Recent research into the Atkins, South Beach, Best Life and DASH diets showed that all 4 of these diets failed to meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) for 27 micronutrients analyzed. Specifically, vitamin B7, D, E, chromium, iodine and molybdenum were identified as consistently low across the board in all four diet groups.
These findings are significant, and prove that following a popular diet plan can lead to significant deficiencies over time which is a risk factor for the development of chronic disease. If a diet plan fails to meet needs for key nutrients, it is not a diet you want to be following, especially long term.
A recent study found that nutrient deficiencies are very common on a gluten free diet as well. The problem that we see at Balanced Well-Being Healthcare with those converting from a standard American diet to a gluten free diet is that many people simple trade gluten filled products for the gluten-free equivalent. Just because a product is listed as gluten-free, does NOT make it a health food. Gluten free products like baked goods, breads and candies are often full of sugar and other additives making them just as bad for your health as the version that contains gluten. The ideal gluten free diet is one that is real food based. Instead of focusing on gluten free labels, focus on foods that are naturally gluten free. Vegetables, fruits, grass-fed and wild caught protein sources, whole grains like steel cut oats, brown rice and quinoa (in small amounts), and fermented dairy like greek yogurt or kefir.
What constitutes a healthy diet that meets nutrient requirements??
That is a tough question, and the answer changes depending on the individual.
There are some factors that will be true across the board for all people to follow. ALWAYS choose organic produce when possible. ALWAYS choose grass-fed/wild caught proteins when possible. ALWAYS choose whole grain/sprouted grain when possible. ALWAYS aim to keep refined and processed foods OUT of your diet. Eat as close to nature as possible.
Here are some goals to aim for:
- 5-7 servings of vegetables per day, with more emphasis on non starchy vegetable
- 2 servings of fruits per day
- 3-4 servings of protein per day
- 1 small serving of grain per day
- 1-2 servings of nuts/seeds per day
- 1-2 servings of bean per day
- Limit sugar to natural sweeters in moderation–best options would be maple syrup, honey, stevia, coconut sugar in SMALL amounts
- Moderate amounts of healthy fats–avocado, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee
Another important factor when considering the ideal diet for you is that fact that our genetics have not changed much in the past 10,000 years. In fact, they have only change 0.5%!! Our diets, lifestyles, exposure to toxins, and stress levels however, have changed dramatically. We are basically living OUT of alignment with our genetics, hence the increase in modern disease like autoimmunity, heart disease, obesity, diabetes. To reclaim health we need to get back to our roots and live and eat according to our genetics. In clinic we talk a lot about ancestral eating. Ancestral eating is looking back at the last 10,000 years and analyzing the diets of people who were living in alignment with their genetics and were healthy and free of modern disease. This is the way humans ate for most of their existence. It is only very recently that our diets have shifted dramatically. There are three different perspectives on ancestral eating, they are all right but not all right for you. Likely you fit into one category or a combination of categories depending on your health status. Your diet is an evolution across your lifespan, meaning the best diet for you will likely change as your health status changes.
Ancestral eating perspectives:
- Paleo–Free of grains, legumes, refined sugar, dairy. Focus on protein-fish, poultry and mammal; vegetables, fruits, fats. This is the most strict version of ancestral eating, and is best for those struggling with health issues.
- Primal–Same principals as Paleo but with the addition of raw and fermented dairy.
- Weston A Price–This perspective takes into account the work and research of dentist Weston A Price. Looking at over 60 traditional cultures pre Western influence, he documented the diets of healthy traditional cultures. It was discovered that many cultures did consume grain, but it was prepared by soaking and sprouting beforehand to increase digestibility. Some cultures also ate legumes that were pre-soaked and sprouted, as well as raw and fermented dairy products. Weston A Price philosophy is the most inclusive of modern foods–grain, bean, and dairy, with emphasis on being properly prepared to minimize stress on GI health. This approach would be best for someone with optimal health and no GI distress.
Even a heathy diet that contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals, we have found that most people need a minimum of 4 cornerstone supplements. Read this blog post to learn more.