Eating for health isn’t always simple


Being a food writer that shares recipes using ingredients based on the idea that the food we eat can affect our health is an interesting endeavor. Many with a black and white viewpoint on what it means to eat a healthy diet can be rather passionate about their views on the topic. I follow many different blogs that run to extremes on many different levels. I follow raw food blogs, vegan blogs, paloe bloggers, high-carb bloggers, and others too.

And often their attitude towards those of different dietary convictions is very crystal clear in the conviction that others are dead wrong. They make passionate, religious-like Facebook sermons on why their personal viewpoints are the only way. I wish I could be so certain that I had figured out the best diet for the planet. It would be such a simple viewpoint!

But I just don’t think it is that simple, and never have.

I think that’s why Dr. Gonzalez’s work really resonated with me. If you aren’t familiar with him, Dr. Gonzalez is a doctor who treats cancer patients with amazing results, despite the fact that many, if not most, of the patients he sees are those who have been given a death sentence from their regular doctors. He uses a wide array of treatments and a huge amount of different supplements and detoxifying agents. But another important part of his treatment is figuring out what diet to put each person on. Unlike other natural cancer treatment protocols that use more of a “one size fits all approach”, Dr. Gonzalez uses a very wide variety of diets with his patients. His patients are on everything from a mostly fat and protein diet (the “Eskimo diet”) to the other extreme of a mostly raw nut, seed, vegetable and fruit diet. And, of course, a lot of people are on diets somewhere in between those two extremes.

In a lengthy interview with him in the book ,Knockout: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer–And How to Prevent Getting It in the First Place, he explains, “There are ten basic diets ranging from pure vegetarian nuts and seeds to an Atkins-type-meat diet and about ninety variations of the ten basic diets. For each diet he [his mentor] would individualize the diet.”

What?! You mean that there isn’t a perfect diet that will work equally well for everyone in the world?

How refreshing! It explains so much to me. It has been more and more clear to me that many of us thrive on different diets. Perhaps what our ancestors ate play a large role here (and I believe that Dr. Gonzalez believes this too). Sometimes different circumstances (such as exposure to antibiotics at an early age, or exposure to different chemicals) can throw things out of wack too, making some “healthy” foods indigestible for you personally. Whatever the reason, it just seems like there is a wide variance to what type of diet people thrive on.

Now, I can’t help but hold on to some certain ideas or “truths”, if you will, about diet. There are some principles that I just can’t help but believe are true. A diet high in whole foods, and food raised the way they were meant to be (such as grass-fed meat and such) is better then a diet high in processed food, for example. A diet really rich in nutrients is also important to me.

I also think that different diets could be appropriate for the same person at different times. For example, a pregnant woman may need to eat a different type of diet than a woman battling breast cancer. While the pregnant woman may include many “cancer-fighting” foods in her diet, the needs of those two women are focused differently. One is focused on cleansing and renewing, the other in building up and nourishing with higher-protein, nutrient dense foods.

A diet to raise a children on, to help them grow strong, may be different than the diet a 55 year old man is eating…or it could be very close to the same.

While I like a lot of raw food recipes, I still believe that it is a bad idea to raise children on a raw food diet (not talking about raw milk here, but rather a diet that is completely made up of raw fruit, vegetable, seeds, nuts, etc.). No society ever tried to serve a 100% raw food diet for several generations, and I am not willing to make my family a raw food experiment.  (The same argument has been used against a vegan diet as well). However, if I had cancer and went to Dr. Gonzalez and he felt that my body would thrive and heal on a raw food diet, I’d do it in a heartbeat, knowing that this was being done for a period of time to help me heal.

But do you see what I mean? It really isn’t that simply. Sure, I think that the general population can do really well just concentrating on eating food based on a traditional, nutrient dense diet. It really doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can be simple. My general advice would not be to cut this or that out, but rather to buy high-quality ingredients and make your own nutrient dense food at home. Many don’t need to jump on the gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo bandwagon (though many of my readers are thriving on it, and we personally are gluten-free and cow dairy-free).

But once you start having any type of health problem, and you start tinkering with your food to see what helps, you realize that what works for one person can have dramatically different results with another. The type of diet that makes me feel “alive” and well is pretty different than some of my friends who have similar leanings towards a nutrient dense diet. Some friends feel best leaning towards a mostly meat and fat diet. I feel the very best when I include a large amount of greens and other vegetables in my diet and some whole, gluten-free grains (along with my grassfed meats, pastured butter and organic coconut oil, and chicken and stocks, etc).

We are unique.

Enjoy your uniqueness, and eat what works for you. While I have foundational principles that I personally hold to be true and there are different diets I wouldn’t choose to put my family on, I welcome people on a wide variety of “diets” here. I understand that eating for health can be super simple sometimes, but not always. And that is why I have always strived, even when sharing specific information on eating well, to try to be moderate and not too dogmatic in my views about nutrition. Our bodies are complex and respond differently to food, which is why some of us have had a journey to discover what type of diet helps us feel well and whole.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. Shari Larson says

    Amen! I don’t believe there is one way of eating that fits everyone. It’s constant trial and error to see what feels right for you. It’s so disheartening to see people insist that their eating style is the right way for everyone and proclaim that everyone else is wrong.

  2. Tara says

    Such a great, encouraging post. I am pregnant now, but before I conceived I was exploring a paleo diet and felt good…but then pregnancy nausea has really made loads of veggies and salads seem unappetizing to me. I am now trying to eat what helps me feel well, while trying to (usually) be committed to “real food”. 🙂

    • KimiHarris says

      Pregnancy always is a challenge for me too! With my last one, I survived the first part largely on milk products, despite the fact that long-term, milk messes up my digestive system. You do what you have to do!

  3. says

    On my journey to health, I tried a lot. I tried fasting…terrible! Raw foods…not so good! Paleo has helped me the most since I have had problems with my gut for years. But people with healthy guts can eat grains and beans so I agree with this article and the doctor you mentioned. Some do need cleansing diets while others, like me, need diets to build us up.

    • KimiHarris says

      So glad you are finding what works for you! I think even in the paleo community, there is a lot of variance in how to make the paleo diet work for you. As a side note. Dr. Gonzalez believes that health does start in the gut, but those different diets he uses still help individuals heal their gut, despite how different they are! I guess the GAPS diet isn’t the sole healing diet out there after all. 😉 (I would assume, but don’t know for sure, that he might use supplements and protocols to help heal the gut as well as the diet.)

  4. Katie says

    It’s so good to hear someone say that. It seems like a lot of people, while well-intentioned, have a basic message that boils down to: “You need to follow this diet if you have any real interest in your health and that of your family! If you do something else, obviously you just don’t care enough!” It’s discouraging, and not only that, they can’t all be right! Or, as you said, they can’t all be right in regards to me personally. I cannot follow all those diets. I cannot feed my family all those diets. It’s not possible. What I can do is make an educated decision as to what is best for my family, and go from there. (It would be nice, though, not to have to deal with well-intentioned guilt trips along the way.)

  5. says

    It is great to hear this point of view out there in blogasphere. As a naturopath I’m often astounded by the amount of “you should do this” I hear from people when it comes to diets. Everyone is different and every body needs different things. Thanks for writing this post. I only wish more people would think like this!

  6. Laura says

    I agree that there is not one diet that is right for everyone. It is definitely hard to figure out the best one for my family, and we are constantly working on it. It is nice to see people being more tolerant of other’s diets. There is a lot of bashing of different diets going around, and it is just not necessary.

  7. Joan says

    Thank you for a refreshing perspective on the “right” diet. As you menitoned the dogma can be extremely strong and in-your-face from so many, but it reflects only 1 portion of so many different ways that could be good for you. The idea of eating what is right for your own body is foreign to so many. Unfortunately it leads to a lot of doubt and guilt around eating food – two emotions that can cause their own set of problems for your digestion. 🙂 Thanks for your insight and I’ll have to pick up the book you recommended.

  8. wendy says

    Hi, thank you so much for this!! I have really been trying to live in a more healthy way.I enjoy doing research but I have found myself very overwhelmed with should dos and should nots. I end up feeling frustrated and guilty, because I cant get my family to go raw or whatever. This helped put things in perspective. Thanks

  9. sandra says

    That was a great post! Your humble, moderate and unbiased views are a sure sign of grace, understanding and intelligence.

  10. Lynette says

    Kim I really feel your point is well made. I have done a totally vegan diet to rid my body of breast cancer. It worked along with the prayer. I am now struggling with the right mix for me for I see the benefits of raw, traditional, paleo and other forms that out their. I felt my best when vegan but my body needs protien for I lost 20 lbs. on a vegan diet now I am working on a paleo for I am finding out as I reintroduced grains that I am sensitive to them. I am so grateful for you, Nourished Kitchen – Jennifer, Cheesesleave – Kristen, and the Food Renegade. This network along with many others I am now linking to through you and others I a great help in seeing that it takes time.

  11. says

    Well said!! I agree completely — we are all such different beings with vastly different experiences and genetics, it seems impossible to me that we should all eat the same. I believe that a healthy combination of whole foods, common sense & mindful awareness can guide us all in our quest for better health. Thank you for sharing.

  12. PATTY says

    I love the Knockout book you referenced. It opened my eyes to so much nutritive information, and I refer often to it especially for best formularies of vitamins and minerals that should be within supplements. I also like the micronutient information at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State Univeresity. Just yesterday I was researching supplements for a collegiate athlete who has mild chronic kidney disease. I knew kidney stones are an issue with vitamin C, often excessive in many multivitamins, and learned keeping vitamin C under 90mg/daily is the best limits for this concern based on science, despite it’s antioxidant abilities at higher dose. Vitamin C metabolizes as oxalates and besides supplements, my athlete eats lots of vitamin C whole foods. Yes, we are all unique.

  13. Holly says

    What a terrific article! I so agree with you! Thanks for being the voice of reason among so many extremists! 🙂

  14. says

    Thank you for shedding light on the fact that there is no “one size fits all” diet out there. Just as every single person is unique in his or her makeup, each person’s dietary needs are going to be a bit different. The folks out there advocating one specific diet, well probably well intentioned, are turning people off to the idea of eating “healthfully”. And if people feel that they can’t stick to a particular diet because it just doesn’t work for them and then they are made to feel guilty about it, they’ll be turned off to the idea of healthy eating altogether. And then what have we solved? Very insightful post. Thank you!

    Penny at Green Moms and Kids

  15. says

    Hooray – thanks for posting this! Couldn’t agree more. My son and I are on GAPS, trying to heal some issues for him (still a breastfeeding babe), but it is very clear to me that just doing GAPS isn’t enough for us – we are finding our own way (Dr. Natasha talks about this too, in the “One Man’s Meat is Another Man’s Poison” article.) Boy it can be hard sometimes with so much conflicting info out there to choose from!
    Thanks for your great site.

  16. Laura P Thurston says

    Fantastic! I believe that people who hold so dear to only one principle have stopped learning. We don’t know it all and new information is on the horizon every day. Thanks for this very sane and thoughtful post.

  17. Kathleen Casey says

    I was tentatively arriving to this way of thinking myself. I have been feeling a bit frustrated with my own roller-coaster ride of food research and the very convincing and conflicting arguments of various books and blogs and well-meaning friends. Your post is very affirming, very sensible, much needed. Thank you!

    • says

      I agree with this completely, thanks, I have been doing a lot of research as well, to help me get healthy and it is frustrating to hear so many different points of view, in reading this I need to take all I have learned and create my own meal plan that will work for me. Thanks again.

  18. says

    That’s why I love using applied kinesiology, or muscle testing! I go to my applied kinesiologist every 3 weeks and we streamline what is and isn’t working for my body. Before I take any kind of vitamin or product or even skin cream I go and test for it. This is how I know what foods to eat, how to maintain proper hormone balance….all sorts of things. You can learn to muscle test yourself…some use their fingers, or their wrist. I use a pendulum actually…its just easier.

  19. Jessie says

    I want to read more about Dr. Gutierrez’s work. I am a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but all European as far as I know. But my husband is 100% Chinese genetic materials. I think that what works for me isn’t necessarily the best for him – so I am looking to try to cook some more in the way that might be best for him. But in our case, I can’t imagine cooking two totally different diets – but I would like to intermix things more.

  20. LaurenLL says

    Dr. Peter D’Adamo published a book in the nineties called “Blood Type Diet” which, as the name indicates, is based on blood type. The man who discovered different blood types discovered that people also put out antibodies to certain foods that were not compatible with their blood type which also has an effect on digestion. When his book came out, other doctors called it a “fad” and that he was a “quack” and that his conclusions were based on “bad science”. None of it is a fact. A few years ago, he published “Genotype Diet” which further widens the groupings. Still, he says there are not 4 diets or 6 diets, but billions(based on the pop. of the planet) of diets based on our individual needs. I am glad it is moving forward with other doctors delving into it as well. As a Blood Type A, Genotype Teacher, I do well on vegetable protein as well as fish and cheese and plenty of carbs.

  21. KariAnn says

    I too have come to this conclusion after living with 6 other people and figuring out what works for one does not work for another. It is both liberating and frustrating. 🙂 God made us each so unique!!! Thank you so much for writing this.

  22. says

    Love this! Thank you so much. I’ve been struggling with a few years with what is right to heal my body. I feel like every time I ‘decide’ I come across a different article say that this other diet will heal me. Just within the last month or so I came to the realization that I’m just going to have to do it my way and just learn as I go if I’m sensitive to other foods.

    I’ve also found that I have to give myself certain ‘cheats’ otherwise I will fall away even further. So although there may be a diet that works well for someone, we have to take into account the mental and emotional standing of eating that too.

  23. Faye says

    What a great post, thank you Kimi! We all want to eat healthy but that healthy changes depending on money, time, family and a whole host of other factors. I have three young kids, when I’m tired we eat grill cheeses or eggs and toast and carrot sticks! They all have different tastes, my husband included and I do my best, as with everything else in life. It’s a good reminder to encourage all of us to eat as best we can but to realize that it might be different for everybody. I also need to remember not to judge others not eating as “healthy” as us, someone else is probably looking at me and thinking the same!

  24. says

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Kimi! Thank you for writing this! I am constantly commenting that we’re all unique and that trying to say one diet works for all is really just as silly as saying one pant size fits all – it just doesn’t! Like you, my food philosophy simply rests on getting back to the “diet” our bodies were designed for – REAL food! That can take many different forms based on the individual and his/her unique health strengths and weaknesses. And I absolutely LOVE how you pointed out that our dietary needs can change throughout various life stages, and due to medical issues as well. I plan to share your well-articulated treatise on embracing our uniqueness with my readers via lots of social media this week. LOVE THIS! Blessings to you, Kelly

  25. Jenny says

    I am absolutely starting to hate, and I mean hate, the word diet. I am studying master herbalism and have been in the process of healing myself of years of uninformed antibiotic use that at the time was the only option because of my uninformed self. What worked for me was gluten free but that was for me. My “diet” is to eat food…real food. The good ole USA does not have food in the grocery stores, it has chemicals and unidentifiable stuff. Even the fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, flour, salt, sugar, and other staples has to be looked at objectively and closely to make sure they are what we think they are. People get down right angry and brutal toward how I eat even though it has saved me from about 7-10 prescription drugs and a downward spiral of my health due to a digestive tract that was no longer really working for me but totally against me. I am so frustrated right now I want to move to a deserted island and live with no finger pointing, swearing, and lots of real food. I don’t even like the term “real food” anymore. Shouldn’t it just be food. Sorry for the rant. Guess I am just tired of justifying my choices even though I’m not sure why I need to. No one else, besides my husband by default, has to eat like me and even he has his own variations. I do believe many in this country have absolutely no clue what they are eating and what should no be consumed. Thanks for the article. Couldn’t agree more.

  26. Erica says

    Fabulous! I have strong beliefs about food, mainly that we should be eating REAL, mostly unprocessed food. What food people eat from this description can vary widely, and I agree that’s okay. To each their own I say. We have eaten REAL food and mostly organic or home-grown or local for a few years now. We have recently switched to dairy-, gluten-, and sugar-free due to a health issue, but I don’t necessarily see that as a diet for everyone. Thanks for your post. I’m really enjoying checking out your website.

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