here is a complete list: FODMAPS
Avoid: Same goes for the avoid.
Who it’s good for: Definitely those with IBS, but also anyone suffering from almost any sort of gastro-intestinal upset. Such as bloating or abdominal distension, excessive wind or gas, poor bowel functioning such as constipation and/or diarrhea or a combination of both, and nausea to name a few.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Greece, ie those that border the Mediterranean Sea. But it was the way of eating they followed back in the 1960’s, unfortunately a lot of things have changed since then.
The Mediterranean diet is always associated with good health, including a healthier heart. Studies have shown that people following a Mediterranean style diet have a 30% lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
What to eat: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil
What to avoid: Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods.
Who it’s good for: Those at risk of cardio vascular disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimers and those who may have metabolic syndrome (weight issues again).
GLUTEN FREE DIET
There’s quite a bit of suspicion surrounding this one. However the suspicion almost always comes from those that do not have a problem with gluten, so they haven’t ever experienced the symptoms for themselves. For those of us that do have issues with gluten it is a very real, and often painful, problem.
Recently, while travelling around in Sri Lanka with a friend of mine (in a Tuk Tuk!) I had a sense that there wasn’t total belief I avoided gluten purely for health reasons.
Never any judgment, she’s an amazing friend and we love each other dearly, but it wasn’t until I sent her a picture of my huuugely bloated belly following a dinner of roti (Indian flat bread) that I felt she really understood.
There are people that are intolerant to gluten and then there are people that are full on allergic to gluten, they have gene mutations that can result in them developing Coeliac disease. I fall into the first category, and am sometimes okay with a little bit of gluten depending on the quantity and quality. Coeliac’s can’t have any. If they do they are left with lots of inflammation in the digestive system leading to a host of problems in both the short and long term including gastrointestinal and malabsorption issues.
What to eat: All the usual fruits and veg, dairy, etc are great. Gluten is a protein that is found in most grains, but the following grains and starches are fine: rice, tapioca, corn, potato, soy, arrowroot, lentils, amaranth, lupin, sorghum, quinoa and millet.
What to avoid: Wheat (all varieties, including spelt, durum, kumut and dinkel), barley, rye, oats, triticale, and derivatives of these products, e.g. malt.
Gluten often hides in these food products too: Beer, broth, cereals, biscuits, chocolate, licorice, flavoured coffees and teas, imitation seafoods, medications, pastas, processed foods, sausages, and deli meats.
Do be mindful of sneaky marketing strategies, just because something is labeled “gluten free” this does not make it a health food. I shake my head when I see those gluten free lollies, they never had gluten in the first place! Glass is also gluten free but we don’t go around eating glass as a health food do we?
So that is the low down on the diets, or ways of eating, that are circulating around at the moment.
If you’d like to know more or to find out what might be most appropriate for you and your body, you can do so here:
Which ever style you choose, just remember to embrace it, enjoy it, thrive in it! Here’s a little quote to leave you with:
“Every fad diet thinks it has discovered the root of all evil” Dr. Ochner.
Hehehe. Be happy and well my dear readers.
Lots of love,
Legal disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker.