Diagnosing Diets

There seems to be a never-ending supply of supposedly miraculous diets. We have low carb, high carb, low protein, high protein, chemical-free diets, grapefruit diets, the eat all you want by 5 o clock diet the chocolate-lovers diet, the CSIRO diet, the tea-lovers diet, the Atkins diet, the South Beach  diet ….. the list is almost endless.

It is no wonder that the majority of people are totally confused. Every week, the media  releases some sensational news about some aspect of diet.  Within a short time, such news is often relegated to the archived section of the news department, to be replaced by the latest you beaut release.

Diets to lose weight are obviously very popular. With over two-thirds of the adult population obese or overweight & an alarming number of children likewise affected  in almost all western countries, there is an insatiable demand for the latest miracle diet to come to the rescue. This obsession is worth billions of dollars.

Some diets rise, fall, are forgotten for years & then return like Lazarus many years later. I recall the Atkins diet in the early 1970s. Dr Atkins was a medical doctor who was overweight & had ostensibly tried everything to lose weight, all to no avail. He then went on a very high animal-protein, high fat , low fruit & vegetable diet out of desperation  & within weeks had taken off much weight. When his book was released it created great interest & controversy.

After being harshly criticized by the American Heart Association & the American Dietetic Association, the Atkins diet was consigned to the “what happened to that category”. Until the 1990s. Then, some actors & celebrities who desired to lose weight resurrected the high- protein diet & it went totally gang-busters. Until…. a mixture of heart problems & deaths in some of the diets adherents, the death of the founder, Dr Atkins after suffering from cardiac problems himself & then the bankruptcy of Atkins Nutritionals in about 2005. The Atkins diet has again hit its use-by date.

Some diets are funded by the food industry. The CSIRO Total Well-being Diet was financially backed by the Dairy Industry & the Meat & Livestock Association. Little wonder they recommended up to 4 red meat meals a week & daily consumption of dairy foods.  So blatant (& dangerous) were the CSIRO authors recommendations, Rosemary Stanton, Australias most well -known dietitian, wrote a public letter to the newspapers asking the then Prime Minister John Howard to pull the book from the library shelves!

Diets by definition are temporary, short-term changes of eating habits to achieve a certain end point: weight loss or weight gain, overcoming an illness,  gaining more energy, the list of reasone why people diet are many.

Man is the only animal on earth who diets! He is one of only three animals who suffer from being overweight. The other two are dogs & cats & these are the ones that humans feed. There are no overweight animals in the wild!

Man is the only animal on earth that has to be guided by a pyramid to determine what to eat! The trouble  with following the pyramid guidelines is that the pyramid makers (the government health authorities) have to appease the food industry at the same time as trying to advocate healthy eating habits. The power of the food industry cannot be underestimated when it comes to influencing official recommendations.  And the pyramid keeps changing.

The Australian Heart Associations Tick Program requires money to issue the tick, otherwise no tick. Meat pies, eggs & ice cream have all paid their fees & received the tick!

So what should we eat?

Michael Pollan in his excellent  book In Defence of Food states: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. This contains the essence of what we should be focussing on.

Our food should be whole, living, real food. Not processed, partitioned, fractionated & treated. Not refined beyond recognition. It should be coloured, but not with colourings. It should mostly grow in the ground, not walk on the ground. In the supermarket, avoid UFOs: unidentifiable food-like objects! These are foods that are engineered in a manufacturing plant & have long lists of difficult-to-pronounce ingredients. They have a long shelf life but dont provide your body with a long shelf life!

Focus on foods that have high nutrients per calorie. These provide liberal quantities of micro-nutrients “ vitamins, minerals, phyto (plant) chemicals, anti-oxidants. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, raw nuts & seeds, whole grains, brown rice are great foods. These give you more bang for your buck.

Most diets focus on macro- nutrients which are protein, carbohydrates & fats, while paying little attention to the density of micro-nutrients.

When you consume a diet which is high nutrient per calorie from predominantly plant-based foods, you satisfy your nutrient requirements & minimize food cravings & addictions. The nutrient receptors in your digestive tract & volume receptors in your stomach are satisfied & true hunger is appeased. The body then starts to regain its normal & ideal weight.

Remember: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

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