The Ideal Diet for You, Part 1 One Size Does Not Fit All
One-size-fits-all as in socks applies only if you don’t have really large or really small feet. The typical shoe in a catalog or shoe store will be medium width, just fine unless you happen to have very wide or narrow feet. The fact that contractors choose “builder’s beige” as the least offensive generic color choice doesn’t mean it won’t offend you.
In other words, ideal is not one grand truth. One size really doesn’t fit all. This is as true for diet as it is for socks or colors. The question becomes, what is the ideal diet for you?
Dr. Carrie Diulus
I recently watched an interview with Dr. Carrie Diulus, a Type 1 diabetic orthopedic spine surgeon. She manages her Type 1 diabetes on a high fat, low carbohydrate vegan diet with minimal insulin. This diet is called “ketogenic.”
What the heck does “ketogenic” mean? A Ketogenic diet is low carb/higher fat. The name is derived from the word “ketosis,” a process that happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat, making things called ketones, which it can use for fuel. Very difficult to lose weight if you aren’t making ketones. A Ketogenic diet is low carb/higher fat.
Low Carbohydrate and No Meat
Low carbohydrate is the absolute winner in the minimizing insulin battle for diabetics, type 1 or type 2. However a vegan diet is one that includes only plants, the sources of carbohydrates. Low carbohydrate and vegan seem like contradictory terms, don’t they?
Let’s make this more complicated. Vegan means no meat or fish, no milk, no cheese, no eggs – period. What do we know about that? Vitamin B12 and omega 3 fatty acids are essential to health (actually survival) and are only found in animal food. Plus the “best” sources of protein are in animal food. How does she deal with all that?
Dr. Diulus takes supplements and makes her carbohydrate choices wisely. For some of us this doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t she just eat meat or fish? The answer is simple. She has no ethical or political concern with meat; she just doesn’t digest meat well. It makes her feel bad.
Another contradiction. Eating a diet that is “right” but makes you feel bad.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease; the immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas. When that happens Type 1 diabetics don’t make the hormone insulin. Insulin is required to keep blood sugar “right” and to store excess energy as fat. At diagnosis the typical Type 1 diabetic has lost lots of weight, is urinating out lots of sugar, and blood sugar is out of control. It’s serious!
Dr. Diulus’ Ketogenic diet
So how does Dr. Diulus make her diet, health, and well being work?
- She eats only whole food, food that comes in nature’s original packaging. In other words, no commercially processed food. Why? Because commercially processed foods are chock full of carbohydrates that “demand” lots of insulin and are missing the protein, vitamins, and minerals that she knows are necessary.
- Fat in any diet is important but Dr. Diulus won’t be getting any fat from meat products. Popular these days are vegetable oils, another “commercially processed” product. These are actually seed oils extracted with heat and chemicals from seeds of wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. They are unstable, prone to “go bad” and bring absolutely no nutritional value. Dr. Diulus fat sources are fruit fats, olives, avocados and coconut – no heat or chemicals required.
- She eats a lot of non-starchy vegetables — leafy greens, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, so on and so forth. The typical non-starchy vegetables have advantages and disadvantages for a vegan – minimal carbohydrate sugar and lots of vitamins and minerals (all good) but also minimal protein (not so good). Absent meat, the protein problem is one to overcome for a vegan.
- Her protein sources are tofu and edamame (soy), seeds and nuts, lupine beans (which you have probably never heard of) and black soy beans. While these are all plants they are also exceptions, extremely high protein and low carbohydrate. I Suggest that soy food sources should be organic to avoid residue from the pesticide, glyphosate.
Dr. Diulus describes the characteristics of the ideal diet as one that makes you feel good and keeps you active. This appears to be her.
You usually know when you don’t feel good. Fatigue, aches and pains of any kind, bloating, constipation, blood pressure spikes and drops, mental confusion, depression, anxiety, anger, too much alcohol, allergies, hair falls out, hate getting out of bed in the morning, skin conditions, very overweight. Definitely don’t feel good.
Sometimes it eludes you. Symptom delayed or seem minor. You think you feel fine and then you have a heart attack, are diagnosed with diabetes, your cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels are troublesome, have sleep apnea. In other words, the stuff that is found by the doctor or diagnosed when you arrive at the hospital for some unrelated reason.
Any one of the above is likely to slow you down, cause you to sit as opposed to move. A sedentary lifestyle is a problem. I know of a man who had a heart attack about 70 years ago and, at the direction of his doctor, spent the next year in the bed. Once he got up it took another year to recover his ability to sit, walk, do any significant work. These days you will be up and walking the next day whether you want to or not.
It is certainly possible to have a genetic issue acquired from one or both of your parents. In very rare cases a genetic mutation will be a guarantee of illness. But it is really remarkable how often you can overcome a genetic issue through your lifestyle. I have a genetic variation that puts me at risk for alcoholism. But that can’t possibly happen unless I actually drink.
Discarding genetics, chances are whatever is going on will be connected to your diet or your environment. So approach your issues from that perspective first.
This post is the first of a multi-part series that will arrive eventually at the ideal diet choice for you. I learned a long time ago not to promise how long a series would be. So keep following. And give some thought to the symptoms you have and what might be causing them. See Part 2.
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. Her website is http://www.allaboutthefood.org/ She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.