Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What exactly is okay to eat?

 

I find myself asking this question far too often. Partially because I have some crazy food allergies that began in my early twenties and have continued to develop. My body seems confused about the answer to that question, and I’m working to try to figure out how to help it. My family’s been gluten-free for 3.5 weeks as a start because gluten is such a highly reactive food for so many people. Dairy’s next. These aren’t permanent changes at this point. They are trials as we continue to learn and evaluate how our bodies respond to various foods.

But at the same time, I read, listen, and watch to as much as I can about holistic health, nutrition, and earth friendly living. We strive to eat as organic and local as we can (how much exactly changes all the time). We avoid GMOs as best we can. We grow what we can and we belong to a CSA. We’re working had. But I have to tell you, I am so damn confused about it all. There’s a few things that are obvious. Organic is better than conventional. Non-GMO is better than GMO. Grass-fed is better than grain-fed. Free range is better than factory farmed. But after that, well it gets dicey.

As an athlete, I hear a lot about the Paleolithic Diet which is no grains, no legumes, and no dairy (among other things I’m sure I’m missing) with a focus on lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. I know many runners and other health-minded folks who follow it. The increasingly popular CrossFit program swears by it. Just the other day, my chiropractic said it was probably the closest we could get to the ideal diet. It’s based on the idea that this is how we were designed to eat.

Then there are the Weston A. Price Foundation folks. They emphasize animal products including raw milk, cheese and butter along with grains prepared best for digestion (lots of soaking and sprouting) along with fats and oils including lard, animal fats, butter, coconut and cod liver oils. This or variations of this are very popular in some of the holistic parenting circles as a traditional foods diets. It’s based on the idea that this is how we were designed to eat.

And then there are the vegans. They also claim that this is how we were designed to eat. I recently watched two films, Forks Over Knives and Hungry for Change. Both were heavy on the plant-based diet, although it was more central to the former than the latter.

hungry for change

Hungry for Change really focused on how we are overfed but starving to death. It mentioned or touched on a large variety of topics including nutritional deficiencies, skin care, juicing, visualization, mental health and emotional eating, chemicals and preservatives in our food, negative self talk and more! Many of the people in the film were not only vegans but some of them raw vegans. They talked about detoxes, chia seeds, and spirulina. They covered a lot of the trendy health foods right now and their role in nutrition. It was a call to take back our health, get moving, and feed our bodies with the nutrition we need.

forks over knives pic

Forks Over Knives made the argument that animal products are causing all of our health problems from cancer to circulatory disease. The experts in the film explained how animal foods promote cancer growth while plant-based foods reduce it. They referenced the China Study among other things. It’s a message of food being able to cure so many of our health problems instead of surgeries. I found this review of it to bring up a few contrary points.

 

So there you have it. I don’t know what to think. I’ve learned some about all of it and yet I know there is so much more to learn. Every which way someone is telling me that something is going to kill me and something is the key to my health. Every where I turn folks are arguing. Some are saying even grass-fed meat is not good enough. It’s as much the problem as anything else. Grass-fed farmers are arguing back, of course.

So what I am missing? I get the discussions. I see points on both side. Of course bio-individuality, individual allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances play a role in answering this question which no one in any of the camps would like to consider. Gluten, dairy, soy, corn, animal products, and more – it’s all going to kill you. So what in the world can I eat? And who is right? I know this is not the only issue that this happens with, but usually I have a gut instinct that combined with research and information helps me decide. On this issue, I’m truly perplexed. I just want to know what to eat to be healthy, happy, and good for the planet!

What are your thoughts?

13 comments:

  1. "How we were meant to eat" is just as much based on one's heritage as well. I doubt the the Inuit were eating much coconut oil, nor were the peoples of Fiji eating seal blubber.

    I try to avoid things that make me feel lousy (esp. gluten) and try to eat stuff as close to the way it was put on this earth as I can, but other than that, try not to think too much about it. My whole life I have been driven by one food obsession or another, and this is no different.

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    1. I totally agree on the "how we were meant to eat" thing varying on geographic location historically.

      I know all too well on the food obsession. And the feeling lousy thing makes sense - I'm just still trying to figure out what exactly makes me feel lousy.

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  2. I'm kind of in the same place as you. As I've eliminated allergenic foods from my diet, I've noticed the reactions just transfer to something else. I blame it on leaky gut, caused by 10 years of BC, long-term antibiotics, and whole grains were the thing that tipped me over the edge. I'm eating a Paleo food list, and using some WAPF methods (eg a lot of bone broth). I did the best when I was 100% strict Whole30. I've been trying to decide if I want to start the Paleo auto-immune protocol or GAPS. My husband is leaning toward wanting to do GAPS. Also, FYI regarding the China Study: Robb Wolf talked about it in one of his podcast episodes and he said something along the lines of the study was flawed because when they came to the conclusion that animal products were causing cancer they were basing it on feeding cow's milk casein to rats. If you think about it, this is really the same thing that Paleo claims - dairy causes unchecked growth, ie cancer. And just to throw one more thing at you (!) I just watched a movie called Sweet Suicide and ordered the book that it's based on (Lick the Sugar Habit). The movie is presented in little too much of a conspiracy theory format for my taste but there was some compelling information about sugar being the cause of cancer. Since completing the Whole30 I hate the way sugar makes me feel. Now that I've broken the habit I can feel how awful it is and see what symptoms it causes.

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    1. That's really interesting (and scary) about the reactions transfering as you eliminated food. I definitely have some leaky gut issues, and I am reluctantly considering GAPS. In the meantime, I'm baby stepping with gluten-free and now dairy-free. At the same time, my body doesn't really love the bone broths and such. I was vegan for Lent last year and felt surprisingly good, but then I get concerned about that long-term. And yet I know lots of healthy happy vegans! I have read a few things recently on sugar that make so much sense, and I am hating to admit is something I need to tackle (although we aren't TOO bad in this area). I'll check out that movie! Thanks!

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    2. I think long-term vegan can be hard, though I don't know from personal experience. I did the whole vegetarian EXCEPT thing for a while, since I never stopped eating fish and eggs. It looks like her blog is gone but I had read a really interesting story about one woman's struggle with strict veganism. Someone else republished her original post here: http://www.truthaboutabs.com/vegan-confesses-health-problems.html I've also heard that digestive enzymes can help the transition for people who have been off of meat for a while.

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    3. Very interesting. I definitely see how long-term vegan wouldn't be right for a lot of people, and yet there are a ton of endurance athletes who are vegan and from, as far as I can tell, honestly thriving. Perhaps it comes back to the bio-individuality. I think at this point being as unsure as I am, it doesn't make sense to go to either extreme. Yes, digestive enzymes make a lot of sense. I had gall bladder issues and was taking them then, but it's something I should look into again. The whole conversation is so interesting (and perplexing) to me!

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  3. I'm in the same boat, experimenting. Went to an alkaline diet and eliminated caffeine to clear up some acid issues, then started juicing for vitamin boosting, and eating only raw veg and grass fed. now i've been sugar free for a week and I feel so much better than I have in a long time. I think you really just have to make healthy choices for you and listen to your body. Paleo may be too much meat, but vegan not enough, etc...

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    1. Thanks for the comment! We just started juicing and I love it. For the most part, we are starting each morning with fresh juice which is great. I love feeling like I'm getting a jump start on my nutrients and vitamins for the day! You are so right on listening to your body, it's just not easy.

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  4. I've been struggling through my own version of this... only my posts are much more rambling...
    I hear you.
    I think in the end we just do our best. The farthest away from processed foods we can get, the better. Beyond that we just might all be different and the best thing we can do is learn to listen to our bodies.
    For the planet, I'm at the stage where I can deal with supporting companies that are conscious and eco-friendly and give back to earth. There are more levels to go eventually...
    We're just going gluten free too... I look forward to hearing how your family gets along and what you discover.

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    1. Absolutely. Food as close to its original form certainly makes sense with no question. It's a great place to start, and I'm sure we do have different needs so it's just a matter of figuring those out. Good luck on the gluten-free journey. Today marks 4 weeks for us. I haven't seen many differences but it also hasn't been too hard once I switched over my kitchen.

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  5. I'm with you! I've recently noticed a correlation between milk consumption and upset tummy & rashes on privates with my 2.5 year old. As I do my research, I'm SWAMPED with conflicting professional advice. Keep sharing your story with us... it's nice to know others are shifting through the same stuff!

    Also, can I continue my shamelessness and ask you to check out this post and possibly help me out? http://koskersidlewild.blogspot.com/2012/05/shameless-and-hopeful.html

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    1. Also, both thefresh20.com and onceamonthmom offers gluten free meal plans! I've used both of the whole food meal plans from those sources and LOVED them!

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  6. This is an interesting post. I have been vegan now for a month (going from a vegetarian diet anyway) and feel great--I always feel great on a whole-foods vegan diet. I've watched Forks over Knives and read the China Study. I've read Dr. Furhman's Eat to Live and just ordered John McDougall's Starch Solution. Oh and read the Engine 2 Diet. It really makes sense to me, a whole foods vegan diet. Eliminating oils and getting your fats from the source (nuts, seeds, olives, avocados), that makes sense to me too. And I also really like the book Crazy Sexy Diet by Chris Karr. I know that you need to add B12 on a vegan diet and vitamin D (which I am bad about taking vitamins, I know lol). But I think a lot of traditional Americans on the Standard American Diet are probably way more deficient in nutrients/vitamins than a healthy vegan. Not to say that vegan is the only way though. I think you've got to find what works for you. But no matter what you choose, seems that a lower protein diet is the way to go. There are several vegan athletes who are really well known so you can definitely thrive on a healthy vegan diet!

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