Are you as confused as everyone else about the correct type of diet to follow?
Conventional dietetic information can be so contradictory. One minute, the doctrine of what to eat is being touted as wrong the next. How can this be? What feels good for one person does not for the other. That's because we all have different health states and metabolic needs.
Underlying all the hype, there are 4 main facts to consider:
- Our food chain has become over-processed and adulterated - so minimise anything that comes in a packet
- Our bodies do not like too much of any food group—even vegetables. Our bodies react to any food group or particular food if we have too much of it.
- Our digestive system has become weakened, and this is at the heart of most food intolerances and why people feel better avoiding certain food groups.
- Genetically we are predisposed to a certain diet type. But underlying this is essentially that an unprocessed diet is healthy for most people.
So first, I will clear the confusion using age-old naturopathic advice that was given to me over 20 years ago when I was studying to become a Naturopathic physician.
Even before the cholesterol debate was raging, old-school Naturopaths understood the fat and oil story. It was popularised by Udo Erasmus in his defining opinions on good fats, particularly in the form of omega-6 oils.
Conventional dietetics never quite understood the difference between good fats, bad fats, and the different forms of fats. To this day, there are erroneous thoughts regarding fat intake in the form of high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets.
The most important aspect to remember in all nutritional information is that 'processing' is critical. What we do to a food before we consume it is the major determining factor in its effect upon the body.
The general rule is that the more processed food is, the further removed it becomes from how nature intended it to be consumed, and the harder it is for our bodies to assimilate it.
Most fats in their raw state are fine. Any heat or processing destroys and denatures this fat—with the exemption of Ghee, which has been used for centuries by Ayurvedic doctors.
Fats are an important part of our diets and very important, especially for hormonal women. But the fats must be of a certain quality; otherwise, they can contribute to heart disease and a range of other disorders.
Any fat that has been treated with high to super-high heat oxidises and becomes dangerous to consume. Many chemicals are produced through heating, such as trans-fats and acrylamide. So it's very important to consume fats in their natural form.
These include avocados, raw nuts and seeds, cold-pressed oils, organic free-range meats and eggs, fermented cheeses, butter, fermented dairy products, and seafood.
The current trend with high-fat diets is that all fats are beneficial. This is not true. Having bacon that is cooked to a crisp, unfortunately, is not healthy. Likewise, consuming meat and seafood products that have been farmed commercially is not healthy. These animals have been subjected to a range of growth-promoting compounds, and the fats are not healthy fats.
Just take a look at a piece of farmed salmon versus wild salmon. The quality of the fats is very different, and they have a very different effect on your body. Actually, the effects are the complete opposite of each other.
Bad fats create inflammation, hormonal imbalance, heart disease, and cancer. Good fats protect against each of these conditions. The point here is that good unprocessed fats are healthy.
This was not common knowledge for many years and thankfully now is being advocated. However, don't get lured into the trap that all fats are good.
Now, on to the carbohydrate myths. It’s very simple, actually.
Whole carbohydrates, i.e., unprocessed, when consumed in moderation, are good. Refined carbohydrates and simple sugars—surprise, surprise, are bad for you.
Actually, they are deadly and are the major cause of most degenerative diseases today.
They also are at the root cause of the obesity epidemic. In the 80s, the general public began avoiding fats under the advice of the AMA and dieticians, based on the misunderstanding of fats and cholesterol. Actually, refined sugar is one of the main causes of heart disease and cholesterol.
So, the food industry moved towards a carbohydrate-based diet due to popular demand and started to over-process every kind of carbohydrate.
The result has been an obesity epidemic and diabetes plague. We need unrefined carbohydrates in our diet in combination with good fats and lean proteins. This is what our bodies require for optimal health.
Grains and legumes
Grains and legumes are the most common forms of carbohydrates in the diet, and Paleo fanatics are creating a new trend of grain and legume avoidance.
Any refining of grains and legumes destroys their natural state. Whole grains and cooked-soaked legumes are an essential part of a healthy diet; anyone who says different does not understand the bigger picture.
This issues with grains and legumes mainly comes from poor digestion. This can make the body reactive to grains after some time and is actually caused by too many refined grains in breads and processed foods.
If you focus on restoring digestive health, then grains, for most people, are fine and a healthy food source. Simply removing them from the diet is a band-aid approach, and other health consequences will develop from avoiding these food groups.
Whole grains and legumes provide many natural chemicals and food sources for your microbiome and healthy gut bacteria, which heal and protect the gut.
Our bodies need protein just as much as fats and carbohydrates. Our bodies need a balance of all these food groups.
To restrict any one food group, unless you have a very specific intolerance, is not intelligent and will lead to deficiency states eventually.
A diet high in protein is not advised at all, as it stresses your kidneys and may lead to autoimmune issues. Most protein from animal sources comes with a fat element. Now, in a raw state, this is great. Even healthy, if you can stomach it.
But when you cook it then this is a different story. So, if you're having a lot of cooked meats, then this fat causes an elevation in inflammation and contributes to many chronic degenerative diseases.
Meats need to be consumed in moderation. Red meat, in particular, is very closely linked to bowel cancer and should only ever be had in smaller amounts. All commercial meats also come with issues regarding antibiotics and growth enhancers. Organic is always best - and this goes for plants as well as meats.
My advice in terms of balance in the diet of carbs, protein, and fat, is that is should be a 40:40:20 mix of each from unprocessed natural sources.
Dairy is difficult to digest. It always has been, and when we over-process it, then it becomes even harder.
If you can ferment dairy, then most people can tolerate smaller amounts. Fermented cheeses, such as most white cheeses, most people can manage in small amounts. Small is the key here.
But commercial milk and sugary yogurts are reactive and lead specifically to PCOS and endometriosis as part of the contributive causes.
Fruits and vegetables
It's true that sugar is a massive issue that needs to be dealt with, but fruits and sweet vegetables, in particular, have copped a bad rap, by being linked to sugar intake.
Fruits are great and can be consumed in larger amounts, as long as you have them in their whole form.
The same goes for vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are the best to juice—but again, if you have too many of these, they can be hard to digest.
What's the answer?
So, should you have a high-fat, low-carb diet, a high-protein, low-carb diet, or a high-carb, low-fat diet...? NO!
You need a balance of each food group with predominantly unprocessed foods. This will allow for optimal function of the endocrine and immune systems and maintain a balanced internal biochemistry.
Sure, low carb will help you lose weight; however, be careful long term because you might miss the nutrients needed for a whole range of biochemical processes.
The current fad of paleo and high fat will result in other health conditions because then it is too one-sided. Balance and avoiding processed food is the key.
I prefer to concentrate less on food groups and more on food states. The key to hormonal health is alkaline and high in antioxidants.
Foods that are alkaline and high in antioxidants spread across all food groups, and flooding your system with these food states is the best way to approach your diet. It's best for both hormonal and overall health because these food groups create the ideal biochemistry your body needs to function optimally and heal itself.
Our 8-Week Program is set up to do this, and it's not just a healthy eating program, but a therapeutic approach to creating the right environment so the body can heal itself.