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 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, a 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. As a result, the volume of toxins in the diet (both in the food itself and the chemicals added in processing) is 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 things 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.
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. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. She is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.