What’s the best diet to follow?
The short answer…whatever is best for you. There is no one diet that is right for anyone and there are so many factors involved with choosing a way of eating that is a fit for you.
Let me start with a story from a few months ago, I was at the gym and someone said to me: “You are so lucky you can eat carbs” WHAT? Call me crazy but I think we all need carbs and guess what folks the reason I need them is because of my highly reactive nervous system and before you may think of “poor you, you have to eat carbs in order to stay healthy” yes it is difficult. I manage anxiety and if I put too much stress on my system I will get a nasty cold sore, snuggle with insomnia and have nervous tremors. Friends, none of that is sexy. So yes I need oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole-grain bread, in moderation and with each meal. You might not but I do and I have many patients who also need carbs to keep their nervous system out of a stress response.
Before I go any further, let’s do a little review on some of the big trends that are out there right now and the pros and cons that I see from a practice point of view. Yes, there are all kinds of studies and yes it is very controversial, especially for those people who have had dramatic health improvements when following one of these diets. To that I say, fantastic, amazing and good on you to a) find something that works for you b) be able to follow it in a way that has become a lifestyle c) jut because it worked for you does not mean it is going to work for everyone.
For those of you who are still confused, here is a basic 101 on the top 4 diet trends I see in practice:
Ketogenic diets -high consumption of fats, avoidance of carbs
Pro: quick weight loss
Con: low fibre intake causing constipation, overburden on the liver and colon, difficult to sustain, loss of muscle mass, not great for people with people highly reactive nervous systems or adrenal fatigue
Paleo – the avoidance of anything processed, eating foods that gathered from the earth
Pros: reduction of calories, toxins and inflammatory foods,
Cons: not great for people with busy lifestyles, high meat intake
Intermittent fasting – only eating during certain hours
Pro: weight loss, metabolic changes
Cons: thyroid, glucose challenges
Vegan – plant-based eating, avoidance of animal protein
Pro: high fibre, high antioxidants
Con: difficult to break down, need a lot of digestive fire, easy to still consume lots of sugar and refined foods
What they all have in common:
Whenever we start something new, it is exciting and full of hope. Everyone loves a purpose and the promise to feel better in mind, body and spirit. And that’s what all of these programs offer, they also place a focus on whole food eating so basically you are going to feel great in the beginning regardless of what one you start.
All of these diets also focus on restriction and rules (that I don’t love) of some sort whether it is the avoidance of a macronutrient (we are made of pro-fat-carb), a food group, timing or preparation of foods. Probably the biggest con I see with all of these is the inability to stick with them.
What can you take away:
One thing that I consider for patients who are not sure where to start to take a little bit of the good from each one by including aspects of each one daily.
A typical day might be:
– keep insulin low by consuming protein and fat
– vegetable-based proteins with grains and lots of green leafy veggies and fruits
Paleo or flexitarian dinners
– proteins with starchy vegetables and lots of green veggies and fruit
– fasting between meals and every night for 12-14 hours