Three articles ago we started a journey together, exploring the functional processes that must be balanced and efficient for us to restore a healthy weight and improve overall health. Understanding these processes and making lifestyle choices based on that understanding could very well lead to experiencing more life in your years as well as more years in your life. We’ve discussed basic lifestyle issues related to metabolic function, explored endocrine controls and regulation of cellular energy processes, and briefly tabulated steps to nutritional intervention using natural agents. In this concluding segment we will continue through an overview of dietary models and choices that can serve to bring us ever closer to our path to optimum health.
Cacophony and chaos are the descriptive words that come to mind when we consider the various dietary models we see promoted culturally, each labeled by the expert du jour as the only right way to achieve instant weight loss. Low fat or low carbohydrate, high protein or vegan, count calories, points, or fat grams- the messages we receive are conflicting, confusing, and often mutually exclusive. The Atkins diet, Sugar Busters, Carbohydrate Addicts, Protein Power, the South Beach Diet, the Zone diet, the food guide pyramid (old or new), franchise weight loss centers, ketogenic diets, high fiber diets, juicing, various low or no fat diets (to mention a few) all share a common characteristic, as disparate as they may be: each is built around some truth (observed evidence), as best as we understand it. If you are in the boomer generation you may remember the old Perry Mason television series, where witnesses were instructed to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. I think this quote points to two possible problems; a bit of evidence (the truth) may be deceiving unless viewed as part of all the evidence (the whole truth), and extrapolations from evidence may no longer be true (nothing but the truth).
We all share a common human biochemistry modified by differences in genetic heritage, lifestyle, and nutritional history, differences that lead to a degree of biochemical individuality. If we consider our biochemical commonality, individual variance, nutritional requirements for balanced endocrine function, micronutrient and caloric density of foods, and energy requirements for metabolic processes, then we begin to see that a basic common dietary model (our closest approximation of “the whole truth”) modified for genetic and individual variance represents the most reasonable path toward better metabolic health.
The “common denominator” model we recommend for core dietary choices is usually described as a Paleolithic diet (suggested reading: The Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain PhD). The basic concepts of this model involve choosing foods that best match our nutritional needs and minimizing or eliminating foods that fail to meet our needs or, even worse, interfere with our metabolism in some way. This model would include as beneficial choices foods from the following groups: lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (ideally free range, organic, or wild game sources); the broadest possible variety of non-starchy vegetables; seasonal whole fruits in moderation (limit or eliminate commercial juices); and raw tree nuts or edible seeds (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.). Additionally, the Paleolithic concept would restrict or eliminate foods from these groups: all dairy products (milk, cheeses, ice cream, even yogurt); grains and foods made from grains (especially gluten grains- wheat, rye, barley, and oats); legumes; and all packaged or processed foods (eliminating hidden sugars, dyes, sweeteners, preservatives, and other processing chemicals). Some of the benefits of this eating pattern are increased micronutrient density, better mineral balance, better pH balance in body tissues, better balance of fatty acids consumed, reduced inflammation in body systems, and increased fiber intake. Unlike most commercially promoted diets, this model reduces both inappropriate fats and inappropriate carbohydrate load.
To modify this basic lifestyle model we suggest making choices within the beneficial food groups based on blood type. The basis for food choice related to blood type is well described and is due to lectin incompatibilities, an immune reaction to proteins in foods. Published tables of food group choices for different blood types are available in handbook form or in the book Eat Right for Your Type by Dr. Peter D’Adamo. The simplest use of these publications is to apply the “avoid” tables in your food choices.
For most of us these models become desirable goals toward which we aspire, making more beneficial choices day by day until we find that we have adopted new, healthier eating habits. Changing our cultural imprinting for foods that negatively impact our health (and our weight) seems overwhelming to some, but the greater the changes we make the more progress we will see, both in increased energy and in lost fat mass. Well rounded lifestyle changes including improved dietary choices and routine increases in physical activity also lead to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduced chance of heart disease and diabetes- not bad for side effects, huh!
An observation to consider: for too many people the road to weight loss leads to impairment in long term health. With proper choices we can work our way to optimum health and achieve weight loss as a welcome benefit along the way. The choices we make every day represent forks in the road. The wide path, that of instant gratification and cultural self-deception, leads to vacillating weight and inevitably to declining health; the narrow path, steeper and rockier, leads (more slowly, yes) to greater energy, better health, and more years to enjoy the leaner, healthier you. So what’ll it be? The choice is yours…