Diet Versus Dieting and a Simple Plan
Jan 31, 2016 10:26PM
by Beau R. Smith, D.C.
The concept of diet and nutrition is quite possibly the most confusing topic people face when setting up a healthy lifestyle. Case in point: how many times have you been on a “diet?” Is it best to be an omnivore, vegetarian, vegan or something in between? There are many diets people adopt to lose weight—take your pick of dozens, in fact. The information on nutritional strategies is monumental in volume. However, the simplest and most effective strategy for a healthy diet is to eat whole unprocessed foods.
There are several definitions for “diet.” One definition describes this term as all foods that a person consumes habitually. A second definition is a program or set of restrictions used for weight loss or medical reasons. Everyone has a diet, but not everyone is on a diet. Diets that are designed for weight loss work well and can be used a tool to help people achieve health goals. However, the problem is that most become too extreme to follow over a long period of time. Once a person completes a weight loss program, it is paramount to shift to a sustainable lifestyle change to maintain the weight loss and create long term-health.
Every diet includes the basic components necessary for a human being to function. All diets are comprised of water, carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. The individual type of diet determines how much of each from category a person consumes. Doctors have learned to manipulate combinations of food to alter the physiology of the body and achieve a desired outcome. Programs such as Adkin’s or low calorie diets can cause the body to burn fat. Diabetics limit sugar intake to manage blood sugar. Most people in the United States eat anything they want without any objective other than sustaining life.
It is time to simplify the topic. What should a human being eat? The answer: real food! Real food includes a wide variety of plants, vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, eggs, grains and meat. Eggs and meat are not absolutely necessary to sustain a human but are a good source of the basic components of nutrition.
There are two predominate theories in how life originated on earth. We were either created by a higher power or evolved into the creatures that we are today. Regardless of the truth, every plant and creature on this planet was either designed or evolved to consume certain nutrients. When plants and animals consume what they are supposed to, they become healthier. Conversely, when plants and animals consume foods they are not supposed to, they become sicker.
Healthy plants and animals are the best sources of nutrition. Plants extract nutrients from the soil, and animals extract nutrients from plants. Humans typically extract nutrients from either plants, animals or both.
The intent of this article is not to demonize any particular food or industry. The facts are, organic fresh fruit and vegetables are superior to all others. Grass fed, free range or wild caught animals are superior to hormone-injected meat. Some farming practices yield more nutritious food than others. Foods that are in season and locally grown have better taste and nutritional value. Some varieties of food are designed for production and shelf life instead of nutritional value.
Buying locally or growing food at home, using heirloom varieties, could provide you with a superior food. A person can survive from inferior quality products or processed foods, but there is price to pay. Often, the price is inferior taste and inferior nutritional value. An interesting way to investigate some of these topics are by checking out what the top chefs in the world are doing and using in their cuisine.
The easiest way to maintain a healthy diet is to create a filter to aid in making decisions on what foods to eat. The best foods are products that are in the closest form to nature as possible. In other words, whole foods that are grown or raised in a manner that closely resembles the organism’s natural environmental conditions. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, uncooked nuts, whole grains, berries, organic grass fed beef, chicken raised in the pasture and wild caught fish are examples of the best products.
For the majority of people, a balanced diet should consist of 80–95% fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. The majority of plant foods should be in the form of vegetables. Eating a variety of vegetables from different sources will more than likely provide you with the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. High quality meat and animal products should make up 5–20% of a healthy diet and will provide vitamins that are less concentrated in vegetables.
It is difficult to overeat and become overweight using this equation. In this model, processed foods are a secondary choice and used sparingly. Most women should take in 1300–1500 calories a day. Men should take in 1800–2000 calories per day. The diet formula really is as simple as that. However, individuals who have special needs or lifestyle preferences should follow their physician’s advice.
Eating whole foods sets the stage for success. Nobody and no diet is perfect, and it doesn’t have to be. It is acceptable to consume a less-than-ideal meal once or twice a week. It is also perfectly normal to indulge in a little junk food at a party or when visiting a relative. Nevertheless, recognize those less-than-ideal portions and limit them to an appropriate level. Use the whole foods filter to guide how you shop, how you eat and how you snack. Nutrition is not complicated when it’s broken down to the basics.
Remember: everyone has a diet, but not everyone is on a diet. The best general diet for maintaining amazing health is one that is based from whole foods. A whole food diet is excellent for people who have recently lost weight and for people who never want to gain weight. So, apply this filter to your eating habits in order to select the most nutrient-dense options. Eat foods that are grown or raised as close to nature as possible. When in doubt, seek out the best ingredients and cook a tasty meal at home.