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.