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Nutrition: FROM PALEO TO CLEANSING – BREAKING DOWN DIETS

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Most individuals would agree when one is feeling better there is an internal motivation to keep that going.  In regards to our nutrition, it can be very intriguing to start a new “diet” in order to start feeling better.  With so many diets exposed, they can be overwhelming, confusing and unrealistic to either initiate and/or maintain.  The diets below are explained as well as providing the “realities” of the diet—cutting to the chase and leaving the enticing marketing terms behind.

PALEO DIET:  Popularly known as the Caveman diet, Stone Age diet, Primal Blueprint, etc.  It is characterized by consuming an ancient style diet rich in wild plants and animals.  Researchers are still figuring out what the paleolithic people consumed due various cultures among the globe, but the modern day paleo diet is rich in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, eggs, beef, roots, and nuts.  It normally excludes dairy, grains, legumes, certain potatoes, refined sugars and refined oils.

REALITY:

  1. The consumption of vegetables, healthy oils and lean protein increases which have huge health benefits as well as decreasing the amounts of added sugar consumed.
  2. The feeling of fatigue and irritability creeps within.  If there is less emphasis on fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes and dairy (the paleo diet) there could be a dramatic decrease in daily carbohydrate intake.  Carbohydrates, your quickest form of energy, are essential for your cells, muscles, exercise recovery and your brain to function as intended.
  3. Due to all of the dietary exclusions, meal planning becomes more difficult, recipes may be harder to follow, socializing may become more complicated and one may feel a little more isolated within their family and friends network.

JUICING/CLEANSING:  Most juice cleanses entail one consuming juice and juice only for all or most meals, typically lasting 3 to 7 days.  Simply put, fruits and vegetables are processed through a juicing machine and the pulp, fiber, seeds, pits, etc. are left behind while one drinks the vitamins, minerals and water coming from the juice.   If using a blender, the fiber and skins of the produce are still consumed.  The health claims usually include the following:  weight loss, “detox”, reducing risk of cancer, boost your immune system, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

 REALITY:

  1.  Our liver, kidneys and colon ALREADY do a great job at naturally detoxing our bodies.  Nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables definitely help your body’s cells, but our liver and kidneys do a great job at filtering our blood and detoxifying any unwanted species.
  2. There is very little to no scientific evidence that supports the consistent practice of juicing.  Even the American Cancer Society reports “there is no convincing evidence that extracted juices are healthier than whole foods.”
  3. How you may really feel if you practice a juice cleanse for 3-7 days:  sick of drinking juice, dizzy and irritable, hungry, and the lack of energy or motivation to exercise due to a low caloric plan.

VEGETARIAN:  A plant-based diet that may or may not include dairy, fish and eggs.  Fruits, whole grains, vegetables, soy, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and plant oils are the foundation of a vegetarian eating plan.   The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends a diet full of the foods above as well as limiting/avoiding the amounts of processed meats.

REALITY:

  1.  Due to the increased popularity of a vegetarian lifestyle or those becoming more vegetarian, restaurants and grocery stores are taking note by including specialized menus or sections in the store.  Added bonus—more farmer’s markets are popping up across the country (use them).
  2. One will become very creative with their main meals and snacks.  Shredded zucchini in a pasta dish, homemade bean burgers, roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips, etc.   Make sure to use a variety of protein sources, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant oils to ensure the essential nutrients are not left behind.  Supplementation will be needed if 100% vegan.
  3. Those that are vegetarian, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tend to have the following characteristics:
    1. Lower Body Mass Index, lower risk of Type II Diabetes, lower heart disease risk, lower cancer rates compared to non-vegetarians, higher intake of fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals, and lower intake of cholesterol and saturated fat.

THE “OTHER”:  Blood Typing, Adkins, Dukan, Gluten-Free, etc.  Most diets or other specific eating plans most likely have some positive variables.  For example, most individuals consume too much added sugar and most diet plans discourage the use of high sugared products.  Other characteristics found in a variety of plans:  drinking a lot of water, consuming a plethora of non-starchy vegetables, increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet and continued involvement in physical activity.  These are the common sense aspects that can be introduced day in and out.

REALITY:

  1.  If a diet encourages one to avoid an entire food group, such as dairy, a red flag should go up.
  2. Be your own researcher.  Before you dive into anything seriously, make sure you have the education and resources to follow a diet appropriate for you.  Registered Dietitians, MDs, peer reviewed journal articles, and organizations you can trust (e.g., Hilton Head Health).  Everyone has different needs.
  3. If the diet is NOT something you can do the rest of your life then why go through the effort and stress of beginning a nutrition plan that isn’t sustainable.
  4. Here is what you really want:   more whole foods, appropriate serving sizes, a realistic eating plan that supports an active lifestyle, less products with the addictive trinity (fat, sugar and salt), more water, diets that promote healthy, local and seasonal cooking and eating meals around a dinner table—this includes time with family and friends (not your local newscaster).
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