The more you read about health and nutrition, the more confusing it gets. You can reach the point where you are terrified to eat just about anything!
If you can identify with this, keep reading. Many people who follow my blog and emails are in this situation. They’ve read so many diet books, they’re confused about what they should and shouldn’t eat.
No wheat, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no caffeine, no animal products… and that’s just the start. You can name pretty much any food and some health writer will tell you it’s bad for you.
I’ve been studying health and nutrition for 40 years. I’ve read about pretty much every diet under the sun. I’ve tried many of them on myself when I was younger.
Diet fads come and go. But the same basic principles apply. They just get repackaged under a different name, when someone writes a best-selling book.
Currently, the main diet fads are paleo and keto, at one end of the spectrum, and veganism (including raw veganism) at the other end. You’ve got the high-carb low-fat gurus – and the high-fat, low carb gurus.
Many people follow these diet fads like a religion. There’s the paleo community, the raw vegan community and they will argue against each other with a lot of animosity.
So what should you make of all this? If you’re just wanting to know the truth about what to eat. How do you know who to believe? And just when you think you’ve found the holy grail, you read another book that completely debunks that diet.
So, you jump from one fad to the other.
Here’s what I’ve concluded after 40 years
1. There are no “good” or “bad” foods.
All foods, in their natural state, as God designed them, are healthy and good for humans to eat. This includes the dreaded wheat, dairy, meat and any other foods that certain diet gurus will tell you not eat.
Look back at what traditional societies have been eating for thousands of years. Almost every society in recorded human history has based their diet around some form of starchy carbohydrate. The most common are wheat, rice and potatoes.
Look at the healthiest people in the world today. The places where people commonly live to 100 years old or more. Every one of them bases their diet around some kind of starchy carbohydrate.
So, don’t be afraid of carbohydrates.
Some diet gurus will tell you that humans don’t need carbohydrates. That’s true. It’s possible to survive without carbohydrates. The Eskimos do it. And people who follow a strict ketogenic diet also do it.
But just because carbohydrates are not necessary, doesn’t mean they are not beneficial. They’re hugely beneficial. I don’t have space to go into it here, but the positive benefits of carbohydrates are well documented.
2. There’s a few substances that it’s best to avoid – or keep to a bare minimum.
Having said that all foods are good, there are certain substances that are commonly eaten today that are not really foods.
Top of the list is refined white sugar and anything containing it. White sugar is causing a huge amount of harm to people’s health in the modern world. It is in almost every processed food you buy at the supermarket. Look at the label on any package or can, you will see sugar as an ingredient.
Just as bad are other refined sugars such as fructose, glucose syrup, dextrose and pretty much anything ending in …ose. These are refined sugars, which spike your blood sugar high and then cause a rush of insulin, which drops your blood sugar too low. It’s create the blood sugar roller coaster.
So, get all forms of refined sugar out of your diet. This one change alone will work wonders for your health.
It’s easier said than done, of course. Most people are addicted to sugar. I know people who will happily give up wheat and gluten, cut out dairy products and meat – anything but give up sugar.
Just do it, if you are serious about improving your health.
The other substance you should avoid is refined vegetable oils. These are just as widespread as sugar in processed foods. I will go into more detail as to why you should avoid these refined vegetable oils in a future post.
Avoid like the plague any kind of margarines and low-fat spreads. These are artificial foods, not much different from plastic in their chemical composition. They will wreak havoc on your health.
Eat natural fats, such as butter and olive oil. In fact, you don’t need to eat a lot of fat. But when you do, eat natural fats. If I go to someone’s house for lunch and they offer me bread with margarine, I will just have nothing at all on my bread rather than use margarine.
At home, I use butter. It has many health benefits – preferably butter from grass-fed cows and even better if it’s organic.
3. Eat according to your appetite and intuition.
There’s a movement today called intuitive eating. Essentially this means eating when you are hungry, eating what you are hungry for, and stopping when you’ve had enough.
There are no other rules!
I like the concept of intuitive eating. It’s pretty much where I have ended up after studying all the various diet theories and going round in circles for many years.
There are some people who teach intuitive eating who have unfortunately made it almost like another diet. It’s possible to get too obsessed about whether you are really hungry, whether you really want those particular foods, and whether you really are full.
But intuitive eating is the closest to what I believe is the ideal approach to diet and health.
There is great freedom in this. Our bodies are designed to heal themselves if we give them good food, and enough exercise and rest.
Don’t impose too many rules on what you should and shouldn’t eat. Unless you get an immediate negative reaction from eating a certain food – then, of course, you should avoid it.
But don’t cut out gluten, dairy, meat, eggs and any other food, to the point where you are eating less and less. This is only going to harm your health in the long run.
Don’t follow any extreme diet philosophy such as paleo, keto, veganism, low-fat, low-carb etc. None of these are balanced and are not sustainable long term.
Learn to listen to your body. Eat the foods you enjoy, which are part of your culture, in moderate amounts until you are satisfied. Don’t over eat or under eat.
If you do this consistently, and get enough rest and moderate exercise, your health will improve. It’s virtually guaranteed.