At a recent dinner the debate got heated over the various diets whirling out there now. One of my friends, a devout Paleo, said “I would bet on the the Paleos in a fight. Vegans are wimps.” Is this the new Bloods versus Crips, I thought? Are these the new turf battles?? The Jets versus the Sharks? Are feuding eating philosophies the new gang wars? Should we pit the Inuits against the 5 and 2 people and the Raw Foodists and see who survives? People are getting so heated over which nutritional regimen they’ve chosen to follow. The competition is the movement of the moment and people are taking sides.
So, which diet is best? Let’s start by looking at a few of the most popular current eating philosophies.
Otherwise known as the Caveman Diet. Paleos eat no grains, beans, soy, vegetable oil or dairy. The main foods are meat, vegetables and healthy fats. The idea is that our bodies have been programmed for millions of years to eat like this. It’s only in humankinds’ (relatively) recent history that grains have been introduced, so our bodies don’t process them well.
This movement has been gaining a lot of ground in recent years, largely among people who are concerned about the environment. Vegans eat nothing that comes from or is produced by an animal. No meat, eggs, dairy, or honey. The main foods are beans, nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables. The idea is that our bodies don’t need animal protein to survive and that the environment is being damaged by the large numbers of cattle and poultry farms.
Otherwise known as the Eskimo Diet, The Inuit is similar to Paleo in that adherents believe our bodies function most efficiently on the foods our ancestors ate for millions of years. Our bodies are programmed to accept these foods and thrive on them. The Inuit Diet consists mostly of meat and fat. Unlike Paleo, there is very little vegetable consumption in this diet. There is also sparse dairy, and very few carbohydrates.
5 and 2
This diet promotes “normal” eating (meaning no restrictions) for 5 days a weeks and limited calorie intake for 2 days a week. For men it’s 600 calories and day and for women it is 500 calories a day. This diet is supposed to promote weight loss and increase longevity.
The China Study Diet
Based on a study done over 20 years with Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. The study showed that high consumption of animal-based foods is associated with more chronic disease. This diet promotes a high variety of vegetable and fruit consumption, low animal protein (mostly fish), low fats and oils, and no red meat or dairy.
This food philosophy is that no food should be heated above 115F. This diet allows for fruits, vegetables, raw dairy, raw nuts and beans. Though the diet is largely vegetarian, it allows for raw meats such as sashimi and carpaccio. Advocates argue that raw or living foods have natural enzymes, which are critical in building proteins and rebuilding the body, and that heating kills the foods natural enzymes.
The funny thing is that each of these diets has a large group of followers who swear by it, saying that they have never felt better. Proponents of each claim to have scientific proof that their diet is ideal, and yet many of the diets directly contradict each other. High fat, versus low fat. Meat versus no meat or low meat. Consistent food consumption versus restricted food consumption. It’s very confusing. You can understand why the debates get so heated.
Let’s remember the Paleo gang fighting the Vegan gang. At the end of the day, who is right? The answer is no one – and everyone. It all comes down to individual choices. What works for one person might not work for someone else. There is no universal ‘right’ when it comes to food.
The “best” diet is whichever works best for you. If you feel great, have good energy throughout the day, no headaches, or sore joints, and you sleep well at night without any form of medication, you have regular bowel movements and are happy with your weight then you are in great shape. If you don’t feel good or have any of these issues, then consider making some changes. Switch things up. Try these different diet theories on for size and see what creates balances in you. Maybe a little Inuit mixed with some 5 and 2 will be your answer. Maybe some China Study and Paleo will work for you. Well known food writer Mark Bittman, is a vegan all day long and then lets loose and eats whatever he wants for dinner. I know vegans who eat eggs a few days a week because that is what they found works for them.
Let’s calm the wars and throw out the titles. Put down your weapons and pick up your forks. Let us all – Paleo, Vegan, Inuit, 5 and 2, Raw Foodists and China study people – sit down to feast, in peace and good health. Just perhaps not at the same restaurant.