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Eenie Meenie Miney Moe - Pick a Diet by the Media or a Book or....??
It's not simple. It's not one size fits all. It's not one specific diet/food plan for now and forever.
With the myriad of diet options and foods available, how can a person possibly choose the course of nutrition that is best for them?
Holistic nutrition adds to the "mystifiying" mix with its big-picture approach of body, mind and spirit: with food sharing the stage with exercise, sleep patterns, emotions, matters of the mind, stress, spiritual disciplines.
Some selections on the diet buffet: not all inclusive and in random order.
You've probably got a common sense handle on these but in case you need some advice for your friends, here's some fad diet red flags: focusing on only one food or a certain location demographic, promoting/selling a certain product, recommendations that ignore differences among individuals and groups, offering quick fix solutions, sounding too good to be true. I can't resist some examples: Apple Cider Diet, Acai Berry Diet, 3-Day Diet, FatLoss4Idiots Diet, Hollywood Diet, Beverly HillsDiet, (New) Beverly Hills Diet
Focus is usually weight loss. Typical proportion of protein is greater than in the average diet - calls for a large amount of water for metabolism. This water can be obtained by drinking but can also be "siphoned" from body tissues - resulting in an initial weight loss, which is in reality, mostly a loss of water weight.
A popular diet choice for disease prevention, e.g. heart disease, cancer. The "low fat" catchword and label doesn't always give the facts about different kinds of fats (our body needs "good" fats). It can also convey a false sense of "healthy" when the product may truly be low fat but high in sugar and salt.
The juice from raw, whole vegetables and fruits supplies nutrient-rich food directly to body cells. Live enzymes boost the immune system. Most often used for short-term fasts, cleansing and de-toxification.
Often used to heal the gut and clean out the digestive tract. Called the "living food" diet, basically consists of uncooked whole foods. Provides good vitality and nutrient content, but might be low in protein, calcium and iron.
Eliminates grains with gluten and the foods containing products that have been processed from those grains. Most often in response to gluten intolerances or sensitivities: or tried as a test to determine those intolerances.
Some types are ovo-lacto, lacto, vegan - depends on the inclusion of animal products: only milk and eggs, only milk, or the exclusion of all products of animal origin. Balanced vegetarian diets are most often based on fruits and vegetables; nuts and seeds; whole grains, beans and lentils - with attention needed to get all the amino acids for complete protein.
Metabolic typing (or nutritional typing).
A nutritional program that focuses on an individual's unique dietary needs, based on a variety of factors. e.g. gender, genetics, hormone levels, age, culture, blood type, stress levels, seasonal changes, and many others.
Yikes - it's complicated...and your choice can compromise your health.
Where does one even start?
-- whatever the diet, eat a variety of foods within the different food groups, e.g. switch up the vegetables, choose different beans, grains, etc. This broader spectrum can ensure a greater range of nutrients and help to reduce the risk of allergies. Variety also makes meals more yummy and interesing!
-- feeling unwell or "yucky" after eating certain foods are likely indicators that dietary changes may be necessary.
-- never say never - be prepared to be adaptable to change, then accept responsibility for food choices and continue learning.
-- don't be scared to try something for a brief test (assuming you're not taking medication, which will affect your eating flexibility) - e.g. introduce your body to a two-day juice fast, eat raw for a few days experiment with gluten-free(GF) eating by discovering new grains
-- a general healthy diet overview: low in fat and salt; minimal to no processed sugar; reasonable amounts of whole grains, beans, fresh veggies and fruits, lean animal proteins
-- read, read, read: research food facts and reviews; read nutrition blogs :)
-- seek the help of a qualified nutrition practitioner to help address nutrient imbalances and assist you through the diet maze. They can give you recommendations that are personalized to your specific nutritional needs.
Wrapping it up.
Annemarie Colbin in Food and Healing summarizes it this way: food is our helper, not our master. It's a facilitator and tool, our ally and teacher. Food can nourish us well if we choose well; if incorrectly chosen, food can teach us lessons about our body that we may, or may not, heed. If we experience negative results from our eating choices we should take that as information, not punishment.
As a nutrition coach and educator, I spend a lot of time thinking about food: appreciating its pleasures and grateful for its nutritious, healing powers. But in all the search for the right food, the right diet, the right nutritional formula, I need the regular reminder that food is a part of our sense of well-being. Whole health also includes aiming our lives positively, following our individual path in meaningful work, being thankful for life, and living with love and relationship.
Be well - let me know how you navigate the diet maze.