With over 35 years in the health industry I have seen many trends in diets come and go . The Beach diet, Israeli Army diet, Grapefruit diet , Atkins diet, Ornish diet , Pritikin diet etc . They may have had something to offer at the time maybe too hard to follow for some or sustain , but like everything else as new information comes to hand then trends tend to change .
So, what is a good diet ? Well, good for what Weight loss , weight gain , overall health , longevity, or insulin control or ease of cooking ?
To discuss trending diets and my thoughts on them it is worth having a reference point .
Nutritional Scientists are more or less agreed at the moment , that for survival, or meeting minimal Nutritional requirements then the following is required – Proteins , Fats and Carbohydrates . ( microflora are essential also but not a direct ingestive food source)
Proteins : can be in the form of animal or vegetable protein and are broken down in the body to amino acids for the rebuilding of organs and tissues . The best proteins are the most easily absorbed and they are mainly animal proteins such as Eggs for example.
Best forms of animal protein are chicken, fish , eggs / and in plant protein – tofu , tempeh , lentils , chickpeas .
Fats :are required to make hormones and to assist in vitamin and mineral transfer . They are required for absorption in the Gut such as absorption of Vit D and E and other fat-soluble nutrients .
Best forms of Healthy fats are Virgin Olive oil , Fish oils , butter , cream and coconut oils .
Carbohydrates : Carbs are required for minerals and vitamins and enzymes and especially fibre that feeds the GUT flora . Carbs provide a ready source of fuel for the body as they are more easily broken down into sugar molecules in the body . The Carb category may include starches such as -Rice , pasta , potatoes and bread etc but these are not good examples of good carbohydrates. The best carbs are rich in fibre and nutritionally dense such as Fruit and Vegetables . Coloured fruit and vegetables supply the body’s source of polyphenols or pigmented plant compounds that are vital for immune , blood vessel and tissue health .
Best forms of Carbs are cruciferous vegetables, beetroot, purple carrots, Sweet Potatoes , all highly pigmented fruits such as blue and red berries, and Quinoa or Buckwheat .
There is a lot on the internet about these foods and the micronutrients that they contain to look at so I will not elaborate here . The purpose is that one needs to eat the correct or appropriate amount of fats , Proteins and Carbohydrates as building blocks for good health .
So as a general rule it is thought that for a balanced diet and good health one should eat daily about approx.
- 15% fats
- 20% Protein , ( animal or vegetable origin)
- 65% Complex high fibre Carbohydrates ( not including the starches )
The proportions here are debateable amongst Nutritionists ,but as an example, as it is thought that manual workers or bodybuilders should have more protein ,and fats and sedentary workers could get a bit less . The body stores amino acids so protein can also be obtained from non -animal origins .
Growing children and teenagers or Athletes can include a bit more starch due to their increased energy requirements .
Starches are generally not required as they are considered “empty” or devoid of nutritional density and fibre . An example of an empty starch is white rice whereas an example of a good nutrient dense high fibre Carb vegetable is- Broccoli .
So, let’s look at the trending diets at the moment-
- The Ketogenic diet is perhaps the most controversial due to the high proportion percentage of protein and fats compared to carbohydrates . The main reason for its popularity is – weight loss . Yes, it does work better than most other diets for this purpose . It relies on fresh produce so is certainly Healthier than the Standard Australian Diet . ( called the SAD diet – very sad ! )
It is particular useful for insulin control , therefore specific for hormone control , diabetes , weight loss and for those who have skin problems such as Acne . This diet is often combined with intermittent fasting for weight loss and there is increasing evidence that fasting is good for extending longevity and promoting good health. Although the intermittent fasting part is good ,the Keto diet itself is considered by some not to be a good long-term diet due to the high amounts of fats and proteins and is low in fruit intake . The typical Keto diet has these typical proportions .
- 70–80% fat
- 20–25% protein
- 5–10% carbohydrates
My Comment: Great diet for losing weight quickly , especially waist or gut fat , or for those who have diabetes , insulin issues, and acne . Perhaps not so good long term as there are issues surrounding long term consumption so much high fat and proteins.
The Paleo diet : This is often referred to the Hunter gatherer diet and is similar but not as severe as the Ketogenic diet as it allows more fruit and Carbs to be consumed . the ratios are approx. –
- 40% fat
- 30% protein
- 30% carbohydrates
My Comment : Perhaps better for those who find the Keto a bit extreme or for those who want to tackle the same health conditions as keto but in a gentler way to start. In cultures who live as traditional Hunter Gatherers it has been observed that there is no breast cancer or acne and no heart disease and no diabetes .
The Mediterranean Diet : – has had good press coverage of late and is agreed amongst nutritionists as being the the number one overall diet for heart health and over health and well being. The reason for its top ranking is that it is a diet that has been studied and measured by food scientists over a long period of time and is one that easily fits into western culture and cooking styles .
it is loosely based on the Traditional Greek diet which includes foods such as beans, nuts , cheeses , lots of whole fibre fruit and veg , lean sources of meats and seafoods . The diet can include whole meal breads and pastas and of course lots of olive oil ! ( the good fats)
So as a good allrounder that says yes to a lot of food groups then this is it !
It is good for those who need weight control and to balance normal blood sugars . A modified version of this diet minus bread , rice and grains is used as a basis for the Fast 800 diet that is used for healthy weight loss .
Notice that I have used the term -Traditional Greek diet as compared to the “ modern Greek diet” which unfortunately is close to the Australian SAD diet ( standard Australian Diet ) which is unfortunately really SAD. Studies have shown that most Australians daily do not eat the required amount of fruit and vegetables for good Health.
The Mediterranean ratios are approx. –
- 20-35% Fats
- 20-35% protein
- 45-65% Carbohydrates
My Comment : Nutritionally, the best endorsed by most Nutritionists and a good all-rounder for maintaining overall health . Weight loss can be achieved by reducing portion size and Eliminating starches or empty carbs .
The Vegan diet: The vegan diet is restricted to eating foods of a non-animal origin .The vegan diet differs from Vegetarian diets that allow some sources of animal food such as milk or butter etc . The diet is mainly – Fruits and vegetables and Legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. Nuts and seeds are allowed as are . Breads, rice, and pasta. Vegan diets can include Dairy alternatives such as soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk. Various Vegetable oils are allowed…
The Vegan diet is the best diet for eating to a Spiritual and ethical way of eating . It is claimed by Vegans that the only way to save the planet is by eating ethically and by eating mainly plant food and not of Animal origin which consumes a lot of Agricultural resources
The diet may also be good for those who have inflammatory bowel disorders , high cholesterol, heart disease and cancers and for developing a healthy gut flora due to the high amount of plant foods consumed .
The majority of the diet is centred around consuming Carbohydrates and Fat and is the polar opposite of the Ketogenic diet with its low carb, high protein approach.
- 20-30% Fat – no animal fats allowed
- 15-20 % plant derived proteins only
- 45-60% Carbohydrates including starches
My Comment: Certainly, the most Ethical diet around and for saving sentient beings from suffering and slaughter. The health benefits have been mentioned but this diet does not rate highly with most nutritionists .
Some shortcomings perhaps with this style of eating as it is easy to get nutritional deficiencies for example, B group vitamins , especially Vit B12 ,iodine , Vit D, Iron and essential fatty acids . Seniors need lots of amino acids for tissue rebuilding so this diet may at times be lacking in protein.
Although Vegans may argue otherwise this may not be a good diet for some for weight loss or diabetes or insulin control unless one is only eating complex nutrient dense carbs devoid of starches . Vegans can often drift into eating lots of rice , pasta and bread as a source of bulking their food intake or for convenience which is not good for insulin control . Females in particular need to be aware that a strict Vegan diet may put them at risk of iron and B group deficiency . A vegetarian diet with eggs and dairy may alleviate these issues .
So, am I against a vegan diet ? – no! It all depends on genetics, lifestyle and use of correct foods to maintain health . It is just with the Vegan diet it may be harder to get all the essential nutrients especially for seniors . Seniors over 70 have lost about 25% of their digestive absorption function compared with say those of 25 years of age . Digestive functions start to decline after 50 and gets worse with age .
So, there you have it ! Each diet has its pros and cons and what matters is your goals and purpose . Special notes follows –
Children and teenagers : The Mediterranean diet may be the best suited for this group as there are a wide variety of food groups on offer and little restrictions . Children and Teenagers need a little bit of everything to develop a healthy microbiome ,i.e., gut flora .
With this group I recommend go easy on dairy and starches . For dairy alternatives one can look at –
Eating dates – so one date = is approx. calcium equivalent to one glass of milk. A tablespoon of Tahini = Calcium approx. equivalent to one litre of milk . Tahini can be made into sauces that can be drizzled over vegetables or as dips for snacks.
Bone density is laid down in these years so lots of exercise and eating a mineral rich food is recommended along with the dates and Tahini .
. Children also need some Vit D supplements as well if they are not going outdoors as much
Naturally if the child is putting on weight, then one needs to increase the exercise being done, or reduce the starches in the diet .
For those underweight then increase the use of fats, good oils and nut butters , not so much the starches .
Seniors – For definition this may mean anyone over the age of 65 or thereabouts .
Seniors may have assimilation issues and muscle and bone mass loss . It is estimated that over the age of 70 there is a a loss of about -25% of our digestive function and absorption as compared to when we are 25 years old . This I have mentioned before but it is worth looking at it again . Seniors therefore should look Taking digestive enzymes or taking apple cider vinegar or ginger tea ( if feeling cold) on a regular basis with meals .
Two different soups a day in small bowls or mugs with meals is recommended . Seniors are best served with warm cooked meals in general 9 months of the year ( unless living near the tropics ) and either a protein orientated Vegetarian diet or Mediterranean style diet . Seniors can do well on a vegetarian ,but not vegan diet , if it is properly administered . An example of Vegetarian Seniors is the seventh day Adventist community in Loma Linda County , California USA which are part of the ” Blue Zones” . The ” Blue Zones” are areas of community that have a lot of seniors living longer and have low numbers suffering chronic diseases .
So where does one start as an adult ?
On the plate in front of you, it is good to have approx. 80% complex, nutrient dense carbs in the form of coloured vegetables and approx. 20 % protein from a variety of sources . As mentioned, these ratios can be altered according to need. Carbs can be steamed , raw ,or cooked casserole style . It is assumed that dressings, sauces and cooking methods will contain a percentage of fat that will add in the fat content which is important . Olive oil dressing should be used liberally .
Cooked food and soups should be more abundant in winter and steamed or raw foods in summer .
A typical daily menu could be –
Breakfast : Porridge made from rolled oats cooked with goji berries or raisins for sweetness then add when cooked some cream and fruit like blueberries or a vegetable egg omelette
In summer , a bowl of fruit with nuts or Bircher Muesli may suffice
Lunch: A salad sandwich and / or large bowl of soup / or steamed vegetables with a Tahini sauce or a rainbow-coloured salad with tuna or chicken
Dinner: Steamed vegetables with a flavoured Tahini dressing / with Roasted Chicken. Crockpot dishes in winter are very easy to do with vegetables.
In Summer have a rainbow salad with Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing and protein of choice .
Of course, seek advice to customise your dietary requirements to suit your lifestyle needs .
For more information, please contact me www.adelaidnaturopath.net.au
Peter Farnsworth ND.