"No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means."-- Maimonides, Spanish philosopher
A diet consists of nutrients such as proteins, carbs and fats with the right hydration and calorie level.
Some criteria for a healthy diet are:
1. Anti -inflammatory
2. Alkaline vs. acidic
3. Provide the right balance of protein, carbs and fats.
4. Be as toxin free as possible.
5. There should be epidemiological evidence or clinical evidence for the diet to be healthy.
It is not easy to pick a diet, you didn't see #6 (tastes good) as a choice because most of what we eat that tastes good isn't good for us. I have gone through many diets over the years and still working on adapting to a Med. type diet with minimal dairy.
This blog will go through an elimination process against the above criteria. The first criteria is evidence that a diet has created health. There are only 2 diets that have been studied over time in different cultures that meet the criteria, the Mediterranean and Whole Food Plan Diet (WFPD). These 2 diets have been studied extensively and determined to be healthy. Below are some studies that discuss the health benefits of the 2 diets. The China study and the Ornish study are major evidence for WFPD.
The Paleo diet is certainly a diet that our ancestors ate but that does not mean that is was healthy and anti inflammatory. Our ancestors died in their 30s because of infection, infectious diseases and tribal animal attacks and longevity benefits are hard to establish. Although the Paleo has some positive benefits, the major negative benefit is the large amount of protein eaten /day. Many studies have shown (epidemiological) that the average adult would benefit by eating 45-60 grams of protein/day and not the 90 -120+ grams that we eat (SAD) or the Paleo diet suggests we should eat to stay healthy. Eating greater than 60 grams protein/day creates an acid balance to the diet which is bad and studies ( notably China study) have shown high rates of cancer and chronic disease exist with protein levels greater than 60 grams/day. The Paleo diet is very acidic because of the large amount of meat ingested and the diet has higher risks of toxins with cooked meat.
On the flip side, the WPFD is lacking in anti-inflammatory benefit since it does not include meat or fish in the diet. This restricts the amount of omega 3 fats your body needs for the vascular and nervous system. We need to ingest about 1.5 to 2 grams of Omega 3 fats/day in our diet to maintain (not improve) health and to offset the high amounts omega 6 fats. The maximum number of omega 6 fats allowed is about 12 grams ( if we eat 2 grams of omega 3 fats). Women may be able to get enough omega 3 fats since their bodies convert the ALA of omega 3 fats into DHA (20% conversion rate) and EPA ( 8 % conversion rate) . DHA and EPA are the beneficial fats. Since women can convert ALA into these DHA and EPA forms, they must ingest 6 grams or more of chia, flax and hemp seed daily. That is not hard to do every day.
Men (sorry) do not have the chemical ability to convert the ALA into DHA and EPA to the same extent. Men convert ALA at 8 % to DHA and only about 1% of ALA to EPA. This is a significant dilemma. To get 2 grams of DHA and EPA with a WFPD, men must use distilled fish oil pills to supplement the DHA and EPA in additional to getting 10 grams/day of ALA through nuts, chia and flax seeds. Men need more DHA and EPA than women due to body weight differences.
The WFPD is the premier alkaline diet and a lower protein diet than the Paleo diet. If we eat organic, the WFPD is less likely to contain as many toxins as the Paleo diet or the Standard American Diet (SAD).
A WFPD can obtain additional omega 3 fats to make it anti-inflammatory (2-3 servings of wild caught fish a week or fish oil pills), and enhance its viability as an anti-inflammatory diet. As a primary meat/fish eater, I was surprised at how healthy the WFPD is. I am in the process of eliminating dairy and reduce meat as much as possible.
In looking at the alternatives, the WFPD with wild caught fish added would likely end up being the healthier option from an alkalinity and toxin basis than the Paleo diet. Women might be able to get away with vegan diet if no more than 6 grams /day of omega 6 fats are consumed.
There is no ideal best ratio of food components for a diet. Studies suggest protein levels of 10-20%, Carbs at 40-50% and fats at 30-40% (percent of calories) seem best. Most of the carbs come from plants and fats are both saturated and unsaturated with a omega 6/3 ratio of 4 or less. Stay away from all processed or fast foods.
Mediterranean diet and WFPD with a wild caught fish option ( 3-4 servings/wk) seems the 2 best diets to focus on to live longer and prosper. These 2 diets are not as far apart as you might think.
If your diet isn't one of these 2 diets, your heath can be improved. Switching to a new diet is difficult. Understand the options, and work your way towards either one. Create a plan to go to a good diet. Starting with none of the time, to some of the time, to most of the time and so on. It will take a year. Plan, act, measure and modify to get to a better diet.
Questions about diet are alkalinity, toxins, and why meat and dairy protein are bad will be addressed in later blogs. If you stick with the current SAD and eat typical processed foods and fast foods, you will not not be healthy later in life.
I wish I had known 40 years ago what I know now......Ahhh, we all probably wish that for a lot of thing!