Removing entire food groups from the diet when you don't know what you are doing, is dangerous. I have helped people with massive organ/hormonal and emotional dysfunction, all from cutting out food that is vital to the body's function. From the exercised crazed so called "paleo" diet, devoid of grains, sugars and starches, to the extremism of vegan and vegetarianism. So I thought it was about time to debunk some of the huge myths that are going around at the moment.
Most of us feel fat, bloated or sluggish at some point in our lives and when it gets dire enough, we're pretty happy to take extreme measures, especially if we think it means we can feel better "right now!" You'll see a friend or someone that is looking or feeling great, bragging about cutting out certain things and so you'll decided to jump on the bandwagon too. And if your friend really feels and looks that good, why wouldn't you be like, "I'll have what she/he's having?" There are, however, very distinct reasons why this euphoria happens.
The happy new vegan/vegetarian is in a new state of bliss, usually because their digestive system was being over worked by processed foods and commercially farmed meat. Therefore all of a sudden, the body has a break and there is a sense of relief. This is also the same for a so called "paleo" person giving up modern processed grains. When a person gives up sugars, grains and starches, the body has to produce more adrenalin and so the person can experience levels of increased energy for some time.
I have worked with many people who give up food groups and experience extreme
dieting with extreme consequences. The consequences on the hormonal and adrenal systems, as well as the bodies effeciency at converting food into energy can be dire and the recovery long. So before you go cutting out major food groups, please listen up:
There are a few things you need to understand about meat:
A cow that grows standing in dirty mud and faeces, never getting any exercise, being fed grains and anti-biotics and then shipped to the slaughter in a confined truck is simply not comparable to a cow that is happily roaming through a paddock, eating grass hanging out and being put to sleep in a calm and safe environment.
Antibiotics are given to animals to protect them from standing in those disgusting confined spaces piles of eachothers wet faeces AND to fatten them up. Grains are also fed to them to fatten them up, yet they are toxic to the animal. So, if you always eat commercially farmed meat, you will eat the antibiotics and you will put on weight too. Any food that is not nutrient dense and toxic, like commercially farmed meat takes a huge effort on behalf of the digestive system, to break down, get rid of, and turn whatever is left into energy and building blocks for the cells. Think of how much work you are putting your body through eating foods like this. Of course you feel better when you take this out of your diet. Your body is like, "thank god, I don't have to do that any more" But, just as you were meant to move every day to keep your muscles in optimal function, so to are your meant to give your body healthy fat and protein to break down. It is what it is designed for.
There are a few things you need to understand about grains:
People have eaten grains for thousands of years. At some points in history it was a highly valuable commodity and used as currency. Some cultures in the world survive on a predominantly grain based diet. Paleolithic people did in fact eat grains and you can read more about that HERE. The difference is, the way they processed them. A lot of them were soaked and fermented, enabling all the nutrients in the grain to be available to the body. The modern grain is processed in such a way that it is stripped of a lot of its nutrients, exposed to fungus that can disrupt the immune system and contains phytic acid that prevent the nutrients from being able to used in the body. As the body will need to expel the grain (this can sometimes be why they make you go) nutrients and minerals from other foods will bind to them and exit the body, leaving you depleted, especially iron. So again, this is the reason why you feel good when you give up grains. Your body thanks you for the effort it doesnt have to go through getting rid of the empty calories and for the sudden amount of nutrients available to it.
There are a few things you need to understand about sugars and starches:
Most people in the Western World should eat less sugar. Sugar in its white form and processed versions such as syrups and sweetners made from genetically modified and/or processed grains are bad for you. Its true! They wreak havoc in the body, creating inflammation, disrupting blood sugar levels, cause you to gain weight and create serious addictions. When people give up this kind of sugar they feel awful from the withdrawal. But once they reach the even keel, they feel energised and their body learns to metabolise all macronutrients as energy.
However, carbohydrate, sugar and starch in their natural forms ie. fruits, vegetables, root vegetables and well prepared grains are vital for the function of the cell. Fructose and sucrose in the right balance are actually good for maintaining blood sugar levels. And sugar and starch are absolutely vital to replenish glyogen after heavy exercise. For the first while after giving up "carbs" your body will use fat and protein as energy, but once the excess is gone, and your body thinks that there is a lack of something and that it might be starving. It will use adrenalin as its energy source and then it will start taking energy by breaking down muscle and borrowing from other systems in the body. This is a huge amount of confusion for the hormonal, endocrine and adrenal systems.
So where do you start?
Every meal should contain Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate. What we all need to understand is that these three macro-nutirients work together to give us energy, react off each other to break down into nutrients that are able to be taken up by the cell and this is the point of food in the first place! This is also proportionate to the individual.
Ethical and sustainble farmed meats and their fats contain vital amino acids needed to create muscles, brain function and repair the breaking down of tissue and keep inflammation at a low. There is no plant food that contains all 9 amino acids, nor has there ever been a tribe or culture on the planet that did not consume animal products in some form. If you want to learn more about this, you can read the work of Weston A. Price.
Organic whole grains prepared in the right way have an abundance of nutrients useable by the body and if activated and.or fermented, help balance gut bacteria and strengthen the immune system.
Sugars and starches help replenish glycogen after exercise, enabling us to have energy and to repair broken down muscle tissue.
There is of course the problem of allergies and intolerances, that must be considered. Also, the ratio of each of each of these food groups is dependant on the individual and this is the key.
Remember: One man's food is another man's poison. Considerations need to be made for stress and athletic output, genetics and current base line of health. There is no diet book or quick fix regime that can solve your problems. The only way is to give your digestive system a good cleanse at least once per year, eat clean, intuitively and specific to your body. If you need help with this, all you need to do is ask.