Ugh. There it is again. We hear the word “diet” and instantly our mind goes to smelly cabbage soup, cardboard tasting SnackWells and carrot sticks next to an empty bowl where the dip should go. No, thank you!
But the actual definition of the word diet is simply the foods we eat to receive the nutrition we need for our bodies to function.
It seems like a straightforward, simple definition, right? And now that we have it right in front of us, we can all agree that we DID know that, technically speaking.
But let’s play a game. Let’s add one word and see if our togetherness train can stay on the rails.
Just One Word
What did you just think about when you read that? Was it a crunchy green salad? A juicy steak with a steaming side of garlic green beans? Blackened Tilapia with avocado salsa? Or was it Tofu Pad Thai? Well, that consensus didn’t last long, did it?
Throughout history and around the world, there is and has always been a vast array of opinions on what is considered a healthy diet.
A lot of it has to do with what foods are readily available and the energy requirements necessary for different lifestyles. But some are put together based on the beliefs of a person or group of people and nowhere is this more prevalent that in the United States.
I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the more prominent dietary lifestyles that fit into the category of a whole foods diet. I’ve included links in case you would like a more in depth look at any particular lifestyle.
This diet encourages lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices while limiting red meats, sweets and dairy products.
Although research shows that the Mediterranean diet is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, without a guide to portion sizes the risk of over consumption of calories may undo any good benefits.
It does encourage red wine, though, so it’s OK in my book!
Proponents of this lifestyle forgo, in varying degrees, consumption of meat and animal products.
A well planned meatless diet can reduce the chance of obesity and heart disease while lowering the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there are plenty of unhealthy options, such as non-dairy ice cream and meat substitutes, which are highly processed and loaded with chemicals, sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
It’s also important to learn how to combine certain foods and/or supplements to ensure that proper nutrition is being achieved.
Followers of this plan believe that we can improve our health by eating as our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic era more than 2 million years ago.
Because the cavemen did not have the tools necessary to cultivate crops or process foods (such as grains), the diet focuses on meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some oils and fish while excluding grains, dairy products, sugar, alcohol and any processed foods.
The benefits of this eating plan would certainly include the clean, whole foods approach to meals, as well as the anti-inflammatory advantages of the plant nutrients in vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds.
On the downside, the increased consumption of fat in meat can cause a plethora of problems, the lack of dairy raises concerns about calcium deficiency and the lack of carbs can lead to low energy levels.
Overall, the very restrictive nature of the diet makes it difficult to follow.
Macrobioticism is based on the Zen Buddhism theory of balancing Yin and Yang by focusing on a diet of whole grains, certain vegetables, seaweed, fish, nuts, seeds and legumes served on wood or glass service wear.
The practice of eating whole grains with the elimination of processed sugar can be helpful for those with diabetes while the elimination of animal fat may be beneficial for people dealing with heart disease and high cholesterol.
Much like a vegetarian/vegan diet, care must be taken to ensure that healthy nutritional guidelines are met.
The alkaline diet is based on the idea that replacing acid-forming foods with alkaline foods can improve your health, the theory being that a more alkaline Ph level protects you from illness and disease.
The diet encourages fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables, while reducing meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, grains and alcohol.
While the idea of being able to control the Ph levels in one’s blood seems to have been firmly debunked by science, a diet high in plant based foods and low in unhealthy fats, cholesterol, sugars and alcohol is a solid foundation in the quest to stay healthy.
As you may have guessed, proponents of this diet advocate a meal plan of uncooked food. It is their belief that cooking food destroys nutrients and, in some cases, even cause an increased risk of cancer and age related diseases.
While some consume raw meat, eggs and dairy products, most rely on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes.
While this plant based diet may be good for a short term, long term use of the diet is not recommended by most medical professionals as studies show that it’s difficult to consume enough calories to maintain a healthy weight.
There is an increased risk of food borne illness and, while no whole foods are “banned”, many foods are unpalatable or hard to digest when they’re raw. This greatly reduces food choices, making it difficult to maintain in the long term.
But Wait! There’s More!
This one was popularized by Helen Gurley Brown in her 1962 book Sex and The Single Girl.
It’s fairly straight forward: The days food intake consists of 3-5 eggs, one steak and an entire bottle of wine, which you start drinking at breakfast. It would seem that this makes a gal more attractive and appealing to men.
I’m oddly intrigued.
So Many Choices, So Little Time
This is by no means a complete list nor a comprehensive study of different diet plans. I just wanted to show that “whole foods” doesn’t mean any one thing!
It’s a whole wide world of choices! I’m not endorsing or condemning any of them, I’m just suggesting that when things begin to get a bit, well, stale, you can branch out.
Take the road less traveled. You could try a vegetarian recipe one evening or take a week to live like a caveman.
You never know. You just might like it.
Have you tried any of these diets? Would you consider it? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think!
(And, OK. I’m NOT endorsing the Egg and Wine diet. *sigh*)
All my best,