US News & World Report Best Diets Rankings 2017

Looking for the Ultimate diet? Look no further, the US News & World Report has done all the leg work and came up with its 2017 rankings. This is now its seventh such list, asserting to cut through the clutter of claims. Coming from such a trustworthy source of information and a panel of nationally recognized health experts, we can assume the rankings give a realistic overview of the best types of foods that can foster human health. But is it really the case?

Before we evaluate these findings, we need to ask: Who are the dietitians who created the rankings? What was their methodology? According to the US News & Report Website, there are twenty of them, all with very impressive credentials. They represent a sampling of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease. They rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. The Website does not say much else about their methodology and somehow, looking at the diets they ranked among the best, allow me to be skeptical. Hey, I don’t pretend to know it all and I am certainly not always objective, but when I see names like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig come up on a list of best diets, I get suspicious! Classically trained dietitians tend to operate on the calories in calories out dogma. A dogma dating back to the 1950s, time when the sugar industry, having to protect its profitability, released an add campaign claiming that all foods supply calories and there is no difference between the calories that come from sugar or steak or grapefruit or ice cream. That was only the beginning of a campaign to exonerate sugar of any ill effects. Today, the average dietitian will advise people to follow the food pyramid:

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It might not look so bad at first glance, but this low fat high starch diet has not been serving us well. One just has to look at the increase in rates of obesity, cancer and chronic diseases to figure this out. This is also the same paradigm that allows sugar laden foods to be promoted by some national organizations (look for the check marks from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation or at the sugary dairy products served in schools because, you know, dairy is essential to good health and granola bars are healthy since they contain whole grains). Looking at the information available out there, one has to wonder how much of it is ultimately propaganda from the food industry and how much is sincere lack of understanding of the human body by well meaning professionals.

I may not have found the Ultimate diet, but I know enough to surmise that a more effective food pyramid should include veggies as the basis and healthy fats as a second element in importance. Here is a summary of what most health experts would agree on. The number of medical practitioners rejecting the old model is increasing constantly and for good reasons. Time has come to stop promoting unhealthy foods and eating patterns. Instead, let’s embrace what research and clinical evidence have been teaching us, even if it means abandoning some long held belief systems!

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Benefits of Eating Meat

Is meat a second rate food or is it not? Do we need to consume meat for optimal health? Here are some points to consider:

1- Eating meat may help stabilize blood sugar. A meal based on meat and veggies will satisfy and keep full longer than a meal based on carbohydrates and veggies.

2- Meat provides the easiest way to get all four amino acids, iron and vitamin B12. It is rich in zinc and selenium as well. Studies show vegetarians tend to be deficient in certain nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and zinc.

3- Although vegetarians are concerned about toxins stored in the fat of animals, animal fats can play an important role in vitamin absorption. For example, one study showed that absorption of beta-carotene from a salad with no added fat was close to zero. Other studies have shown that beta carotene consumed with beef tallow rather than sunflower oil increases its absorption by 11 to 17 percent.

4- Most meat eaters who participate in the anti-meat studies also consume high amounts of sugar, refined carbs in their highly processed, inflammatory diet, which could explain some of the results obtained by these studies.

5- One study did screen subjects to ensure they were health conscious.  The overall death rates were cut in half for both health conscious meat eaters and for vegetarians as compared to the average persons. The study concluded that for the vegetarians, there was no benefit found, and for the meat eaters, there was no increased risk for heart disease, cancer or death.

6- Vegetarian diets typically contain large amounts of legumes and grains and low in bioavailable nutrients. Organ meats, however, are among the most nutrient dense foods.

7- Fat soluble vitamins A and D are critical to human health. They are concentrated and almost exclusively found in animal food.

The key is eating small to moderate amounts of grass-fed or organic meat along with a pile of colorful fruits and veggies. Is it essential though? Each person needs to listen to his or her own body. Many different factors could influence how much meat a person can or should eat.


The Problem with Eating Meat

First, I want to start by saying I am not a vegetarian. I don’t believe animals are creatures equal to humans deserving the same treatment. I am a Christian and I believe God gave us dominion over them and offered them for our subsistence after the Flood. When Noah and his family left the ark, God said to them: Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. (Genesis 9:2-3). The climate had changed drastically and plant food was going to be sparse. But it might not be optimal for man to eat animals, it might be a second best when we have access to vegetation. And I am not even talking about conventional meat, there is a host of other problems with industrially raised meat that I will not mention here. I am talking about possible problems with eating organic, humanely raised animals:

1- Meat is low in fiber and takes longer to digest than plant food. In transit through the intestines, it can putrify and produce toxins. We secrete less hydrochloric acid than cats for example, and our intestines are long compare to theirs, which allow them the rapid expulsion of their waste products.

2- Although research about eating habits is not perfectly reliable, since so many factors need to be taken into consideration about the subjects and it’s impossible to eliminate all variables, there is a body of evidence suggesting that meat consumption can cause inflammation and, in some forms, cause cancer.

3- Animals store more toxins than plants because they have a higher fat content.

4- One study showed that meat consumption increased allergies (this page presents an extensive list of studies pointing to the risk associated with the consumption of meat).

5- Eliminating meat from one’s diet will improve his or her gut’s microbiome in a matter of days.

6- A plant based diet will provide just enough protein. Eating to much protein is easy to do when consuming meat and too much protein is associated with weight gain, diabetes, inflammation and cancer.

7- Good quality meat is expensive and there is a reason for the fact that eating meat used to be for the more wealthy people. It should be considered as an indulgence.

I think a good summary here might be: Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Cor. 6:12)


After nightshades, beans and grains?

I am on day 6, phase 2, of the Superwoman Slimdown and I am experiencing a setback. I had been feeling very energetic , but today, I have a bit of a foggy brain.   I am still stuffy in the morning, my bloating hasn’t improved and now, this brain fog! It could be blamed on the fact that I had potatoes yesterday, but that doesn’t change the fact that my other symptoms have not improved. Just in case, I will go back to avoiding nightshades. However, being gluten sensitive, I suspect it could be that most of my meals contain some legumes and a bit of grains. Let me explain:  Oats and rice have proteins similar to gluten (avenir and orzenin). The Gluten Free Society has a very informative article on the topic. As for legumes (nuts and all grains too), they contain phytic acid, lectins, protease inhibitors, and phytoestrogens. Phytic acid and lectins are in many plant foods and are not always harmful, but they can be problematic for some of us.

Considering my experience and this information, I am going to tackle phase 3 differently. On day 8, I will reintroduce meat, which will allow me to eliminate all grains and legumes. I will still be within the guidelines of the Superwoman Slimdown as I won’t be reintroducing other foods, but I will share my results at that point and will officially start a new experiment: Dr. Amy Myers Autoimmune Solution. Time has come to move on. I was not sure about experimenting with the Paleo world again, since I am reluctant to make meat the focus of most meals (see the Problem with meat), but I felt that this was the option that had the most chance of yielding success at this point. An other good option would have been to pick a raw food program, but it’s cold here, in my part of the world right now, so I prefer conducting this experiment in a few months. For those who don’t know much about the Autoimmune Protocol, this page gives a great overview.

I know this will be difficult for me. I have gone Paleo before, but I have never given up nuts for longer than a week or so, and I have never sticked to anything so restrictive for this long (30 days). But this is partly why I started this blog isn’t?


What about nightshades?

The Superwoman Slimdown program recommends to avoid nightshade vegetables.  And well, today, on day 5 of phase 2, I had some potatoes! I just couldn’t resist. But, to be honest, I never really believed that avoiding nightshades would be of great benefit to me. Here’s why:

1- There is no scientific data to support the idea that nightshades might cause health problems.

2- There is ample anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that nightshades might worsen joint and muscle pain, but I have never suffered from these problems.

3- There are documented cases of overconsumption  of nightshades causing mental illnesses, but again, that is not one of my problems.

4- The compounds in nightshades that are said to harm us in some cases also can heal and benefit us. For example, glycoalkaloids, natural pesticides produced by the nightshade plants are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and help fight cancer (in laboratory studies).

So, I think I will keep enjoying all the bounties of the nightshade family, unless I discover myself a sensitivity.


There is more to health than diet

I think we all know that diet is not the only component of a great health, but sometimes we don’t realize to what extent. Two factors that are often talked about are sleep and stress. Getting more and better sleep and reducing stress cannot be overemphasized, but some other practices can help the body detoxify and improve health:

1- Oil pulling: An Ayurvedic practice that involves cleaning your teeth by swishing oil in the mouth for 5 to 20 minutes. The oil absorbs the toxins from the mouth, which is why one needs to spit it out afterwards.

2- Dry skin brushing: This practice involves using an exfoliating brush to stimulate the lymphatic system.

3- Detox baths: This method simply requires soaking in a nice warm bath containing between half a cup and one cup of baking soda or Epsom Salts. It’s also a good time to experiment with essential oils.

3- Reducing toxins from the environment: Avoiding putting more toxins into our body by not using commercial cosmetics (see my No Poo Experiment) and cleaners, and by eating organic food for example.

4- Reducing screen time and WIFI exposure: Turning off the router at night is a good starting point.

5- Spending time in nature: A walk outside is an extraordinary and rejuvenating practice.

I will be experimenting with these three practices over the next few months. Stay in touch!


Can we find a consensus on the ultimate diet?

From vegan to paleo, the options are endless! Worse is, everyone’s opinions seem to be supported by “science”.

There are, however, a few points on which every one agrees, and I think we should take heed:

1- Eat  veggies and more veggies

2- Eat unprocessed whole foods, avoid anything that comes from a package.

3- Avoid refined flours.

4- Avoid refined sugar and limit natural sugars.

5- Favor organic over conventional as much as possible.

These basic tenets are a good starting point for anyone wishing to improve his or her diet.