What is the right diet for me?
Paleo, vegan, clean, raw, alkaline, grain-free, the list can go on.
You can easily google any of these terms and find a plethora of information advising both for and against the diet type. Now, I believe that there really may be a diet that really is the healthiest to follow. Period. However, I don’t know that (in our lifetime anyway) we will find the end all, be all, answer. And even if/when that ever happens, there will always be those with particular health needs that require a different set of food guidelines for optimum health.
Even within my own blog, you can see times when I have aimed for Paleo, a couple months I was vegan, a time when I thought that store bought orange juice was a good way to get more Vitamin D. That is part of what my motto is all about. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. As I knew better, I did better. And that really is all we can do: the best we can. And we always need to consider too, based on our experiences, what has worked for us (in terms of how we feel, how we are able to digest our food, and if weight loss is a goal what has helped us lose weight).
Now, as far as the ‘healthiest’ diet ever, there are certain things that are not arguable at all though (color me shocked if I ever dispute any of my words here). Things that, across all diet types, do not change.
- Water: This should be our primary source of liquid each day. Some may recommend black coffee or tea as well. Some may recommend probiotic liquids (kombucha, kefir). NONE will ever recommend drinking any processed beverages such as soda, energy drinks, fruit or vegetable juices (other than ones that are made only of fruits and veggies, with no additional chemicals, preservatives or sugars).
- Vegetables: The more the better! Some may recommend eliminating or restricting certain vegetables (ones that are higher in acidity content, sugar or starches, for example). Some may recommend only eating these raw, or juiced, or cooked. Some say that it is best to eat a combination of raw, juiced and cooked veggies as each method provides different nutrients that are not available to us in the other forms. For example, juicing strips the fiber (some think this is bad), but allows for quick absorption of the nutrients (which, actually, some may think is bad as well), and also makes certain nutrients available to us which would have been lost in the parts of the food we were never able to fully digest. Cooking veggies, on the other hand, can either accentuate or ‘bring out’ certain nutritional aspects OR can break down or ‘lose’ nutrients in the process (depending on the veggie). Raw advocates believe that any cooking of a food breaks down the nutrients and creates carcinogens that are not healthy and natural for us and can disrupt our digestive system.
- No Processed foods: No matter which diet type we are looking at, none will ever recommend the use of processed foods, though some believe they are ok in moderation (depending upon how processed, of course). Some believe we should stay away from meat, dairy, or grains, but all would say that in whatever we eat — we should choose the least processed option. A block of cheese (without added ingredients) rather than pre shredded or other processed cheeses (watch out for ‘singles,’ and other completely fake cheeses). Organic chicken breasts rather than processed sandwich meats (with added salts, sugars, etc.). Apples juiced by us rather than a store bought apple juice.
- No added sugars (other than fruit, honey, molasses, maple syrup): Many diet types recommend no sugar at all (including fruit), but many believe that natural sources (the ones I just listed) are ok in small amounts.
- Healthy Fats: Believe it or not, none of these diets say anything about avoiding fats! Of course, it depends on where these fats are coming from. But on just about every diet type I can think of (even alkaline) raw avocados and raw almonds are recommended as a healthy fat! Many believe olive oil (uncooked) is also a good source. And for the diet types that do not eliminate dairy or meat, some believe that butter (as unprocessed as possible), and the oil derived from cooking animal fat, is also healthy in moderation.
- Fruits: Most diet types do recommend fruits in our daily diet. But, due to higher sugar and acidity content, the type of fruits and amount of fruits to be consumed varies. With juicing, it is important to note that with all the fiber being stripped, too much sugar in one juice will sure raise our blood sugar quickly all at once. Whereas eating fruits whole, or in combination with veggie juice may be a better alternative.
So far, we can drink water (and maybe tea or kombucha), we can eat fruits and veggies (especially raw or juiced, and keeping in mind the amount of sugar involved), and we do not need to stay away from fats, so we can eat avocado and almonds (almost) to our hearts desire. Beyond this, things may get a bit more tricky.
- Whole Grains: Many diet types recommend avoiding all grains, believing that our body cannot digest them properly which causes a variety of problems. This would include rices, breads, pastas, corn, oats, beans, peanuts (almonds, again, still ok). The diets which believe whole grains are good for us (or even essential), only recommend whole grains that have not been heavily processed. So our packages should all say 100% whole grain (or 100% whatever type of grain it is, like 100% whole wheat) AND there should not be any ingredients we don’t understand on the label.
- Organic Meats and Eggs: Some diet types suggest avoiding all meat, while some highly recommend it. In any case, if we do eat it, it is one of the most important foods that we should choose to buy organic. This is because when we buy non organic meats, there are no guarantees on what the animals were fed (if we are trying to be paleo, but are eating animals which eat grains, than we, in turn, are eating a little bit of that grain in the meat we eat), what chemicals were pumped into the animals, etc.
- Organic Dairy: Again, many diet types suggest avoiding all dairy, while some recommend a limited amount or only certain forms of it. Paleo, in some cases, advocates for ghee, for example (a pure whole form of butter). Goats products are thought by some to be healthier, easier to digest, etc. than cows products.
So, to make a very long story short. I, personally, do not believe there is a ‘one size fits all’ diet type out there. Especially not when we are really looking at the big picture and all possibilities. Remember! We all have different constraints. Do the best you can with what you have and what you know. If you do that you will continue to grow.