Here again, is my disclaimer that I am not a doctor, a nutritionist, or an expert on food and nutrition in any way, but I have done my own reading, spoken to doctors and researchers, and have drawn my own conclusions. This blog post is merely me expressing my own opinions. Take them or leave them.
A friend on Facebook recently updated his status to ask friends what vitamins he should take to help his energy level. Before I even read the responses, I thought, Oh boy, this guy is in for a tidal wave of “advice.” And the advice came rolling in. It’s as if, suddenly, all of his friends had acquired M.D.s overnight! From explicit directives regarding health, fitness and nutrition regimens, to exclamations of, “Eat raw food!” or “The Paleo Diet is the way to go!” these well-meaning friends adamantly insisted that the guy change his whole lifestyle, and there were SO MANY different opinions.
Look, if a diet works for you, great. I get that people are excited when they discover something that works with their body chemistry and fits into their lifestyle. However, it does NOT mean that a chosen diet is the healthiest possible diet for anyone and everyone. Just because it’s “trendy” or helps with some aspect of a person’s life (weight loss, energy, chronic condition, etc.), does not make it an optimal diet for all. What is irritating about most long term dieters is that these people take on a “holier than thou” attitude, maintaining that THEY are the enlightened few who have discovered THE path to better health, and that everyone else (the proletarian, Big Mac-scarfing masses) just doesn’t “get” it yet.
Let’s look at “raw” diets, for example. There are lots of benefits to raw food; in particular, the fiber content, the “roughage”, the benefits of ingesting some live enzymes and nutrients that exist in some raw foods that don’t exist after they’re cooked. However, cooking food is a technology that can actually bring out the nutritional benefits of some foods AND prevent disease. Cooking asparagus helps fight cancer, cooking mushrooms makes them more potassium-rich, cooking spinach helps the body absorb more calcium, magnesium and iron. Raw foodists pride themselves on eating “natural” and “clean” foods, but, truth be told, humans actually cooked and ate meat before they discovered agriculture. Agriculture is a technology we invented. I know, right? Shocking.
So, then we have the Paleo Diet peeps, who, on principle, seem to make a bit more nutritional sense. It’s basically eating “clean” –no processed foods, no breads and pastas, no sugar, no dairy. Basically, it’s meat and veggies, and pretty restrictive. Generally speaking, this is probably a fine diet to have–if we hadn’t evolved, genetically–and if ancient humans never ate grains (which they did–I know, another shock).
Like I said, cool, if these work for you, great, but they are no panacea, and restrictive diets can sometimes adversely affect health and (hidden danger) cause eating disordered thinking. And, in today’s world, where temptation is everywhere, and willpower is limited, having the occasional chocolate bar or doughnut, or potato chip won’t cause ill affect on your health, just like one carrot won’t benefit you much if you’re eating Twinkies 24/7. In fact, a treat every now and again might help you stay “on track” in the long run. The point is, when it comes to food, there isn’t a hard and fast “right” or “wrong” diet for all. A healthy diet can certainly make you feel better, but, in the age where information is flying about faster than hummingbirds in a hurricane, it’s important to leave nutritional advice to licensed medical experts (like Dr. Andrew Weil), to get your own nutritional needs assessed, and figure out what works best and is sustainable for your own body.