Which Diet Choices are Right for You?
Diet plays a huge role in our health. After all, we are what we eat.
I’ve met so many people who follow different diets, from Paleo and vegan to meat-based and vegetarian. All have their merits, and often it is finding which one best suits your constitution, likes and dislikes, and how long you follow it for. There are some important factors to take into account to ensure you get sufficient nutrition.
I have seen people follow difficult exclusion diets, thinking that it is a healthy choice, but worryingly it can result in poor health if not done with a lot of care. I have seen unhealthy vegetarians and vegans particularly who can assume that they are having an excellent diet, yet they start to develop health problems because of lacking vital nutrients. Likewise, meat-inclusive diets can also be unhealthy, if not done in balance.
So, what’s the answer?
Below I have looked at some of the common diets I see people following:
A vegetarian diet, which includes some animal derived foods, such as eggs, dairy and fish, is something I believe can provide a healthy and balanced diet with the vital nutrients your body needs. It does take care to get the correct balance of nutrients, and if this is not done deficiencies in vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc are not uncommon. Countless studies have shown that a well-planned, nutritious, plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, as well as with longer life expectancy.
Veganism has become increasingly popular, so much so that when I was interviewed last week on BBC Radio they wanted to talk about the huge rise in the sales of vegan ice cream. In fact the sale of vegan foods has risen by a whopping 1,500% in the last year alone.
Veganism excludes all types of animal produce – including not only meat but also eggs, dairy and seafood. Statistics show that most people become vegans for ethical reasons. However, if you are choosing veganism purely for health reasons, there are important points to consider, as complete absence of all animal based foods can take its toll. Initially, following a purely vegan diet will most likely give a lift and bounce to someone’s health. I believe this is linked with the change to a mostly raw and plant-based food diet. What is more complex though, is the long term affects.
Quite simply, there are nutrients that can’t be obtained from plants. Some of these include, long-chained omega-3 fats, carnosine, taurine, carnitine, retinol, vitamins D3 and B12 and conjugated linoleic acid. After 6-7 years, B12 can be so rundown in the liver that neurodegenerative and neurological diseases can start to come about. Iron and zinc deficiencies are not uncommon either.
Getting sufficient healthy fats is a significant problem for vegans. The previously vilified saturated fat has now been recognized as an important part of a healthy diet. Many of these saturated fats come from animal sources. Essential omega 3 fats sourced from fish are very important for good health and despite small amounts of omega 3 being available from flax or linseed for example, it’s not sufficient. Forgoing marine sourced DHA is something that is a problem.
Another regular problem I come across with vegans is protein deficiency. This is because some vegans base their diet on foods like pasta and vegetables without getting sufficient protein rich vegetables as they do in places like India, which include chick peas, lentils and pulses.
For vegans and vegetarians generally, I suggest having nutritional levels checked regularly so that these can be topped up where possible.
TYPICAL WESTERN DIETS TODAY
For many people today, we are consuming too much protein, meats and processed foods. Increasing vegetable intake is only a good thing. Following a 70% vegetarian diet is what I usually recommend to most clients – protein from animal sources are fine to have, but the idea is to have meat, fish, eggs, but with plenty of vegetables too. The vast majority of your diet should be made up of whole, fresh vegetables, fruits and salads. The need for carbohydrates, such as a bread and pasta can vary from person to person, but these should not be excessive. If possible when consuming meat I recommend organic, and fish I recommend non-farmed.
There is so much to say about diet, and if you have any questions please let me know and I’m very happy to go over this with you relating to your specific requirements.