Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Cookie firmly in hand, I've been observing the grain-free/low-carb/gluten-free/paleo/vegan/raw diets out there. With significant curiosity. I am a scientist, after all. So I'm curious. But skeptical.
Yes, maybe gluten interferes with the thyroid. And maybe grains cause inflammation and immune responses in the body. Or maybe they don't. Maybe they do in some people, and not in others. Maybe cooking food ruins all the enzymes my body needs. I'm still not sure. I'm not going to judge people who've overhauled their diets for just these reasons or for health or just to lose those few extra kilos, because you know what? I have no idea what the right thing to do is.
But I'll tell you what I have learned.
1. Eat what you enjoy and enjoy what you eat,
2. Get as much variety in your diet as possible,
3. Eat real food, and
4. Moderation is not restriction.More on these ...
1. Eat what you enjoy and enjoy what you eat
We're all guilty of sitting down in the front of the computer with our lunch (just to check email ... Twitter ... Facebook ... the other email ... see how many people have visited the blog today ... check and see if Amazon has that book ... have any more emails come through? and so on) - and before you know it, you can't even remember what you put in your mouth. Hopefully it wasn't your napkin.
I don't believe in eating stuff that tastes awful, or that you have to swallow with a glass of juice and a whole lot of concentration (ahem - fish oil). But I do believe in eating what makes me happy, and actually focusing on that food while I'm selecting it, preparing it, and eating it.
Take the time to enjoy your food.
2. Get as much variety in your diet as possible
Variety is easier than it sounds, because sneaky people like to keep things the same. Wheat. Corn. Soy. Wheat. Corn. Soy. Wheat. Corn. Soy. (and if you don't believe me, start checking labels.) I'm pretty sure all of us could eat ingest 5 servings of wheat a day without even noticing. Even more if you're visiting France, trust me.
So what to do? An easy way to incorporate more variety in your life is to eat real food - food that's not processed, that's homemade, that's not out of a packet. Try baking with new types of flour - including low-gluten or gluten-free varieties; eat non-wheat pasta made from brown rice or quinoa; next time you're at the grocery store, pick up one new grain or seed or oil that you've never tried before, buy it, and use it. Seriously, there are thousands of food blogs out there with great recipes for whatever you decide to try.
Diversity in food means more different kinds of nutrients and minerals, different proportions of proteins and fats and it means we aren't assaulting our bodies with the same thing day after day after day. Particularly if there's a chance our bodies are sensitive to those foods. Plus, you haven't known pancakes till you've tried them with buckwheat flour.
Even if you're a picky eater, and you think you only like pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate ice cream, there are infinite new foods/recipes/flavours out there for you to try. Start with the flavours found in what you do like, make progressive changes to your faves, and work from there.
Variety is good.
3. Eat real food
I think Michael Pollan has the best checklist for what constitutes real food - and basically it comes down to this: Would your Granny recognise it as food?
I know that not everybody out there wants to make their own yogurt (though you probably do, because you're reading my blog) - but you have choices. You always have choices. You can choose the pink, non-fat, 20% sugar yogurt in the plastic packet and no one is going to judge you as a person or a parent. But maybe just pause and think about what you're putting into your body.
Is it food? Really?Are you feeding your body what it needs? Or are you feeding your guilt, your anxiety, your time management issues? Just asking. No judgement.
4. Moderation is not restriction.
The flip side to diversifying your diet is that you're also moderating it. It's pretty simple, actually: by trying different things, you're not having so much of the same. Wheat in moderation. Grains in moderation. Dairy in moderation. Meat in moderation. Even the good stuff in moderation - using coconut oil/butter/flour in everything cheats your body out of nutrients you might gain by switching products now and then. And I can assure you that even baby carrots should be consumed in moderation.
Maybe moderation sounds boring ... but it's not. Maybe it sounds like the worst diet you ever went on when you were a teenager and before you gave up dieting forever. That's because too often, moderation is errantly linked with restriction. But you don't have to restrict.
If your diet is varied, moderation will be a way of life.
So these are my food rules. My guidelines for choosing what goes into my body - given all the confusing studies and articles and personal anecdotes out there. Maybe you've made different choices for different reasons, and that's totally cool. We're all different little organisms that run in slightly different ways, so it makes sense that there's no one perfect diet out there for everybody. What's important is that you treat your body like it's got a Lexus (or Versace, or Cartier) logo on it. And be happy.