The start of 2018 has come with a lot of new year’s resolutions and my wish is that for many people it is to consume healthy food to reach some or other health related goal. When searching the internet, one gets confused by all the claims of different diets claiming to be the only, the ultimate and a sure path to lasting health and longevity.
To put all these claims in perspective, we have decided to give a reference from which you could evaluate popular diets.
It is of great importance that all healthy diets should include:
o All other colors of the rainbow:
o Healthy fats and
o Fermented food (contains probiotics)
o Bone broths, gelatin and gummies
Take note that:
· All fruits and vegetables must be organic, free of pesticides and fertilizers with harmful chemicals
· Meats should be from animals raised on farms with healthy conditions so that there is no need for excess use of antibiotics and hormones. These include wild caught fish, grass fed beef, lamb, free-range chicken etc. This is also important when food comes from these animals e.g. butter, eggs, milk etc.
· It is better to consume oils made from olives or nuts and coconut oil. If seed oils are consumed (not recommended), it has to be cold pressed and stored in a dark container at room temperature to prevent damage to the structure and your health.
When adopting a diet for a specific cause it is very important to remember that it is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and that most special diets are not sustainable for a long period of time. It should be used as a tool for a limited time, always going back to the balanced diet. This mistake is often made when popular diets are followed long after the initial good results have faded. The misconception then arises that the diets were flawed whereas the truth is, that it should in the first place only have been used as a tool.
The following diets are examples of diets which could be used as tools to obtain certain goals:
1. Low Carbohydrate/Ketogenic diets
By definition, this diet is a diet low in carbohydrates. This means less than 50g of carbs per day, and some people even consume is little as 25g. Even if people consume high amounts of fat on this diet, it will not be ketogenic unless you minimize your carb intake to very low levels. Being ‘ketogenic’ refers to the body switching from using sugars as the primary fuel source to a derivative of fat metabolism called ketones. This switch can not occur in the presence of carbs.
· This diet is very effective for the treatment of obesity and some athletes also find an increase in aerobic capacity when on this diet. Research is on the way to find exactly how effective it is for the treatment of cancer and other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
· The biggest problem of this diet occurs when you consume high amounts of fat with too much sugar. The switch to ketogenesis (when you start using ketones for fuel instead of sugar) does not occur and it leads to obesity and other metabolic disorders as well as vascular disease.
· This diet is also not recommended for people with gall bladder problems. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should seek the help of health care professionals before making the decision to go on this diet.
2. Plant based diets.
This diet, as its name implies, is a diet where the majority up to 100% of your food intake is plant based. It is very popular amongst people who do not want to consume animals or any animal products because of certain beliefs that they have.
· Around the world, more and more health clinics base their treatment for autoimmune diseases on plant based diets of some degree. The reason being that plants such as vegetables, fruit, spices and herbs have lots of healing qualities. It is because of their ability to detoxify the body and support the liver in this process.
· The challenge of this diet is to absorb all the essential amino acids and fats to build up the body, produce enzymes, hormones and other life sustaining compounds. For this reason, it should not be followed for too long without supplements or other measurements to anticipate for these shortcomings.
· This is not a diet for people who are emaciated or have protein deficiencies.
3. Low fat diets.
These diets are low in fat, not surprisingly. You can consume all meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables and even a wide variety of condiments, as long as it is low in fat
· This diet works well in people with too much body fat, especially when it is combined with a high fibre diet.
· In recent years however, more and more health benefits were discovered form fats. Some fats, such as the essential fatty acids, (omega 3’s, 6’s and 9’s). They are essential for their anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertension and many other healing properties. The medium and short chain fatty acids promote ketogenesis as described above while the essence of saturated fats is being discovered now for ensuring the stability of cell membranes. Therefore, this diet is not recommended for a long period of time.
4. Paleolithic or Stone Age diet.
This is a diet, recommending the consumption of meals low in carbs, with moderate amounts of protein and lots of fruits and vegetables. The only seasoning they recommend is sea salt.
· If all the food from the list above is consumed in healthy amounts and ratio’s, this will be a diet which support health and healing. Many people also claim that it helped them to shed stubborn body fat.
· There are many spices (such as turmeric, ginger and many others) as well as herbs (cilantro, rosemary etc.) apart from sea salt that supports health and it will be lost if only sea salt is used to make food more palatable.
5. The Dukan Diet.
This diet is promoted as “The Real Reason the French Stay Thin”. It is a high protein diet with considerable periods of time that only protein is consumed. Other times vegetables and limited portions of fruit is allowed.
· This was a very popular diet and especially meat lovers found it very easy to follow. Many people lost lots of weight and found real health benefits.
· The one problem is that food high in protein is very acidic and therefore a trigger for diseases like cancer, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases if consumed over a long period of time. Added to this problem is the fact that foods like fruits and vegetables, which could offset the acidity are restricted. This diet should not be followed for too long before taking a break to consume more fruits and especially vegetables.
· This diet should not be considered if you have an under active stomach. This is because protein is difficult to digest and if the initial break down in the stomach is hindered, complete break down of protein to amino acids do not happen and leads to other health problems.
· Because the kidneys are responsible for the excretion of urea, a byproduct of protein, people with existing kidney problems should not follow this diet. It will put extra strain on the kidneys.