Various Diets Explained, Part 1
by Nancy Mehlert, MS and Mila McManus MD
This is the first installment of a series that explains various diets, whether on the path to better health, or wanting to losing weight.
The Internet can be a good thing. More information is at our fingertips than we could have ever imagined. It can also be a harmful and frustrating experience since the quality and accuracy of the information can be questionable. Also, the amount of information, often conflicting, can be overwhelming. This is certainly true in regards to information about diets.
Most likely, if you have searched the internet for dietary information, you are looking for the answer to one of these questions: “What should I be eating?” or “How can I lose weight?”. Foundationally, we need to start with real food, from nature, not a manufacturer. That means fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and animal foods – the way they occur in nature. All the rest, the stuff that is bagged, packaged, prepared, and concocted, is “man-u-factured” food. In most cases, it is generous to call it “food”, as it is more fake than real, and desperately lacking in true nutrition.
Does that mean there is only one diet for all people? The answer is no. Each person is a unique individual. How each person’s body digests and absorbs nutrients will vary depending on age, stages or seasons of life (pregnancy, menopause, grief and loss) health or disease (leaky gut, autoimmunity, cancer, diabetes, for example), lifestyle, activity level, and to some degree, genetic makeup. As a result, the content of each person’s diet will vary from person to person and season to season. One of the best ways to determine that variance is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, as opposed to searching the internet or the latest book on the next popular diet. By listening to your body, you will become aware of what foods you are capable of digesting well, which foods heal your body or help you to maintain a healthy weight, keep your mind clear and your energy level appropriate.
Eating a meal should not make you feel worse afterwards. If you experience heart palpitations, increased heart rate, brain fog, or sleepiness after eating, the meal was not appropriate or well balanced for your physical and unique needs. If you struggle to lose weight, or keep gaining weight, or are overcome with fatigue, brain fog, digestive issues or poor sleep, there is a very good chance your diet needs to be adjusted. One way to learn how to listen to your body is to do an elimination diet.
An Elimination Diet is a diet where many foods with a known pattern of causing allergies, inflammation and immune hyper-reactivity are eliminated. During and following the diet, observations can be made as symptoms disappear. In addition, measurable values such as blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and blood lipid panels can be followed for improvements. It also allows for reintroduction of foods one by one to determine if a specific food is the culprit for a symptom or set of symptoms. There is some variance regarding what is eliminated, but virtually every elimination diet will start with the elimination of gluten, dairy and sugar. Many will go further and eliminate all grains, all processed or packaged foods and specific food chemicals or ingredients such as vinegar, yeast, damaged oils, MSG, and/or nitrates, for example. It is also safe to say that many elimination diets, especially the two listed below, are safe eating plans for life. Good and complete nutrition can absolutely be achieved without grains, dairy, gluten, sugar, food chemicals and even fruit.
TWIHW Health Reset Protocol (formerly called The Yeast Free Diet) is a 28 day elimination diet designed to reduce inflammation and congestion, balance blood sugar levels, heal the gut biome, remove toxins and stop hyper-reactivity of the immune system. Its purpose is to stop the downward spiral into disease and support the body’s natural ability to heal and function properly. Following the initial 28 days, we continue to assess your health status, identify food sensitivities and allergies, and begin to make recommendations about ways you can edit and tweak your food choices and eating frequency to optimize your health. In every case, we encourage you to work toward the goal of the cleanest, whole foods available but recognize everyone follows this progression differently based on illness, cooking skills, schedules, emotional experiences, financial resources and availability of the best food choices. Our recommendations today fall somewhere in a blend between the Whole30 and Ketogenic Diet. And, as mentioned earlier in the article, we believe that diet must be edited and adapted to you personally based on many variables. The word “Paleo” is useful when doing an internet search for grain free and dairy free food options. Unfortunately, that won’t assure you it is low carbohydrate diet or free of sugar, and it may encourage excess protein.
Main Features of a Yeast-Free diet include:
- Low to Moderate Carbohydrates – Depending on you, we may recommend anywhere from 30-100 grams of carbohydrates per day with the majority of those coming from 5 or more servings of high fiber, low calorie vegetables. We generally recommend one or two ½ cup servings of starchier vegetables per day which includes choices such as sweet potato, winter squash, legumes and root vegetables. Except for quinoa, which is actually a seed, all other grains are excluded, as well as all cow dairy products. Sugar is dramatically minimized by removing all added sugar, eliminating high sugar fruits and fruit juices, and utilizing, in moderation, all natural sweeteners such as stevia or monk fruit. Gluten is not recommended for anyone. And further restriction of legumes, quinoa and nuts or seeds is recommended if necessary.
- High Fat – The amount of fat a person needs will also vary and be determined by satiation, weight stabilization, and digestive health. We believe and observe that most people do well with at least half of their calories coming from healthy, undamaged fats, some of which need to be carefully chosen saturated fats. We also recommend a slow, step-like process of increasing dietary fats to allow the body to adjust to digesting them. We include in our recommendations organic, pasture raised sources for ghee, duck, pork or beef fat, egg yolks, avocado, olives and olive oil, coconut and coconut oil as well as nuts and seeds.
- Adequate Protein – Like you will see in a Ketogenic diet (to be discussed in a future installment), we have gradually become aware that it is important that protein be neither too low nor too high. We do lean toward recommending at least some amount of animal protein for most people, most days, and also know that a reasonable amount of protein can be garnered from a well-balanced, wide variety plant based diet. We need the right amount of protein and the right constituents of proteins (called amino acids) since the body needs many amino acids that must come from the diet (meaning the body cannot produce them). Note that it can be difficult to reduce the quantity of protein eaten when a person does not like or cannot eat a wide variety of vegetables. For this reason, adjusting protein quantities is often one of the last steps in adjusting the diet after vegetable variety and fat consumption has been increased.
- Recommendations – For healing purposes during the initial 28 days, we recommend eating 3-5 times per day. We always educate and lead our patients to pursue toxin reduction in every area of their lives including food. As a result, we suggest avoidance or minimal consumption of genetically modified foods, processed fast and manufactured foods, and most food chemicals. Additionally, we recommend 100% grass fed, pasture raised meat, poultry and eggs and avoidance of foods with antibiotics and hormones or glyphosates. We encourage organic choices where possible and recommend avoidance of foods that promote inflammation and congestion, namely gluten, all grains, most dairy and sugar.
Whole 30 Diet – Started in 2009 by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, it has been a very popular elimination dietary plan in recent years. As written, it is a 30-day challenge to simply eat, real, whole food. Their website says, “Think of it as a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” The diet discourages anything processed or packaged. It also discourages sulfites, MSG and Carrageenan specifically. The diet does not call for any measuring or counting but does provide visual guidance for portions using the hand and encourages three meals a day. It also encourages a protein, a vegetable and a heathy fat every time you eat. It does call for strict adherence for at least 30 days. It appears to be a Moderate Carbohydrate, Moderate Fat, High Protein diet in our best estimation and could fluctuate based on how the user selects their food choices.
Main Features of the Whole 30 Diet include:
- Carbohydrates- The diet allows “some fruit” with meals, and only occasionally. “A lot” of vegetables are encouraged including potatoes. The diet restricts all dairy, all grains (including pseudo grains such as quinoa or buckwheat), all sugar in any form, all alcohol, and all sweeteners whether natural or artificial. The diet also restricts legumes and beans including peanuts, beans, and soy, and allows string beans, sugar snap peas and peas.
- Fats – “Plenty” is the word used to describe the quantity of fats to consume. A visual diagram using the hand is used to demonstrate the amounts of different kinds of fat and proper portions. Vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola) are strictly forbidden as is regular butter. Clarified butter, or ghee is allowed.
- Protein – Included here are eggs, meat, poultry and fish. Portions the size of the palm are suggested at each meal.
- No Recommendations regarding animal feeding/care, food chemicals, pesticide use, or packaging.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this series in next month’s newsletter which will explain the Paleo and Ketogenic diets.