I have tried many diets throughout my life, and all have ultimately failed. Since my breast cancer diagnosis, I have been on the hunt for the best diet since this is definitely part of the equation to health and healing. I have been frustrated to receive little to no answers from physicians. They are uneducated about nutrition in general, and seem to have no interest in learning about it. Unfortunately, their training is geared to treating symptoms and in prescribing medications. So, I have since reviewed at some of the well-known and recognized diets and what they have in common. Here is what I have come to believe is the bottom line.
1. The term “diet” is commonly referred to a special or limited selection of food and drink designed for a specific health issue. Many people prescribe to one of these for a limited time. That is the problem. Succeeding in the diet and then returning to previous habits negate it all. One needs to look at a diet as a lifelong habit, a way of life.
2. The diet you choose must be sustainable; it must be one that you can follow for a long period of time.
3. Whether the Mediterranean diet, the Anti-inflammatory diet, South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Ketogenic, or the DASH diet, there are some commonalities, although each has a different emphasis and may have more or less of one food group. The common threads in all of these diets are:
a. Limit sugar intake, especially high fructose corn syrup. Review all labels for hidden sugar in the ingredients (you will be surprised at how much sugar is in foods that you thought had none). Sugar should be in the form of natural sugar, such as in fruits. Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, cakes, cookies, sweets, desserts, pastries and pasta should be minimized or eliminated. Organic is best for fruits.
b. Increase your vegetable intake, especially green leafy vegetables and vegetables with a lot of color, like the rainbow. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, are especially helpful if you have been diagnosed with cancer. Limit consumption white vegetables, such as white potatoes. Organic is best.
c. Protein should be high quality, with fat removed. Include fish, chicken, turkey, and lean beef. Processed meats, such as sausages, ham, deli meats, and smoked meats should be avoided. Organic, hormone free, and wild caught is best.
d. Fat is no longer the enemy, but there are good fats and bad fats. Butter, olive oil, and avocados, once off limits, now have been found to be beneficial to health. Stay away from margarine and oils, such as canola, corn, or safflower.
e. Water is essential to life; look for filtered water. The best gauge for the amount of water is to take your weight, half it, and that is the amount of water in ounces to drink (150 pounds, then 75 ounces of water).
f. Become familiar with the glycemic index, or GI, which will tell you how fast foods enter your digestive system, spiking systemic glucose. Many grains actually have a high GI, such as pasta and rice; switch to lower GI foods, such as quinoa.
g. Experiment with herbs and spices, and limit the amount of salt intake.
h. Alcohol should be limited as well. The current recommendation is no more than one drink/day for a woman and two for a man/day.
i. Calories count. Many of the diets above have increased protein and fat intake and lowered carbohydrate intake. Remember that carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories/gram while fats have 9 calories/gram. If you increase your fat intake, you must alter other source intake to avoid weight gain.
All those fancy, catchy names for diets that promise success are meant to sell books and have a limited life. If you are serious about a healthy diet for life, then these principles hold true, and are sustainable for life.
Until next time,
Stay well; stay healthy; stay focused.