I think that I know why people are drawn to fads. It is much easier to avoid a specific food or an entire food group than to eat everything in moderation. After all, moderation requires constant vigilance. Many people don’t believe that they have the dedication, time, or resources necessary to make it a part of their everyday life.
Here’s the truth: our ancestors ate vastly different types of food. Which genus and where they lived geographically mattered tremendously regarding what foods were available to them. Those that lived near the sea naturally ate fish, while those that were landlocked did not.
The idea that we should avoid foods that weren’t available to our ancestors is questionable at best. Just because they could survive without eating certain foods (such as whole-wheat bread) does not mean that whole-wheat bread is inherently dangerous. Their bodies were able to adapt to living without those foods, just as most of our bodies have adapted to living with these foods.
If you go far enough back in history, we were once living in trees. Should we only eat the foods that would have been available to us at that time? This is not the best idea.
Over the last decade or so, researchers have discovered traces of seeds and grains on our fossilized ancestors’ teeth. Grains! And for a good reason – do you know how often a group of Paleolithic men would have been able to kill a large animal? Think about the rudimentary weapons that they used. Imagine killing an animal as large as a wooly mammoth with a club.
No one will argue that refined carbohydrates should rarely be eaten, at most; that goes for things like white bread, refined pasta, pastries, and buttery crackers. However, when you deprive your body of any food group entirely, you might be putting yourself at an increased risk of someday developing diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, and heart disease (among others). The nutrients in whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables provide us with vitamins, minerals, water, phytonutrients, and fiber. Balance in macronutrients is best for maintaining healthy body weight and overall health.
Any highly restrictive diet will cause you to lose weight initially, but weight loss differences between people following different diet plans tend to even out after a year or so. Unfortunately, regardless of what weight loss diet you embrace, most people begin to regain any weight they lost within a year.
Some people have told me that they have a weight problem because their body can’t digest certain types of food, such as grains or milk. This makes no sense. If you couldn’t digest and absorb these foods, whether because of allergy or sensitivity, the calories would not be absorbed, and you would ultimately lose weight. When people with celiac disease are initially diagnosed and go on a gluten-free diet, they often gain weight because they are now digesting and absorbing the food they are eating. If you cut out entire food groups under the false pretense that you can’t “process” them without a formal diagnosis from a doctor or other health practitioner, you will probably lose weight for a while. How could you not when so many choices are off the table?
Detoxing your body is unnecessary, so you can feel free to scratch it off the to-do list. Luckily, your body came ready-made with a liver, two kidneys, and a spleen to remove toxins for you. Best of all, no expensive pills or drink mixes are necessary. There is no evidence that your organs need extra help to do their job efficiently.
So what diets do I recommend? The Omniheart, DASH, and MIND diets are similar and are all based on actual science. Eating is a part of our culture, our traditions, and our social connectedness. If your diet has removed the joy from your life, it’s not the right fit.
Elaine Hinzey RDN, LD