Which diet is best? Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, WAPF, Low-Carb….?
Which diet is best? Wow. Is that a loaded question, or what? But let’s be honest… who hasn’t wondered this very question? Who hasn’t felt like they were drowning in a sea of research with so many conflicting answers. What diet is best!? No, really?
Of course, I should be clear from the beginning that when I use the word “diet” that I am not talking about Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, South Beach, or any other “diet to lose weight” type fads. We’re talking life-commitment diets, here. And while I can’t cover every diet out there, the most popular (and most contentious) include things like:
- Weston A. Price (WAPF)
- Raw Food
- Clean Eating….
You get the point. There are a lot of different approaches to food these days, and unfortunately there is also a LOT of bickering going on in the health world about which diet is best.
So which diet is best? What do I think?
Here’s the thing… I don’t know. At least, I don’t know what diet is best FOR YOU. Sure, I can give you some major tips on what to look for based on human physiology and historical research, but ultimately we are each so different. From our genetic makeup, to our environment, to our upbringing, to our tastes… there is no one diet that is perfect for everyone. With maybe one exception: The REAL FOOD diet.
The term “Real Food” is used pretty across the board in most of these popular diets. And with good reason: History has taught us that people have thrived on a variety diets. And anytime researchers “discover” another healthy culture, the headlines are full of what-to-eat and what-not-to-eat based on what we found from those living in China, Greece, or some small tribe living thousands of miles away during some specific period of time. Not only are these theories often incomplete, but they don’t take into account that we live in a very different time and culture… and that does make a difference.
Just to confuse you even more:
Want to disease proof your life? Maybe you should check out the China Study to learn why animal products will kill you. Just make sure not to check out this article that shows why Campbell’s numbers really aren’t that accurate, or this list of Vegans who have died prematurely of… yup, disease.
Want to lose weight? Feel better than you’ve ever felt? And show the world what real health is? Maybe you should go Paleo. Because, after all, it’s grains, not fat, that will kill you. Of course, there are plenty of people who have had their thyroids messed up and other “issues” from such a restrictive diet, and it may not be how our ancestors actually ate… so…. you know.
And don’t forget that cooked food will kill you, according to the raw foodies. The cooking process destroys the beneficial enzymes that allow our bodies to really digest and “take in” the nutrition found in food.
And… and… and…
How can everyone be right when all the “research” says that everyone else is wrong?
My diet of choice
I will always be grateful for the principles and research of Weston A. Price because it resonated with me and got me to finally let go of my processed food-like junk and embrace real food. I changed my diet substantially and lost weight, cleared my skin, and felt better.
But truth be told, I’m not a strict WAPFer either. Sure, I try to eat properly prepared grains and all things in moderation. And I sure love my butter, but after years of researching, feeling lost and confused, and scared to eat almost everything I finally let go of the labels.
I just try to eat real food. Period.
To be clear: I understand that for many people embracing a particular diet has saved your life, helped you lose unhealthy weight, or feel better. And I do think that these particular diets can serve us to get us on track. They provide clear “do’s” and “don’t” that help guide us in a world where garbage has been parading as real food for too long.
In that sense, I think “sticking to a diet” can be a good thing. And in reality, I think that all the various diets have many things going for them:
The Vegans are right: Plant foods are critical to good health. They provide important nutrients and are very detoxing. This is essential in a world that is so overrun with toxins.
The Paleo Peeps are right: Fat is good. Even saturated fat. And cholesterol. They are critical to life, no matter what “nutritionists” tell you.
The Raw Foodists are right: It is essential to have raw foods in our diet, as they do provide essential enzymes and nutrients that help us digest and absorb our food.
The Chefs are right: Cooking not only makes some food easier to digest, but it’s also a long held tradition that helps enliven our senses. It brings families together to the table, defines cultures, and delights.
The WAPFers are right: Cultured foods, good fats, and properly prepared foods provide essential elements to our living digestive systems.
The Anti-Dieters are right: Food should be enjoyed. Food is about celebration. Food shouldn’t be about guilt or denial. And indulging every now and then is a good thing.
So how should you approach your food?
1. Keep it real.
Did it exist a thousand years ago? Eat it. Did it come out of a package with several (or MANY) ingredients on it… many of which you can’t pronounce? Don’t eat it.
2. Listen to your body.
Once you’ve adjusted to real food, you can really begin to trust your body and its cravings. Feeling heavy and “weighed down”? Try something light and cooling like some greens or a carrot. Feeling light headed or “fuzzy”? Try eating something with some quality fat and protein.
3. Enjoy your food.
Despite the fact that we supposedly know more about food than any other period in time, we are still dealing with more illness and disease than ever before. On top of that, our relationship with food is pretty disfunctional.
For centuries people thrived on a variety of diets without knowing anything about fats, carbs, proteins, calories, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, insulin, or the like. Food was food. It wasn’t complicated. It was something that kept them alive in the worse of times and something that brought people together in celebration in the best of times.
Don’t let food become your enemy or your burden.
Simply eat real food.
If you still want to continue categorizing yourself into some sort of “diet,” that’s fine… as long as it really makes you happy and really makes you feel better. But be open to change if those two things ever change.
And can we please stop with the diet bashing? While I doubt the Paleo circles and the Vegans will ever decide to have a picnic together, we ultimately are all on the side of real food. And our biodiversity plays a huge role in what our body needs for nourishment at any given time. So instead of pointing fingers or shoving research down each other’s throat, let’s combine our forces against the real problems like pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, CAFOs, processed junk, and the real threats to our food systems.
Don’t let food consume your life.
As for me and my family, we have better things to worry about than restrictive diets that keep us from enjoying real food, and more importantly LIFE.
Now somebody pass the butter, please.
Looking for quality real food ingredients? Be sure to the check out the Village Green Marketplace!