January 06, 2014
I know it’s hard to make sense of the ever-changing trends in nutrition. But one law of nutrition that always holds true is this: Extremism is rarely the way to go.
This mindset will save you a lot of headache and provide a clear path to a sensible course of action for your nutrition choices. Keeping this in mind will help you to avoid extremism in your diet.
Examples of extremism in our/other people’s everyday language include:
Carbs: Language that suggests that they are universally terrible OR universally wonderful.
Fats: Stating exclusively that they are universally terrible OR universally wonderful.
Omnivorism/ Veganism: Any statement indicating that these lifestyles are universally terrible OR universally wonderful.
Cleanses/Detox programs: Statements promoting these diets are the be all end all of healthy eating/weight loss regimes.
So let’s take a closer look at these more complicated and multi-dimensional lifestyle choices.
Carbs are neither terrible nor wonderful as a nutrition group. With books like “Wheat Belly,” and “Grain Brain,” and the many variations of the “Paleo Diet,” many people are selling the idea that grains are the cause of all of our ills and if you just eliminate this one food group, all your problems will be solved.
Modern breads are processed to death and often made of bleached, nutrition-less flour. Ancient breads were made of germinated, sprouted seeds, and are very healthy and nutritious (in fact, you can get sprouted grain bread in your local grocery store today). The mantra repeated over and over is that we have “only” been eating grains for 10,000 years and so our bodies haven’t had time to adapt. This is nonsensical to me. If our bodies were not well-adapted and tolerant of properly prepared grains, we would have stopped eating them long ago. Humans have successfully been consuming carbs for almost 10,000 years – why the sudden spike in obesity, celiac disease, and other problems related to “grains?” The answer is because our modern processing alters the grain in such a way as to make it unhealthy.
Diet books based on concepts like the “Paleo Diet” miss the mark despite a good effort. The idea is sound. The problem is that we don’t really know enough about the specifics of what our ancestors ate to make highly specific recommendations on what we should/shouldn’t eat. In going all the way back to the prehistoric era, the idea is taken much too far to be practical. What these authors are doing is taking little bits of evidence and developing entire dietary programs – this is problematic and one dimensional.
Any narrow approach to nutrition which is based on loosely gathered information will be flawed and therefore should be taken with a grain of salt.
Both of these diets are right -- for some people. Anybody who tells you being a vegan or eating meat is the only option for your diet is wrong.
We are not all the same. Our “ancestral geography” determines which approach will work better for us. Some of us come from a long line of people best served by vegetarianism and others prefer omnivorism. Some people find great health and vitality in a vegan approach – and it is the right one for them. Others find the same health and vitality in omnivorism. And others prefer a diet somewhere in between the two.
Another common nutrition mistake is any diet which declares animal products or fats universally healthy or unhealthy. As with carbs, quality matters. If you consume an animal product from sick, mistreated animals living in overcrowded conditions and riddled with disease (or chock full of antibiotics), then you will be absorbing that poor health into your body. On the other hand, if you consume animal products from animals that have been treated respectfully and allowed to live out their lives in as close to a natural environment as possible and fed the right foods, that animal’s health and vitality will be absorbed into you.
In my opinion, there’s no greater waste of money or effort than this one.
Your body cleanses itself just fine if you are treating it properly. If you are eating the right foods (see above), getting proper rest and exercise, and respecting what your body tells you it needs, then avoid these silly programs. Unless you are recovering from an extended period of pharmaceutical use or alcohol use, there’s no need to use special products or use austere starvation programs to cleanse or detox. The bottom line: If you don’t put toxins in, there’s no need for specialized rituals to help your poor, fragile body recover.
These programs are always sold by or recommended by people who either are profiting from them or are emotionally invested in them as wise choices.
Remember: Extremism is what you need to avoid. Not carbs. Not fats. Not food after 6 PM. Not food itself for three days while sipping lemon tea with cayenne pepper plus whatever trendy ingredient of the moment is.
When it comes to food, respect your body, your biology, and your world by seeking quality above all else. A high quality carb cannot be compared to a low quality carb.
Happy, healthy eating habits this year!