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 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 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?