New trends in eating offer healthier benefits than diets
A diet should be a lifestyle, not a path to a short-term goal
Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
Paleo, vegan, raw, Mediterranean, Atkins, gluten-free — the list of diets and lifestyle habits to follow is dizzying.
Whatever the reason for choosing to follow a specific diet, research shows that it’s critical to aspire to one important goal: healthy eating.
“We all ‘diet’ for many reasons — weight loss, performance, pain reduction — and no one ‘diet’ is perfect for everyone,” said Dr. Michelle Glasgow, Family Medicine Physician and Primary Care Chief at Kaiser Permanente’s Spring Creek Medical Office. “What we do know, though, is that the more fresh and whole, non-processed foods people eat, the healthier they will be.”
Traditionally, the term ‘diet’ usually refers to a restrictive, special course of food followed to either lose weight or for medical reasons, Glasgow said. While diets could help people reach a goal weight or reduce blood sugars or cholesterol levels, they aren’t typically successful in the long-term.
“The new trends in eating, like clean-eating, Paleo and gluten-free, are meant to be a lifestyle change and maintained long-term,” Glasgow said. “They are classified as new ways of eating vs. a short-term ‘diet.’”
The focus on a way of eating over a diet is important because Glasgow said fad diets are not sustainable. She advises her patients to look toward ways of eating they can stick to for life.
“Most fad diets out there work by causing people to go into a starvation state so when they start eating normally again, the body packs on extra weight for fear of starving again,” she said.
Meat or plant-based?
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that the types and quantities of healthful plant foods people eat are associated with lower risks of heart disease, but those who follow a less-healthful plant-based diet rich in sugars and refined grains still have an increased risk of heart disease.
“Many times, I see people switch to a plant-based diet but then turn to junk food — consuming more sugars and carbohydrates to compensate for not eating meat,: Glasgow said. “This leads to weight gain and elevated blood sugars that ultimately can lead to diabetes, elevated cholesterol, strokes and heart attacks.”
Humans have always eaten meat
A 2016 study published in the Journal Nature reveals that humans might not have become modern, verbal and intelligent had they not eaten meat, according to a Time Magazine report. By studying chewing, scientists found that it required much less force to chew and swallow meat than it did root foods, thus making meat more digestible before cooking foods became a common practice.
“When we go back in time, humans have always eaten meat,” Glasgow said. “Our bodies — from looking at the way our teeth are made to the digestive enzymes in our stomachs — are meant to eat and digest meat. … When we cut animal protein out of our diets, the human body goes into a starvation state.”
The case for plants, gluten-free and other lifestyles
Plants are needed in a well-rounded diet, but plant-based diets alone do not give the human body enough to function at its maximum capacity, Glasgow said.
“Anytime we cut entire food groups from our diets, we risk a nutritional deficit,” she said. “Our bodies thrive best on whole fresh fruits, vegetables and unprocessed meats. I like to tell people in my practice when they are grocery shopping to look for foods that come off a tree, out of the ground or off in an animal without needing to go through a processing plant, and eat those foods.”
Gluten is a plant protein present in cereal grains, and especially wheat. While people with celiac disease cannot eat gluten, there is a case for people without Celiac to eliminate it from their diets, too.
“Gluten is found in most processed foods and therefore by going on a gluten-free diet, people tend to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unprocessed meats, which is the best ‘diet’ out there,” Glasgow said.
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