One diet or way of eating does not fit all. It seems as though there is always a new fad diet that everyone is trying and celebrities are raving about. These days I keep hearing about the Keto diet, which is very similar to the Atkins diet that was particularly popular in the 1990s . A good note here is that the creator of the Atkins diet, Dr. Robert C. Atkins, died of a heart attack in 2003.
Extreme diets, such as those containing very high fat and low carbs are generally not what our bodies need to function their best. . Carbs are our main source of energy, which is essential for red blood cell production and brain function. When we deprive our bodies of carbohydrates it is forced to use the fats and proteins as its alternate energy source, putting the body into what is called ‘ketosis’. This is usually what happens if the body thinks it’s starving. Although you can lose weight on this diet in the short term, by using fats and protein for energy instead of carbohydrates for more than a week or two you run the following risks:
- Putting added stress on the liver
- Becoming dehydrated – the body tries to excrete excess ketones through urine
- Increased risk for diabetes
- Uric acid accumulation in the tissues
- Mineral imbalances
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Muscle protein loss over time
- Bad breath
The Keto diet does not restrict consumption of saturated, processed and partially hydrogenated fats. The two latter fats should really be eliminated from our diets, and saturated fat should be consumed in moderation while instead increasing consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which promote overall health and help decrease the risk of heart disease.
I have always felt that the best way to eat is a varied and moderate diet containing lots of vegetables, moderate fruit, whole grains, good fats and a good amount of protein. Buying organic where possible and making as many of your foods from scratch will further promote a healthy diet.
In Michael Pollan’s book 7 Words and 7 Rules for eating Pollan says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Buying organic where possible and making as many of your foods from scratch will further promote a healthy diet, rather than buying premade processed foods that contain many unrecognizable ingredients.
However, each of us are unique and so it stands to reason that perhaps we each have a specific eating style that will best suit our body. There are really three different choices:
- High fat, low carbohydrate. 20g fat to 10g carbs
- Low fat, high carbohydrate. 1g fat to 20g carbs
- Moderate fat and carbohydrate. 10g fat to 20 of carbs
All three include the recommended amount of protein per day, which is .8g per 1lb body weight for the average person.
In order to discover which eating style best suits your body, you can pick one meal for three days in a row to test each of these eating styles, making notes as to how you feel in the hours after the meal. How energetic are you, how quickly do you feel hungry again, how is your mood, etc? It’s important to note that when picking foods for the high carb diet, you choose foods that contain complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit and vegetables rather than foods high in sugar and white flour. For the high fat, limit the quantity of saturated fat and be sure to include foods high in monounsaturated fats such as avocado, nuts and oily fish. Along with your experimentation to find your ideal nutrient balance, always apply these general rules:
General rules for healthy eating:
- Drink half your body weight in fluid oz of water daily, plus whatever you lose during exercise. The body is approximately 70% water, so for health and weight loss or maintenance, adequate water consumption is essential.
- Make sure you eat enough protein, especially if you are working out regularly. Protein is necessary for muscle growth and repair as well as
- Building blocks. Proteins make up the hair, nails, muscles etc.
- Hormones. Many hormones are protein in nature; hormones control growth and metabolic activities of the body.
- Catalytic activities. Enzymes are globular protein. …
- Transport of oxygen. …
- Blood Clotting. …
- Helps muscles contract
- For a moderate diet, it is recommended that we consume around 200g carbohydrates daily or about 40-50% of daily calories. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates come from plants and are comprised (as the name suggests) of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram so for a 2000/cal diet that would be 200-250g carbohydrates.
- Healthy fats in a moderate diet should be 20-35% of daily calories – fats are 9 calories per gram, so in a 2000/cal diet that would be 44-77g fat.
- Eat high fiber nutrient dense foods. You will be able to eat more and feel fuller, as well as promote overall health. Fiber is found mainly in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber is a part of the carbohydrate that can’t be digested or broken down so it passes through the body and helps maintain bowel health as well as lowering cholesterol.
- Eat a variety of colored vegetables – picking different colored vegetables will ensure you get a good balance of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that the body needs for tissue maintenance and metabolism, and phytochemicals that play a role in cancer and disease prevention.
- Supplements are generally not recommended. We are supposed to get all of our nutrients from food, and most supplements are not regulated or tested. Studies have been done following people who take supplements and those who don’t for years, and the findings in all cases are that there is no difference in the health of these two groups. In fact this study below found that there could be more harm than good in taking supplements. Our bodies generally don’t absorb supplements that are taken in pill form anyway, and it ends up being excreted in our urine. Liquid supplements would be more readily absorbed, but again studies show no benefit to long term use of supplements.
- If your goal is to lose weight you need to eat less calories each day than you burn. Today’s smart watches, fitness apps, fitbits help us determine how much energy we use daily, and can then adjust our calorie intake accordingly. It is helpful to begin to familiarize yourself with the calories and nutrient content of your food. Using a tool like MyFitnessPal can help to track daily calories and macronutrients for you. 1lb of fat is 3500 calories, so in order to lose 1lb weekly you need to have a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories. So a combination of decreasing calories and increasing daily activity is necessary for weight loss.
Learning which nutrient balance best suits your body will help not only with weight loss but also ensure that you keep up your energy levels, sleep better, and don’t get hungry between meals.