Here are a few thoughts to try to uncomplicate how we eat.
There are loads of eating plans around, there are even more ‘diets’ around, some have good evidence behind them, and some don’t. Of the popular and healthy diets around like The Mediterranean diet, Paleo, Veganism and Vegetarianism, there are some striking similarities. It’s in these similarities that we can find the real brilliance, because if we extract the main commonalities and stick to these, healthy eating becomes much less of a minefield and way simpler. Here’s a quick look:
The Mediterranean diet is diet of a type traditional in Mediterranean countries, on which there is by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein, and thought to confer health benefits. Sounds flipping great, give me all the veg and olive oil.
A lot of people on the last few years have been into the Paleo diet. This means that you only eat foods presumed to have been the only foods available to or consumed by humans during the Paleolithic era… but what does that actually mean? There is quite wide variability in the way the paleo diet is interpreted, but the diet generally includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat and typically excludes dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, alcohol or coffee. The diet is based on avoiding not just processed foods, but rather the foods that humans began eating after the Neolithic revolution (when humans began agriculture). The paleo diet can start to look a lot like a LCHF diet due to no grains, few carbs and animal products… but the brilliant thing is that all the processed nasties are avoided. It’s important that we hunted AND we gathered, and often we gathered more than we hunted because foraging was easier than killing animals everyday.
There has been a huge uptick in veganism and vegetarianism in the last 5 years, and more and more people are going plant-based. No matter what the reasons are (planet, health, morals etc), there is sound evidence to show that a mostly plant-based diet is beneficial for avoiding chronic lifestyle diseases and improving overall health. Bear in mind that one can still be vegan and eat a largely processed, high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet … but that is not what I am referring to here. I mean veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and very few or none processed foods.
SO! How the heck does one decide how to eat, what to eat and how to keep it sustainable?! A very important way is to look at what some of the healthiest eating plans/diets have in COMMON, rather than what their differences are : because that is where the magic lies.
All of the above eating plans have the following in common:
1. They avoid processed foods (of any kind). That means less sugar, fewer refined carbs and focus on WHOLE FOODS (where the food is the ingredient, instead of it having ingredients).
2. They are plant-based. Eating more plants is always going to be one of the single most important health choices to make.
3. They focus on the quality of the food and enjoying it for enjoyment, nourishment and satiety. We often just rush through lie and grab food on the go. But when we cook our own food from scratch, stop eating when we are full and take the time it taste, eating is just so much more enjoyable.
Michael Pollan said it best: “Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants”.