When it comes to diets there is a lot of band wagon jumping. It is certainly easy to get excited about a diet when you find it is working for you. For many people many diets will work in the short term. Early on motivation and discipline are often high. Most people who have become very out of shape can have initial success with any diet. The true test of a diet, however, is its sustainability and long term benefits. What follows are what I believe are the most important factors when it comes to long-term success in the diet world.
The first factor is to realize that diet is possibly not a good word to use. The word diet conjures negative connotations to a lot of people. In this paper, every time I write diet please replace diet with whatever words come to mind when you think of eating as healthy as possible.
People in the United States are known for eating too much food. This is a factor in the astronomical rise in lifestyle disease the U.S. population has experienced in the past 4 decades. One of the best ways to lose weight and prevent disease is to simply eat less. One of the best ways to eat less is intermittent fasting. This term has become increasingly popular and has many forms. It can mean drinking only water a couple days a week, or narrowing the window for daily food consumption. An example of this would be to not eat until 11am. And then stop eating by 6 or 7pm. This can be problematic for the majority of the population who suffer from insulin resistance. For the insulin resistant, snacking outside the window may well be necessary.
There is a lot of contention over the Standard American Diet and its recommendations for consumption of carbs, fats and proteins. For decades we have been eating too many simple carbs. Now with the Paleo craze it is likely that many people are eating too much protein. There is evidence that too much protein may increase the risk of cancer. Ironically, when too much protein is substituted for pro-inflammatory carbs like grains and sugars the health risks may be similar.
Fats were demonizes for decades and are just beginning to make a comeback in the nutrition world. We now believe that diabetics and pre-diabetics can benefit greatly from replacing carbs with healthy fats.
The question becomes, “What is the healthy ratio of carbs/fats/protein”? We know that going from a high-carb diet to low carbs will improve lipid and triglyceride levels. There is research, however, that indicates that falling below the 25 percent carb level of intake can cause harmful hormone changes.
For people experiencing the typical western suicide by lifestyle diseases of obesity, diabetes and heart disease it appears that a preponderance of healthy fats with drastically lower amounts of carbs and protein is a pathway to improved health. With improved health, as measured by weight, blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol it may be necessary to begin eating more carbs again. Of course with any worsening of those symptoms you have an indication to decrease carb consumption again.
It now appears that 50-85 percent fat is the optimal range in the diet. It can be difficult to figure out what to eat on a high fat diet. Most importantly, fats must be of high quality. This means avocados, healthy oils like olive and coconut, butter or ghee, nuts, and eggs. Meats need to come from high-quality, organic, hormone and antibiotic free sources.
Dairy is an area of fat contention. There is a huge nutritional difference between commercial dairy and full-fat raw dairy from grass fed, organically raised cows. Raw dairy is vastly preferable and fermented products like yogurt and kefir have added benefits. Though I do not see the need for milk other raw dairy products may help fulfill the fat quota.
The healthiest carbs are fresh and organic. Above ground vegetables have the most benefit. More color is also better. I definitely recommend more vegetables than fruits for most people. For most of us sugars and grains provide empty calories and should be very low on the carb consumption list.
When we eat a healthy diet consisting of mostly local, organic and fresh foods it is likely we will be fulfilling our protein needs. Exceptions may be those who are very active physically, and/or pregnant.
Perhaps most important is to tailor your diet to your individual allergy and sensitivities. This can be done with muscle testing, or blood work. In my office we do this with muscle testing as part of a comprehensive plan to put you on the right track to eating your way to health. Contact us for an appointment today at 509-327-4373.