As a nutritionist, I’m often asked all kinds of questions aboutthe latest health fad. The truth is, there’s no real secret to eating healthfully. However, what’s healthful to one may be harmful for another.
Recently, Dr. Oz posted to Facebook that “almost half of your daily calories should come from complex carbohydrates, so fill up on vegetables, fruits and whole grains.” Uh oh. Over 10,000 comments later, legions of people had applauded him, while others stopped just short of calling him a murderer.
All this heated controversy prompted me to ask my professor which single diet he would recommend to everyone, if he had to choose only one. Dr. Tam is 80+ years old, full of wise old Chinese proverbs; like the Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi, only with a Masters in biochemistry and PhD in nutritional science. He seemed stumped at first. He thought about it for a few beats, and began to reply that a person’s heritage is a huge factor; whatever your grandparents and generations of ancestors before you ate, is what you should probably be eating. While that’s certainly a good place to start, nutrition is a complicated subject, and I’m convinced that there is no cut-and-dried answer!
High cholesterol and hypertension have become a part of our vocabulary as Americans, but we hear a lot less about those people which have the complete opposite problem; low cholesterol and low blood pressure. These people do exist (I’m one of them!), and neither scenario is desirable. Those with low blood pressure are encouraged to drink more water and eat more salt, while that clearly would not work for a person with hypertension.
So, let’s just pause a moment and think about this. Chances are good that YOU know inherently which category you fall into best. If you eat red meat, and feel weighed down afterwards… LISTEN to your body, and maybe tune out what you may have heard about the latest extreme diet.
In my experience as a nutritionist, I’m always learning and growing; from a know-it-all “vegans do it better” attitude to a more humble and inclusive point of view. However, for any of you interested to know, I will attempt to answer my own question posed to Dr. Tam earlier. Through much scientific research and personal experience, if I had to prescribe a single diet across-the-board… I would recommend a diet high in raw and lightly steamed vegetables, small amounts of protein (about 3 oz. per meal), low/ no grains, a single serving of fruit (preferably low-sugar berries), and lots of healthy fats in whole food form (avocados, raw nuts and seeds). I chose these foods because they help your body maintain homeostasis. All diseases, at their core, are caused by an inflammatory process. For this reason, it is important to choose foods that do not contribute to, and actually help to calm inflammation.
Here is a list of some of my favorites:
Wild Coho Salmon
Dark chocolate (70%+)
For existing inflammatory conditions, you may consider a short-term water fast. Look out for my next post about the wonders of therapeutic fasting!