What diet is best for me?
Meat-eater? Vegetarian? Vegan? Paleo? Keto?
I’m going to start by saying that I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian and if you have any questions about specific dietary requirements it’s always best to seek a professionals help (I know a few good dietitians if anyone needs a recommendation). However I have done nutrition subjects throughout my health science degrees alongside research out of personal interest and conversations with dietitians/ nutritionists that help form my view.
I’ve just recently gotten back into the weeds of nutrition to find the ‘optimal’ diet for my health, multiple books, podcasts and scientific studies later I’d share my view on the hot topic of diet. I’m not looking for everyone to agree to with my point of view; I’m merely looking to give guidance to those lost in the world of diet that are constantly asking the question “is this good for me?”.
The three rules that I suggest to follow that come from Michael Pollen’s book called food rules: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. I love this approach as it’s simple and easy to follow once you understand what they mean. I’m going to explain my take on what they mean to provide guidance on foods to avoid and foods to choose.
This essentially means eat mostly real food that doesn’t need some sort of factory processing to be put into your mouth. Highly processed foods generally have a lot of added sugar and fat and lots of refined grains – Diets high in these types of foods are linked to higher rates of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Pollen gives other rules such as; don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise, stay out of the middle of the supermarket, don’t eat things with ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t recognise and don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. I believe these are excellent rules to be guided by when choosing food to eat.
This guideline of Pollen’s is self-explanatory but is excellent to follow, a podcast I re-listened to recently suggested that 75% of your plate should be plants which again is a great guide. This guideline may cop a lot of criticism from the hardcore vegetarians/vegans generally saying “meat is bad for you” but from what I’ve read/listened to current science doesn’t support that claim. However it is recommended somewhat limiting your intake your meat intake especially those highly processed meats (the World Health Organisation states that consumption of processed meats leads to a greater risk of colon cancer). Examples of processed meats include Hot dogs, ham, sausages, salami, beef jerky and corned beef.
Not too much:
Easy to say but much harder to do in many cases. Having a diet that is constantly in a calorie surplus (i.e. eating more fuel than you burn) is a sure way to lead to weight gain and essentially poor health. A few things Pollen mentions that you can try to help reduce your portion size and control your caloric intake: Buy smaller glasses and plates to make your portions seem larger, always eat at a table therefore concentrating on your meal and try not to eat alone helping you slow down and enjoy your meals more. A more extreme way to decrease your caloric intake is to try intermittent fasting, this is most commonly done where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours each day but I’d recommend seeing your doctor or dietitian before starting such diet.
I believe the best diet for health purposes is mostly a plant based diet that contains a wide variety or vegetables, fruits and whole grains with smaller levels of animal products including meat (good quality and not processed) and dairy products (cheese, milk and yogurt).
The best choices are a wide variety of:
Vegetables; spinach, carrots, broccoli, green beans, kale, pumpkin, sweet potato, mushrooms, spring onion, celery and capsicum being my favourites.
Fruits: Apples, pears, blueberries, bananas, kiwi fruit, oranges and grapes.
Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts
Whole grains: Brown rice, wholegrain oats and whole-wheat breads.
Meat: Chicken, salmon and other types of fish and small amounts of red meat.
Diary: Plain Greek yogurt, small amounts of cheese and cow’s or other types of milk (almond/soy)
Want to know where I form my opinion from? Read/listen to the following for a pretty decent summary:
– Michael Pollen’s book – Food rules; An eaters guide
– The Joe Rogan experience episode #1175 – Chris Kresser & Dr Joel Kahn
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Hope this helps and thank you for reading.
Jamey Pemmelaar (Osteopath)