Let’s talk about diets.

Diets seem to have us in a tailspin. It’s becoming exceedingly difficult to find dietary clarity through the torrent of newly developed diet plans and their ensuing biases. With the web being a smorgasbord of crisscrossing opinions, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what is best for you.

For that reason, we’re going to break down five of the diet lifestyles out there that avow their better-ness over the others. (By “diet lifestyles,” I’m referring to sustainable eating patterns as opposed to quick-and-painful detoxes like the 10-day juice fast or baby food diet) Ideally, by the end of this, you and I will find ourselves better equipped for the next time we’re holding a plate of what-have-you food and we’re asked, “Why do you eat like that?”

PALEO

Notes From a Paleolithic Foodie:

Name?
Max More

Title / Occupation?
President and CEO, Alcor Life Extension Foundation

What got you started?
For many years, I didn’t question the view that the healthiest diet was low in fat – especially saturated fat – and high in grains. Once I came across and understood the evolutionary rationale for the Paleo approach (essentially that we are not well-adapted to eat an agrarian diet), I did a lot of research and realized that the diet I’d followed for so long was far from optimal. Within a short period of time, I adopted a Paleo approach (initially a low-carb version), I got leaner, my blood pressure went down considerably, and my energy levels stayed more consistent.

Favorite paleo dish?
“Favorite” questions are always difficult. I love a big salad, with several vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, with either chicken or fish or egg added. I also like a simple piece of salmon with salt and pepper, and salad on the side. But, if you want me to pick one dish, it would be a steak dish, like a stir fry beef salad. Note that it’s essential that the steak be grass-fed. This greatly improves the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. (But salmon still has a higher total of omega-3s.)

 

GLUTEN-FREE

Notes From a Gluten Free Foodie:

Name?
Natalie Sadler

Title/Occupation?
Graduate Student, University of California, Davis

What got you started?
At age 20, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease – an autoimmune disease. Essentially, when gluten is present in the small intestine, the immune system goes haywire and attacks cells on the lining of the intestine, leading to a variety of problems with digestion and nutrition. I had been having digestive symptoms as well as severe fatigue for about 3 years before diagnosis. Diagnosis requires a blood test checking for antibodies and a biopsy of the small intestine. I received the positive diagnosis and, during finals week, went on a diet of corn tortillas, cheese, and gluten-free tomato soup. After a couple of days, I felt amazing! I had forgotten what it was like to wake up and have energy.

Favorite gluten-free dish?
The wonderful thing about going gluten-free is it opens up your eyes and appetite to new, delicious, and creative eating! There are very few things that cannot be modified to be gluten-free. Because of that, it’s hard to pick just one recipe. My favorite gluten-free blog for sweets is http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/. If I have to pick a favorite recipe, it’s chicken enchiladas with a creamy green sauce.

 

VEGETARIAN / VEGAN

Notes From a Vegan Foodie

Name?
Midori Yoshimura

Title / Occupation?
Assistant Editor, Copy Editor, Associate Producer (and Avid Walker)

What got you started?
Growing up in a vegetarian family, you could say my “diet” started at birth. However, in high school, I began paying more attention to how my food choices affected others – and not just my personal well-being. I might not eat beef, but what would happen to the cows whose (non-organic) milk I automatically poured on my oatmeal every morning? In many cases, once milk cows are no longer “useful” as milk cows, they are slaughtered for their meat. Was I supporting non-vegetarians, just by drinking milk? In this light, gradually becoming vegan instead of just vegetarian made sense – and in college, helped me avoid the freshman five and financial ruin – my vegan diet was cheaper. Not only did I eat in more often, but the proteins, such as beans and soy products, that replace meats and cheeses tended to be less pricey. So now, years later, I still have milk and oatmeal for breakfast – but the almonds that produced the milk will never be killed for meat.

Favorite vegan dish?
Kabocha squash.  Note: I fiddle with the ingredients and amounts every time I make this. For example, last time I added a pinch of cloves. Also, I don’t use the sesame oil suggested but instead spray the slices with plenty of extra virgin olive oil cooking spray.

 

RAW

Notes From a Raw Foodie:

Name?
Christy Harden

Title / Occupation?
Speech Pathologist, Commercial Actor, Writer, Crowtege Blogger

What got you started?
I chose to eat a raw food diet for both health and ethical reasons; I experienced food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, and processed sugar, and after completing a degree in Environmental Studies, I also became aware of the ethical and health issues with factory farming. As an animal lover and someone who doesn’t like to spend time reading labels and trying to figure out what I should avoid, eating raw vegan was a logical choice for me. While every once in awhile I’ll eat something cooked, about 99% of the time I stay raw and I love it – I’ve never looked or felt better and the food is delicious!

Favorite raw dish?
My favorite recipe is pesto on toast!

 

With all of that said, you may or may not find yourself in a greater state of dietary clarity.  Whether or not you do, two things stand out as seriously uncomplicated: the fruits and veggies. Each and every diet spotlights the importance of fruits and veggies for a multiplicity of reasons we won’t mention here for length’s sake. You’re welcome.

So, if you’re considering a diet like the paleo, raw, gluten free, pescetarin, vegan, freegan (subsistent on what’s been tossed in the trash), Kosher, flexitarian (semi-vegetarian), or what-have-you diet…a safe place to begin would probably be with a good old-fashioned plateful of fruits and vegetables.


About the Author

Sarah Jung

Sarah Jung is the associate director of Life and Health Network, but wears a plethora of hats as editor, communications director, and sometimes photographer. Unrelated to Life and Health, Sarah is the country director and founding member of Oon Jai Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower people living in developing countries through friendship and working, learning, and mentoring side-by-side with the locals. In her spare time, Sarah likes to read, write, and find mountains to climb.

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