This “diet” isn’t really a diet in the usual sense of the word. It is a diet in the proper sense of the word, though.
Diet-n. 1. The usual food and drink of a person or animal; daily sustenance.
This is what I mean when I say “diet”-what you normally eat, day in, day out. This essay is an attempt to show a way to diet.
This way to eat is simple, easy, saves your body and the environment. All of the people of the world have eaten like this for millennia. Most of the people still do!
Follow me through “the diet…”
Until the beginning of the 20th century, most peoples of the world ate simple foods, based primarily on farm crops. Meat was a luxury, used sparingly or only on special occasions. You ate hunted meat, and used farm animals for their products (e.g., milk and eggs) until they weren’t productive, then you ate them. A lot of preservation was done too-salting, pickling, smoking. Only in this century has this diet changed.
There are several reasons why this has happened. Refrigeration, large industrial farming, urbanization, mass production and distribution are some of the root causes.
Unfortunately, this new diet, heavy on highly refined foods, meat and dairy products, and canned goods has been the direct or indirect cause of many, many deaths. And it is spreading from the West to the rest of the world. And with it, heart disease, strokes, cancer, “modern” diseases, lifestyle diseases. While diet may not be the sole cause, it has a significant effect. A proper diet, combined with exercise, stress reduction and a healthy attitude, can reduce lifestyle diseases.
Diet is the first of three pillars. Physical fitness is the second of these pillars. The third, middle pillar is mental and spiritual fitness. Diet is the foundation.
Your body is made from the food you eat. Every single cell is built from what you put in your mouth, digest, and assimilate. Proteins are the building blocks of all cells, carbohydrates (sugars) are the energy to do work, fats are the energy storehouses, and vitamins and minerals are the catalysts and trace elements.
To be honest, where these nutrients come from makes very little difference, if they come in the proper form and correct balance.
Unfortunately, the “Western” diet has not provided this form and balance. Foods like beef, whole milk, french fries, ice cream for dessert-the basis of the “fast food” meal and the traditional “steak and potatoes” meal don’t provide this.
What they do provide is fat in double the amount you actually need, protein in one and one-half times the amount you actually need, carbohydrates in a form too easily absorbed (refined sugar), and vitamins, minerals, and bulk in less than half the amount you need.
The Western diet is out of balance. Of course, this begs the question-what is a balanced diet?
Current research has come up with the following formula-1/3 protein, 1/2 starches, 1/6 fat. Of course, these are approximate figures, but nonetheless form a start, a basis to judge a diet.
So, what’s the diet? It’s simple, but requires a fundamental change in outlook.
If you live in the West, you were brought up with a specific view of what foods are healthy and nutritious. You learned the four food groups (FFG).
Let’s think about the FFG for a second. Meat, dairy, grains, and fruits/vegetables. I said above that meat and dairy products are the basis of the Western diet, and are what is wrong with it. Half of FFG are made of these foods!
As a start, let’s remove meat and dairy from FFG. This leaves grains, and fruits/vegetables. Next, let’s split fruits and vegetables into two groups. This gets us grains, fruits and vegetables as the three food groups.
This is fine, except for one small problem. This diet would be incomplete. By this I mean that it wouldn’t provide complete servings of protein. This is because grains only provide about half of necessary protein.
To add the other half of necessary protein, legumes (beans) have to be added to the three food groups. This is good, because we now have four groups.
The groups are now grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. This is the “diet”. Simple, isn’t it?
Now, let’s get down to the concrete elements of this diet. It’s fine to say, “the four food groups are grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables”. Let’s put some flesh on that sentence.
Here are some foods from of each of the new four food groups (FFG2).
This diet is complete, but to a Western palate, boring. Fortunately, the entire universe of sauces, spices and preparation can be used to enliven the food (this includes fats, oils and sweetenings.) Most other cultures are happy with it, and you can be happy with it as well.
There are other considerations to keep in mind when choosing food. The aphorism “you are what you eat” can serve to point this out. Much of the food we eat comes from far away and is mass-produced. This needs to change. How do we go about this? One way is to keep in mind the following seven ideas about food: whole-unprocessed; fresh, natural, organically grown-not canned or frozen, free of additives; in season-our bodies should eat what suits the season; local-riper, more nutrients, seasonal; in harmony with tradition-what we’re attuned to; balanced-variety in flavors, colors, textures; delicious-a guide to what our bodies need.
UPDATE: The U.S. Government comes up with new dietary guidelines every five years. This time through (2004) has been more public than before, and marred by industry interference, especially from the sugar, dairy and cattle lobbies. In an attempt to make this diet a bit easier to quickly grasp, I have developed the following chart as a replacement for the food pyramid that is used now. I have adapted it, changed it into a circle, and added exercise as a key component surrounding the food circle. Since the big fad at the moment is “low carb” (losing popularity, rumor has it…), this circle is essentially opposite those recommendations. I won’t go too much into why low carb is bad other than to say that carbs are where you get your energy. Low carbs, low energy-you basically have to tap into non-carb resources for energy, which is wasteful and potentially dangerous, especially for those in bad health. There’s also a lot wrong with “going on a diet”-you need to change your diet permanently and increase exercise to permanently lose weight and keep it off, not to mention the health problems associated with dieting.
Here’s the chart-enjoy.
One of the things that’s been hot forever is supplementation. The problem with that is that it’s commonly used to prop up an insufficient diet. Having said that, there are some things you can add to your diet that might help things out a bit.
- Pomegranates help, and are popular right now. Eat them straight, rather than juicing them.
- Red wine and heavy beer in moderation help too.
- Wheat germ
- Brewer’s yeast
- Yogurt-get the natural kind-it’s more runny than the processed kind.
- Bee pollen
- Bach flower essences
- Choming flower, tree and gem essences