The greatest issue I have found when it comes to eating right and finding the truth about health is the vast array of conflicting information that is out there. I mean seriously, we as a society have as many ideas on health as there are stars in the universe. Whilst this makes for a great deal of interesting reading, it is also frustrating and confusing for people trying to perfect a healthy diet. Do you become a vegetarian? Should you eat lots of meat? What is truly best for your body? I have pondered over this matter for far too long and to be honest I still don’t have a simple answer for you. The way I see things there are three major nutrition approaches; the vegan/vegetarian, the paleo (hunter/gatherer) and the traditional food pyramid. Let me take a moment to explore each of these philosophies in a bit more depth…
Food Pyramid Philosophy: for the last 50 years or so the food pyramid has been on the forefront of government health propaganda, setting the standard for diets all over the Western world. Unfortunately, this seemingly simple idea was fatally flawed and only now are people slowing starting to realise the mistake that has been made. The problem is that whilst this supposedly healthier diet consisting of carbohydrates for the majority of your energy needs was supposed to promote good health, rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer have sky rocketed to mammoth proportions. Of course there are other factors that contribute to this rise in disease, but it is certainly interesting to look at the ever increasing graphs and see the correlation between this and the introduction of the food pyramid. After much reading and research I personally believe that the food pyramid is an outdated tool that shouldn’t be the basis of nutrition and diet for any person. Right so that’s one out of the way… moving on.
Vegetarian/Vegan Philosophy: from the Gerson Therapy, to raw foodists, vegans, vegetarians and everyone in between there are many new age health enthusiasts who swear by a diet consisting of no meat or animals fats, little to no animal products and plenty of vegetables, fruits, super foods, whole grains and organics. The claim is that the high nutrient content of plants and vegetables is essential for health balance and for allowing your body to heal on it’s own, whilst animal fats and proteins are difficult to digest and inhumane. There have certainly been plenty of stories of incredible weight loss and health transformations as a result of such a diet. However, concerns with this kind philosophy include a lack of protein, animal fats and general fats to which most dedicated vegos would reply eggs, nuts, legumes, fish (if they so choose to eat it), spirulina and other algae, coconut oil/butter and super foods. It is certainly true that nutrients found in fruit and vegetables are essential to a healthy body, but does the lack of animal products have a harmful affect on our body?
The Paleo Philosophy: based on genetics and evolution the paleo diet is essentially the primal or hunter/gatherer diet. This kind of diet consists of lots of grass fed and wild animal meats and fats, no grains, nuts and legumes, fruit and vegetables. The belief is that as we have evolved from the cave man who spent his days hunting game and collecting berries our bodies are designed to run on such a diet. The big no-no is grains, as agriculture has only existed for around 10,000 years and our bodies simply cannot digest grains and in fact grains cause harm to your body as they inflame organs. Also touted by this philosophy is the fact that animal fats are essential for the absorption of nutrients from the plants we eat and also vital for correct brain functioning. Just read a few pages of Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas and you will be amazed at the facts to back up a diet high in animal fat and cholesterol. While to most people this seems insane, the correct fats and cholesterols will result in a completely disease free body. Just consider the fact that our ancestors died not from heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer, but from old age, infant mortality, wild animal attacks and abnormal environmental conditions. But is it really good to eat that much meat?
My Diet Philosophy: having read lots on both sides of the debate, paleo vs. vego, I am still undecided on which is actually best. Both have stories, facts and examples of why their way is the best, but yet I cannot simply choose one complete lifestyle and ignore the evidence for the opposition. My current philosophy is based around balance. I do believe that I am best to live a life free of gluten and sugar, as well as avoiding to the best of my ability additives, chemicals, sprays and other unnatural crap. I eat as many vegetables as possible, plenty of animal protein and fats, nuts, legumes, seeds, natural dairy (because I tolerate it, but in moderation), healthy fats and healthy grains (i.e. quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat). I drink water and exercise regularly.
So yes, there is a lot of conflicting information out there, but honestly I think most people would be a LOT healthier if they simply cut the junk food, excess sugar and refined white grains out of their diet.
What health philosophy do you believe? What makes you feel best?