Are you confused about what diet to eat?

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.

9 thoughts on “Are you confused about what diet to eat?”

  1. I followed a low carb, medium protein, high fat diet for a month or so. I thought eliminating carbs would eliminate low blood sugar episodes. Unfortunately this did not help stabilize my blood sugar and I felt tired and unhappy. I am eating 3 meals a day now and more carbs. Do you have a recommendation for macro percentages to prevent blood sugar lows ? Thank you for your advice! Tina

    • Hi Tina,

      Interesting to hear about your experience with a low carb, medium protein, high fat diet. I have never felt good on a low carb diet either. Although some people seem to do well on this kind of diet.

      In terms of percentages of protein, fat and carbohydrate we are all different. This is why there is no “one size fits all” diet that works for everyone,. If there was, it would be easy!

      As a general rule, I believe it’s best to eat around 50% of your calories as carbohydrate, 20% protein and 30% fat. But as I say, this is a middle road, and you might do better a bit either side of this median.

      If you look at traditional diets around the world, where people live long and healthy lives, they tend to eat at least 50% of their calories as carbohydrates – usually some form of starchy carbohydrate such as bread, rice or potatoes. So these foods can’t be so bad. People have done well on them or thousands of years.

      I recommend you avoid extreme diets. This includes very low fat diets such as the McDougall diet (although I think Dr McDougall is sincere, his diet is too strict on fat restriction for most people over the long term). At the other extreme, avoid the keto diet, which is high in fat and very low in protein. I know the Eskimos can survive on this kind of diet but we are not Eskimos!

      So, I recommend somewhere between the two extremes. Use your intuition. See how you feel eating various meals. But most people do best with a combination of protein, fat and carbohydrates at each meal. If you eat protein and fat along with carbohydrate, it slows down the absorption of the carbohydrate and keeps your blood sugar stable. Whereas if you just eat carbohydrate on its own, your will probably get a spike in blood sugar followed by a rapid drop.

      hope this helps.

  2. I have been trying the low carb/high fat or low carb/high protein diet as I was on the border line for diabetes as well as putting on over a stone due to peri-menopause. I must admit that I have not experienced any of the diabetic symptoms since embarking on this new regime. However, I have not lost any weight either. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Debs,

      I wouldn’t worry too much about your weight. Put your health first, and let weight take care of itself. If you are feeling healthy and have more energy, that is the most important thing. The problem with most fad diets is that they are focused on weight loss. That’s what most people want. But you can lose weight and also wreck your health at the same time – as many people have discovered.

      I would recommend you keep eating this new way. And get out and walk for up to an hour each day, if possible. If you don’t have an hour all at once, break it up into two or three shorter walks. This will help you to lose weight without compromising your health.

  3. Thanks, Chris. I have been following you recommendations and slowing feeling better. I excited about your lastest post on Probiotic foods and am looking into those to heal from Hashimoto’s.

  4. Hi Chris,

    I love the new site. I too have tried every diet out there. I have Hashimoto’s as well as hypoglycemia. I have a lot of joint paint and so many people in the thyroid word recommend the AIP diet. It does seem to help Hashimoto’s but it is very hard on the blood sugar. Going to give your plan another try. I get scared to eat a balanced diet. Crazy, as I grew up eating a balanced diet and felt fine. My big problem is waking up in the night with severe anxiety. I usually eat right before bed and it helps a bit. Should I give this up?
    I too get hypoglycemia symptoms from water only in the mornings and also after oatmeal. You are the first person I have ever heard of to have these same symptoms.

    • Hi Gina

      By AIP diet, I assume you mean the autoimmune paleo diet? I don’t recommend this, or even the standard paleo diet. I don’t like to be negative against people who come up with these type of diets. I’m sure they are genuinely sincere. But they are terribly restrictive. So many foods to avoid. It will tie you up in knots.

      Take a look at the long list of foods to avoid and it becomes clear almost immediately that this diet is extremely restrictive and can be difficult to follow. With rules about everything, from the types of vegetables you can eat to the spices that you should put on your food, adhering to a strict AIP diet is not easy.

      I believe it is better to eat a balanced diet and allow your body to gradually heal. Food intolerances can be overcome. I am researching probiotic foods (fermented foods like kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha etc). I believe these can be tremendously powerful in overcoming all sorts of autoimmune diseases, which begin in the gut. My theory is that antibiotics (and other pharmaceutical medicines) are behind most of these conditions. They destroy good bacteria in the gut. Probiotic foods can help to restore it. I will be writing more about this.

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