The Secret To Finding Your Personal Best Diet Is Not What Dieticians Tell You
Eat the best quality food that you enjoy and will continue to eat
Diet choices are becoming more and more politicised and more ideological than ever. This makes it harder than ever to know what we should be eating to preserve our health.
For example, should we be eating a more plant-based diet because that would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or help reduce animal cruelty, or simply because it is healthier? There is some science behind each of those options. But mostly the science is lost in ideological battles which turn more people away from those choices then attract them.
But it not just the contents of a diet or new food plan that determines if it will be best for you. What’s the secret?
First, let’s look at the protein battles. These battles serve up confusion if you are trying to choose how to modify your sources of protein.
It’s not easy to find your protein replacements
The warfare over the choice of “correct protein” is compounded by other dietary advice which has unintended consequences.
Dietary recommendations to reduce intakes of saturated fat and solid fats may result in dietary guidance to reduce intakes of commonly consumed food sources of protein, in particular animal-based protein. We propose that following such dietary guidance would make it difficult to meet recommended intakes for a number of nutrients, at least without marked changes in dietary consumption patterns — The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 6, June 2015, Pages 1346S–1352S
Even dieticians are ducking and weaving and hedging their bets — more than politicians — even in the one article!
In this article “ Vegan athletes are increasing, but does a plant-based diet improve athleticism?” the expert dietician provides the following advice:
- “The research showed eating less meat was healthy”;
- “If you think about third world countries, the main protein source is often rice. So there are certainly ways to get lots of protein”.
What’s the “truth” about these — could you use her advice to build a better diet?
Her first claim is misleading. Research shows that eating more than a moderate amount of unprocessed red meat is correlated with slightly earlier death in men and women. That’s not the same as “eating less meat”.
The second claim is true but not helpful. One hundred grams of white rice contains about 2g of protein — brown rice about 4g of protein. The average adult male in the USA weighs 197.9lbs ~ 90kg.
A 90kg male would need to eat 3.6kg of white rice each day to meet their protein requirements. 3.6kg of white rice contains 4680 calories, which over a week would add about 3kg of weight.
She is not saying that rice should be eaten in this quantity. But the example of rice as a casual way of saying that it is easy to get your extra protein in a vegan diet is not a useful example.
My point is that it is quite hard to replace the 27 grams of protein that you get from 100g of beef, or the 25 grams from fish, or the 31 grams from chicken breast.
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What’s the secret to changing your diet if it is not vegan versus meat-based?
So what is the secret to changing your diet to a healthier one?
The secret is to change to one that you will continue to eat.
If you like to eat red meat then continue to eat it in moderation.
If you like fish or eggs or whole cream milk or a glass of wine each night keep doing it. I do. And I still eat dark chocolate most nights.
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But what you also need to do is add in more variety — add in more vegetables and fruit. Use the three-colours rule: three colours of vegetables on your dinner plate.
Eat more fibrous foods such as nuts and beans and bananas. Have a date instead of a piece of chocolate.
Find a variety of food which keeps you interested in eating well, and enjoy.
II recommend that you take ten minutes to read this article from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health with many good protein choice ideas.
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The power is in the variety that keeps you interested
For about three years in the period 1970 to 1973, my then-wife and I were vegetarians. It was a kind of rite of passage at the end of the 60s to smoke pot and become vegetarian. I didn’t give it a second thought — after all, billions of people survived on plant-based diets.
I knew that we wouldn’t die — even if we didn’t quite know what we would eat. The large pots of soybeans soaking overnight and boiling for a long time, and the heaps of lentils and okra stick in my memory.
We moved to another city and with that change, we also changed our diet back to use more meat. But we retained the advantage of mixing in more plant-based options and making our meals more interesting. I still like those protein combinations that we used to cook up.
I should add that we both gave up all added sugar in about 1968, as that seemed such an “obvious” intake of empty calories. If you have not yet done so then I HIGHLY recommend that you do as soon as possible. It took me three years before I could drink tea or coffee again, but I survived!
Interest in a variety of foods and variety in daily eating has stuck with me. Variety helps you stick with any new food plan.
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The most un-secret secret about a healthier food plan
And here’s the most “un-secret” secret about eating more healthily — eat less.
Get smaller plates, cut down your meal serves by 20%, and don’t eat later into the night, e.g. stop eating before 8:30 pm.
Try a “light day” once a week — a small nutritious breakfast, a smoothie for lunch and vegetables for dinner. Walk up the steps at work and at the station. You’ll easily survive the day and your system will feel better.
Should I also say “needless to say” that adding 20% more daily exercise will also do you the world of good?
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Even if you do not find these changes so enjoyable in the beginning, stick with them. No one likes to change. But after a while, they will become new habits.
How should I eat?
Not too much!
- Michael Pollan — Food Rules, An Eater’s Manual
Your best diet is one where you tend towards under-eating not over-eating, and that gives you the variety of food that you will enjoy eating — for the rest of your life.
PS In this time of the pandemic you can also boost your immune system with the right choice of foods.
I’m Walter Adamson. I write about life, health, exercise, life and cognitive fitness to help men and women over 50 live longer better.
Originally published at https://www.walteradamson.com.