Decision Time – Which Diet is Right for You?

With any luck at all you have been following my articles on diet choices. You learned about the standard American Diet (appropriately called the SAD diet), Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, vegetarian/vegan, and carnivore.  If you missed any, you will can find them by clicking on the names above.

You have learned that all the options have potential drawbacks for some people. What are they?

First your genes are factoring in, sometimes significantly, because your genes define how well your body handles metabolism. Everyone will have some genetic variations that might cause things to go a bit awry.  Since I am a part of “everyone”, that means this applies to me as well.  And I do indeed have some troublesome variations. However, most people haven’t had their genetics tested for health implications and don’t have a clue.

Secondly, plant foods which have bountiful nutrition also have toxic chemical protective mechanisms to discourage animals (like us) and other living beings (like insects) from eating them. Those chemicals can cause digestive issues for those who eat the plant or fruit from the plant. Note the operative word here is can.

Click here to reach about how important digestion is. It will help you to understand the consequences of continuously ignoring symptoms. If you need more information, take a look at this website post of Dr. Amy Myers, renowned expert on autoimmune diseases, https://www.amymyersmd.com/2017/06/the-problem-with-grains-and-legumes/.

Whether a person reacts negatively to those toxins depends on how often and how much toxin your body is getting and, again, your genetics. Here is my example.

I have a gene variation which reduces my body’s ability to eliminate toxins in my body. This is only me, not necessarily you.  And this would be any toxins including those in the air, water, makeup, household cleaners, pesticides and herbicides, mold as well as food. I do my best to minimize toxins anywhere I can which also includes an emphasis on organic produce. I say “minimize” because avoiding all chemicals in today’s world is impossible.

So, anyway, there are pros and cons to any plant food. And most of us have a body capable of eliminating the toxins unless we overload the amount. Consider the farmer who has significant ongoing exposure to chemical pesticides applied to his crops.

Consider that one person I know who exclusively eats peanut butter. Consider peanut allergy. Consider bee venom for some people. Consider my friend who gets knots in her knuckles whenever she eats tomatoes.  Read more about her dilemma with tomatoes here.

All that brings us to negatives of the SAD diet which typically contains about 60% commercially processed and refined foods, primarily starchy foods like grain (as in flour), legumes, potatoes, etc. That is on average, by the way, so there are some people eating percentages way above 60%. This way of eating has three marks against it.

The processing of the formerly whole food eliminates most of the nutrients originally available in the food. The volume of toxins in the diet (both in the food itself and the chemicals added in processing) as a result are much higher and a significant source of chronic inflammation. Chronic means all the time.

The predominant ingredients in commercially processed foods are grain based starches, dairy, sugar, and commercial grain oils including canola, soy, corn, etc. And the amount of sugar hiding out in the starch is extraordinary. Many a “diet” to lose weight has been torpedoed by hidden sugar. The labels are very misleading, leading you to just look at “sugar” grams when, in fact, all those “carbohydrates” are sugar.

Broken down parts of grain (like wheat, soy, corn) and beans have names you wouldn’t recognize and are included on the ingredient lists of almost everything. Just recently I talked to the mother of a local woman who bought an application for her phone so she could identify the gluten in anything she bought.  Turns out the containers don’t say gluten is in there but it definitely is. The restaurant won’t usually tell you that there is gluten in soups, French fry coatings, and sauces. There isn’t much she can buy in a store or a restaurant and ingest safely. Grain is essentially in everything in some form or another.

The one diet that isn’t susceptible to plant food toxins is the carnivore diet (think about it) because it contains no plant food. Any reactions to the carnivore diet will usually be histamine related.

Histamine is a product released by the body in response to an allergic reaction. Histamines are found in varying levels in all living tissue (including your own) and it has purpose. But if there is too much being released like with peanut or bee venom allergy, it turns ugly. And perhaps you have heard of red meat (and pork) allergies developed from the Lone Star tick. What makes people sick is the histamine overload.

One of the most interesting thing about meat (and actually everything) is that as food ages, bacteria develop. The bacteria release histamines. For most people, the body handles the bacteria unless there is an overload. What is an overload? You may be able to eat leftovers in your frig for two weeks; your neighbor might become ill when something is one day old.  The bacterial growth is attached to the age of food. Your bacterial tolerance is uniquely yours.

Bottom line, the right diet for you won’t have a “name” as much as it will not include any foods that create symptoms. Symptoms are a wide spectrum and usually non specific. Acid reflux, stomach ache, IBS, diarrhea, headaches Including migraine, aches, gas and bloating, joint pain, swelling, brain fog, weight gain, the list goes on.

You MIGHT have an issue with aged meat. You MIGHT have an issue with the toxins in nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes. But what you most assuredly will have an issue with is commercially processed and refined food at the store, especially if they are present to any significant degree in your diet.

So if you have “symptoms” the simple first step is to eliminate commercial processed food and oil for two weeks to a month. Why? Because the odds are that your problem lies in those foods. And the chances that you will feel at least a partial resolution in that time period are good.

According to Dr. Myers, the next thing to eliminate would be dairy, the second most likely “suspect.” Be alert when you get symptoms. What did I eat or what have I eaten a lot of lately? And maybe what did I eat yesterday because symptoms are sometimes delayed.

If you need help, consider books and website by Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Tom O’Bryan, Dr. William Davis, and  for particularly complex issues, Elaine Gottschall.

Let’s not forget the point of this wander through diet wonderland. The right diet for you won’t have a “name” as much as it will not include any foods that create symptoms.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.  Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/

 

Vegan or Vegetarian? Or Maybe Carnivore?

We are on a quest to review the major diet “types” talked about in the nutrition world today. Pushing past Paleo, Keto, and the Mediterranean diet we arrive here: what about vegan, vegetarian, or carnivore.

One of the things that the Paleo, Keto, and even the Mediterranean diet have in common is the presence of meat protein. Sometimes lots of meat protein, sometimes less but still there. Now for something different.

A vegetarian is meat free but generally comes in variations on a theme. One variation allows meat by-products like eggs and/or dairy. Another variation allows fish. Then there are folks who operate in the “most of the time” variation. “I don’t eat meat except on very special occasions; otherwise I eat vegetables and an occasional egg.”

Unfortunately they often consider commercially processed foods and seed oils perfectly ok because they aren’t “meat”.

The interesting thing about vegetarianism is that people seem to pick this diet for reasons not associated with nutritional value. Maybe because they feel sorry for the animals (I don’t want to eat anything with a face), don’t like the taste of meat, or believe that the natural resources required to grow animal meat is environmentally wasteful. In my experience most vegetarians just eat what they eat and don’t feel driven to convert the masses.

When you shift from vegetarian to vegan, however, it can to be a extreme shift. Honey isn’t allowed because it is manufactured by bees. Sometimes animal skins are nixed. Sometimes animals are considered sacred and killing them is cruel.

So vegans only eat plant food and even then many consider animal based fertilizers like manure or blood meal unacceptable. See what I mean about extreme? These are people with a passion who sometimes ARE driven to convert the masses.

This really isn’t the most extreme, however. Raw vegan is the full extreme with emphasis on maintaining the highest nutrient levels in the plants. Cooking reduces and often destroys the enzymes required to digest food.

Food can only be considered raw if the natural enzymes remain intact. So “cooked” food must be below 115 degrees internal temperature. That can usually only be accomplished by using a dehydrator. The time required to dehydrate can be very long.

Let me share with you my one week personal experience in a raw vegan institute. The kitchen had only dehydrators, busy all of the time. The day we ate grapefruit for breakfast was the highlight of my week. Some people will do anything in the interest of research.  I was not sold but I assure you there were others there who were “all in.”

There are drawbacks to eliminating meat products from the diet.

Vitamin B12 is an essential dietary element that is absent in a vegan diet. Also missing are two essential omega 3 fatty acids commonly found in wild caught fatty seafood and pasture raised animals. Further vitamin A can be a problem. Vitamin A is presents and immediately bio available in meat. Beta carotene in plants can be converted to vitamin A by the body unless your genes cause a problem.  That would be me.

That all means that, at least for a vegan, supplements will be required to make up for deficiencies. Actually the required amount of B12 and omega 3 is relatively small so a vegetarian who incorporates some eggs, dairy such as cheese, and occasional fish in the diet can be fine.

A carnivore diet, on the other hand, is just meat and meat products. Most of the people I have kept up with on a carnivore diet were first on a low carb/higher fat version of Keto. Eventually they found themselves still troubled symptomatically with vegetables in their diet. So they went straight carnivore and their problems went away.

Would you be surprised to know that, for some people, there can also be side effects to a carnivore diet. More about that in my next article.

The bad news in any diet is the presence of commercially processed foods and seed oils. This is not a problem for raw vegans or carnivores. But as I said above, it can be a common problem for vegetarians. My book shares the example of one “vegetarian” I observed in a buffet eating food that was full of sugar and fried in bad oil. Rest assured, however, there was no meat.

As I said in an earlier article, some 50 million or so Americans have one or more autoimmune disease. While environmental toxins and genes can be a factor, the most common issue is digestive problems with some plant food(s) for that one person. That means that some people can do just fine with a vegetarian or even vegan (with supplements) diet and others will not. I know of real people who fall into both categories.

What’s important for everyone is making dietary choices that are right for them. In my next article I will try to help you make the right decision for YOU.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.  Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/