So after some 100-years we now know how horribly wrong the USDA Food Pyramid is for proper human nutrition. Since 1916 when the federal government thought it a good idea to give the American public nutritional advice, we have witnessed a diet induced spike in chronic illness. As is such with things government, the food pyramid was more steeped in politics than food science. So what is the proper human diet? How is one to navigate the seemingly endless barrage of fad diets that spring up eternal every few months? To whom do we turn for sound advice? How can we decipher the glut of books on diet and nutrition? How can we make sense of the conflicting recommendations from both sides of the Barnes and Noble aisle? Every year some 108-million Americans go on a “diet.” How many truly succeed?
Let’s begin with the word “diet.” It seems to be a four letter word synonymous with weight loss and suffering. Remember the cabbage soup diet? Well it gets more bizarre the harder the publishers push authors to sell books with catchy titles. So let’s see, we must eliminate all things wheat. Gluten protein is definitely out as it is an inflammatory protein and can wreck havoc on our gut all the way to our brain. OK, let’s move on to soy. Soy is goiterogenic, and most comes from genetically engineered crops, so that is out too. Speaking of Genetically Modified (GM) foods, they may cause some severe reactions in those sensitive folks, so let’s scratch all things modified off our shopping list. If one subscribes to the Dr. Ornish diet, red meat is out. This leaves you with just fruits and vegetables. Those aligned with Dr. Adkins, well it is bacon and eggs for you. Those folks in the Adkins camp seem to be the happiest. There may be good reason for those who eat meat being the happiest, this could be due to higher levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin in carnivores. Vegans devoid of a natural source of cobalamin (vitamin B12) must supplement to stay alive and healthy. When was the last time you recall seeing a healthy looking (and happy) vegan. They typically present sullen, sad, and whiny. So for the sake of this discussion, let’s eliminate what Ornish and Adkins deem unsuitable for human consumption. Let’s give the vegans their day in court, and scratch off anything with a mommy and a daddy to eat. Lest we forget the nightshade group of vegetables where some authors say may be bad for your health; say goodbye to tomatoes, potatoes, and the sexy looking eggplant. The Paleo followers say no grains, so out goes rice with the aforementioned wheat. And ye faithful Neanderthals must also avoid legumes, so out goes the hummus with the chickpeas. We certainly can’t have too high a glycemic index fruit, so let’s throw out the tropical and equatorial fruits. Carrots and beets, according to Dr. Sears are too high in sugar, so we ban those too. Wait a minute here! Did we ask you your blood type? Yes, there is a diet to consider for the A’s, B’s and O’s. What about your genetic phenotype? Yes, another diet for that too if you possess the wrong gene in your Apolipoprotein-E DNA.
High protein is good for those advocates of a high protein diet, but damned by the low caloric and food deprived crowd who rattle off evidence that high protein foods cause cancer. Dairy, oh let us not forget dairy. Never mind it is laden with growth hormones and antibiotics, and how dare they pasteurize the stuff. Heck, even the organic stuff is not meant for mammals past the age of infancy. So ditch the cheese and milk-moustache. The human GI track was never meant to process mammary liquid beyond a few years from birth, let alone from another species like cows or goats. Seafood, a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, is almost a hit! But wait, overfishing, fish farms and mercury laden filets have tainted this possible perfect food. It is theorized that human kinds quantum leap from cave dwellers to the bright thinkers we are today was due in part to our enormous appetite for protein and fish especially with its brain and neuron nourishing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). But before you bite into the succulent sushi grade tuna, check it for mercury, dioxins, and PCBs. So seafood does not make our shopping list either. Don’t for a minute think you can get away with just any fruit, if you can find a legitimate organic fruit and wish to juice, well hold on to your hats. Juicing while concentrating the phytonutrients in fruit (and super fruit) also concentrates this fructose substance. Fructose is one of those pesky sugars that our body really doesn’t know how to properly metabolize. What happens when we are overloaded with it? The fructose turns into free-fatty acids (FFA) and gets deposited in our liver. Ever heard of non-alcoholic hepatic steatosis? Let’s just call it fatty liver disease in layman’s terms. So evict all the beautiful fruit from our kitchen produce basket. Well the only thing left in which to pass our lips seems to be water. Yes, plain old water. Well not ever water is 100% safe. H20 bottled in plastic when exposed to just a little heat or UV light releases bisphenols and other estrogen disruptors into our fluid of life. So maybe water is not such a great idea either coming out of a plastic bottle. So in the end we have eliminated everything in our quest for the perfect human diet. I am heartily sorry if I offended anyone by not representing a particular fad diet. My apologies for any act of omission, however, I am pretty sure I covered all the food groups and fad dietary recommendations of late.
Essentially nothing around today’s cafeteria line is healthy. From the over processed, genetically modified, over cooked, out of the box or can food-stuff they pour into our feeding troughs, it can be quite challenging getting a square meal these days. So best advice is to keep it real, keep it sustainable, eat real food. Don’t just drink smoothies meal replacements all day long, and for heavens sake don’t go crazy searching for the purest meal ever, it just doesn’t exist. Most important, enjoy a meal with friends and family as a social experience and not just as a caloric fix. Slow down and eat. Fast food by any definition is the enemy. When humanly possible let us consume the least processed, least manipulated foods similar to what our remote ancestors consumed. A leaky gut or gastrointestinal dysbiosis should not have us fall into eliminating one or two or three food groups, but rather set us on a journey of discovery to determine root cause. Yes, finding the root cause of our malnutrition and food intolerances can touch on the genetic, environment, metabolic and immune system. There is a fix; proper dietary intake of nutrients, usually whole food nutrition, along with select dietary supplements to correct the problem and fix our leaky basement membrane and porus intestinal villi. This treatment regimen is only necessary for six to twelve months before we can indulge in the cornucopia of delicious foods Mother Nature placed before us without too much limitation. Following these simple rules will no doubt make one thinner, healthier and wiser, if not happier. A pretty good fact filled and “makes sense” documentary for folks seeking basic sensible nutrition guidance is the film by journalist C.J. Hunt of a couple of years ago entitled “The Perfect Human Diet”. Rent it, watch and learn. The Slow Food society is another eat sensible and local group with conviviums all over the world. Founded in Italy in 1989, Slow Food remains a great organization of gastronomically intelligent followers who know what and how to eat; for more information visit www.slowfoodusa.org. Anyone interested, there is a group establishing a convivium in the Myrtle Beach area, send me an email and will get you on the list.
JP Saleeby, MD is an integrative physician with an office in Murrells Inlet, SC. He can be reached via his website www.PHC365.com or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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