I’ve watched two videos this week by so-called diet experts, which highlight just how crazy the world of nutrition has become in 2019.
The first was by Dr Steven Gundry. He’s written a best-selling book called “The Plant Paradox”. He warns about the dangers of lectins, contained in a wide range of plant foods. These include wheat (and most other grains), beans, nuts and seeds, and many common vegetables and fruits.
Dr Gundry claims lectins are the source of most, perhaps all human disease. He lists a wide range of ailments that have resolved in patients following his lectin-avoidance protocol, including autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, mental illness, Parkinson’s, dementia etc.
On Dr Gundry’s diet you can’t eat wheat, beans and legumes, most nuts and seeds and many fruits and vegetables. It’s a bit like the Paleo diet, heavy in meat, eggs and dairy products and low in starchy carbohydrates.
Dr Gundry is a great fan of olive oil. He sees it as a health food and recommends consuming it in generous amounts every day.
Dr Gundry is a highly respected heart surgeon and his arguments sound credible, coming from such an educated man. So, it’s not surprising many people are buying his book and falling for his anti-lectin diet theory.
But then I watched a second video. By Dr John McDougall. In fact, it was an interview of Dr McDougall by Dr John Douillard (someone I highly respect). Dr McDougall claims the best foods for humans are starchy carbohydrates, such as wheat, corn, rice and potatoes.
Yes, all those starchy foods containing nasty lectins, which Dr Gundry claims are the root cause of most disease.
Dr McDougall points out all traditional human societies for thousands of years have eaten some form of starchy carbohydrate as the basis of their diet. In Asia, it’s mainly rice. In Europe and the Middle East, it’s wheat, rye, oats and potatoes.
Dr McDougall’s diet is strictly vegan and super-low in fat. He forbids his patients from consuming any oils – not even olives or avocadoes because they contain too much fat!
So, here you have two highly educated and knowledgeable medical doctors saying pretty much the compete opposite to one another as to what constitutes a healthy diet.
How is the ordinary person supposed to know who to believe?
Well, in my opinion you are wise not to follow either of them. Nor should you believe most of the other best-selling diet gurus out there. What we are seeing today is highly educated people with a lot of knowledge – but very little wisdom.
A cynic would say, most of these new diet theories are simply driven by marketing – by the desire to make money selling books and nutritional supplements. There’s some truth in this. But I also think Dr Gundry and Dr McDougall do genuinely believe in their own theories.
That’s why I used the term “educated fools” in the title of this post. You might think, who am I to call these super-intelligent doctors “fools”? I don’t have any medical qualifications or PhD’s.
But I do have something, gained over 64 years of living, which is called wisdom. There’s a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. We are drowning in knowledge and information today, with the internet.
Sometimes, you have to step back from all this information overload and get in tune with old-fashioned wisdom.
There are elements of truth in both Dr Gundry’s and Dr McDougall’s theories. Some people do need to be careful with grains, beans and certain vegetables, particularly if eaten raw. You obviously need to listen to your body in this regard.
But the fact is, most traditional societies have based their diet on some form of starchy carbohydrate, and have eaten beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. They have managed to thrive, despite all the lectins. Dr McDougall is correct in this respect. But he fails to acknowledge that no traditional society has ever been strictly vegan either. They all eat animal products – meat, poultry, eggs, dairy etc.
My own approach to nutrition is probably closest to what is known as “intuitive eating”. This means, listening to your body and eating the foods you naturally desire, in the amounts that make you feel best.
So, with intuitive eating there are no “good” and “bad” foods. There are only foods. What is good or bad for you at any particular time and place, can be different from what is right for someone else.
Several books have been written about intuitive eating, and some of them have turned it almost into a new fad diet in its own right. And others tend to reject any kind of structure at all when it comes to eating.
I’m a great believer in eating three meals a day – with no snacks as a general rule. Just sticking to this one “rule” alone has transformed my own health. So, I am very much against the idea of grazing whenever you feel like eating – which some intuitive eating teachers recommend.
If I was to sum up the simplest approach to healthy eating, it would be to start by eating three balanced meals a day. No snacking. If you stick to that rule, you will quickly learn what kind of foods and how much you should eat at each meal, to take you through to the next meal without fainting from low blood sugar.
If you eat a meal and feel like you are going to pass out from hypoglycaemia a couple of hours later, you have eaten the wrong kind of meal (probably too high in carbohydrate and too low in fat and/or protein). So, try different combinations of foods until you find what makes you feel good and gives you energy that lasts for 5 or 6 hours.
Eat the best quality foods you can afford – free-range, grass-fed, organic etc where possible. Avoid refined white sugar and other processed junk foods, filled with chemicals.
Stop reading so many diets books and trying to following somebody else’s theory. Listen to your own body and eat in moderation what makes you feel good.
Just following this simple advice could go a long way to transforming your health. If you also start to listen to your body when it comes to exercise, sleep and rest, you will probably be close to solving the rest of the health puzzle.
Don’t just fill your head with more knowledge and information. Start developing real wisdom on the subject of health.