Traditional diets are just what they sound like, following the ancient traditions of our ancestors with food in its most pure, unprocessed form. These unrefined, natural foods are revered for their nutrient density and should be prepared just as your great-great-great-grandmother did.
Many foods have a long history of supporting good health. For centuries, humans existed without the need to read books about their diet. They ate from the land and grazed on what was around them, and the traditional diet looks to reclaim these ways.
Nina Planck, author of Real Food and Real Food for Mother and Baby, explains that “traditional” means that a food has been farmed or raised and processed pretty much the way it used to be. Foods like grass-fed beef and wild salmon are two to three million years old. By contrast, modern foods like corn syrup were developed in the 1970s. In her books, she explains how ancient foods like beef and butter have been falsely accused of causing health problems, while industrial foods like corn syrup and soybean oil have created a triple epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. She writes that real food is never an imitation of something else.
The real food movement can be traced back to the early 1900s when Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who believed nutrition is the foundation for well-being, studied the diets of many ancient societies and decided that by eating nourishing, traditional foods and farm produce, we could achieve optimal health. He traveled the world studying indigenous people’s dental and physical health. He found that the farther away people lived from civilization, the healthier they were. They ate from local food sources. They had fewer cavities, and some cultures never experienced any cancer or heart disease.
Sally Fallon Morell brought Price’s work to a larger audience in her book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. I really appreciate that her work ignores the current fads and politics around food and, instead, looks to our heritage to determine which foods are ideal for human consumption. Perhaps one of the most controversial parts of traditional diets is that raw dairy products are considered an important part of a healthy diet. Followers argue that, for the past 9,000 years, humans have relied on milk to meet their needs for protein and fat and that the problem is not milk, but the modern methods used to make dairy cows produce milk. Selective breeding and genetically engineered hormones, along with pasteurization, which makes the proteins in milk difficult to absorb, interfere with the benefits from milk. However, raw milk isn’t advisable for everyone, particularly those who have a weakened immune system or are pregnant.
The traditional diet includes a variety of animal foods. Fallon Morrell cites studies of primitive cultures that relied on animal meat and had healthy bones and claims that certain health problems, such as bone loss and tuberculosis, developed when agriculture was introduced and people began depending on grains and beans for sustenance. Fallon Morrell says animal food is the only source of complete protein with all 22 amino acids necessary for the human body to thrive. She acknowledges that abstaining from commercial meats is a good practice and that avoiding meat for a certain period of time can be cleansing and healing, but she cautions against strict vegetarianism.
Fallon Morrell stresses the benefits of the natural fats in meat, eggs, and dairy, and encourages people to avoid the no-fat or low-fat alternatives to these products. In addition to high-quality animal meat, she recommends eating other quality fats, such as virgin olive oil, unrefined flax oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. Carbohydrates from organic whole grains are another essential element of her diet. She also recommends high-quality water, meat stocks, vegetable broths, unrefined sea salt, raw vinegar, fresh herbs, and naturally fermented soy sauce. Since this diet is very rich in protein and fat, it may not agree with everyone.
By adopting the eating style of the people who live in the Mediterranean region of the world, particularly Southern European countries like Greece, Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain, many people can enjoy longer lifespans and less risk of developing chronic disease.
The Mediterranean diet is less a diet and more a lifestyle. People who live in the southern coastal regions of Europe and the Middle East dine leisurely, engage in regular physical activity, spend time with family, and, of course, eat a heart-healthy diet with lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and beans. The region emphasizes fresh, regional cuisine, simply prepared with very little fried or heavily processed foods.
Interestingly, a Minnesota physiologist named Ancel Keys was the first scientist to talk about the health value of a Mediterranean-style diet. He was also one of the first people to talk about the role of saturated fats in contributing to heart disease. His work began in the 1940s, but he became known for his landmark epidemiological research that he called the Seven Countries Study starting in the late ’50s. He studied 12,000 healthy middle-aged men living in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. and revealed that the Mediterranean diet was protective against heart disease even though about 35% of the calories come from fat. Yet, most of those fats are monounsaturated fats from plant sources. Even more interestingly, Keys lived to be 100 years old.
In the last decade or so, scientists have continued to study this region extensively, mostly looking at how residents enjoy such good health. In 2011, researchers examined 50 studies linking the Mediterranean diet to reduced risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which leads to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. But even more striking was the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s impact on heart risks. The study ended early, after only about five years, because the results were so staggering: About 30% of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease could be prevented in high-risk people simply by switching to the diet. The results were published in a 2013 New England Journal of Medicine article, marking the first time a diet was shown to be a powerful means to reduce disease risk in a clinical setting. In the study, a low-fat diet went head to head with the Mediterranean diet, which allows for healthy fats and a more balanced way of eating. Not only did the Mediterranean diet have better results, but the study participants were able to stick with it and feel satisfied. Other studies have shown that the diet can help maintain a healthy body weight and lower risk for diabetes.
I like this diet’s traditional roots, and I agree that a balance of good food and lifestyle factors can help you live longer and enjoy your life. Of course, many people wonder whether this diet can really be recreated around the world and if it makes sense to advise, say, people in China to eat more like people in Italy. Again, I think people benefit more from adopting the traditional diet of their own region.
Low-carbohydrate diets restrict carbohydrates. Restricting carbohydrates, especially those from grains, starches, and sugars, tends to lower the glycemic load (blood sugar impact) of meals. Eating fewer high-glycemic carbs reduces the spike-and-crash effect that can cause cravings and promote fat storage, as well as body-wide inflammation. A low-carbohydrate diet is sometimes recommended for Type 2 diabetics, because it helps to moderate the body’s insulin response.
Low-carbohydrate diets tend to be higher in protein and fat. Because of this, a lot of people find low-carb eating to be very satisfying. People love eating protein. It makes us feel stronger and more alert. It increases our sense of power and confidence—two of the most highly prized qualities in our contemporary culture and part of the reason low-carbohydrate diets are so popular today. Fat adds a lot of flavor to meals. It also has a high satiety factor, which means you feel fuller after a meal or snack. Fat is high in calories and serves as a long-lasting fuel for the body, which loses its dependency on regular intake of carbs for energy. People eating lower-carb, higher-protein and higher-fat diets often find they can often go without eating for longer periods of time, creating windows in which the body can burn stored fat for fuel.
Low-carbohydrate diets can lead to significant weight loss, important to many in this time of rising obesity rates. Anne Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S., former head nutritionist at the Pritikin Center, was among the first to see the downside of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, and to distinguish between “good” and “bad” fats. Trans fats in processed foods like potato chips and margarine contribute to inflammation in the body. Olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and oils from seeds and nuts nourish the body and can help improve blood-lipid profiles. Ironically, a lack of good fats can actually lead to just the kind of heart disease dangers that low-fat diets are trying to avoid! It is widely believed that omega-3 fatty acids, a great source of which is fish oil, are especially effective at clearing the arteries. Note that it’s generally considered best to maintain an omega 6:3 ratio of 4:1 or lower. A ratio too high in omega 6 (often caused by overconsumption of processed foods and industrial vegetable oils) is believed to increase risk of inflammation in the body.
Gittleman also pointed out that the average American does not know the difference between healthy and unhealthy carbohydrates. The experts might be talking about the need to eat brown rice, millet, quinoa, wholegrain breads, vegetables, and beans, but most Americans have no idea what these foods are or where to find them. Thinking that all carbohydrates are the same, they eat more refined wheat products, such as bread, pasta, and pizza. In addition, Gittleman warned about the potential dangers caused by gluten in wheat, which may cause allergies, brain fog, candida, and mineral deficiencies in some individuals.
Many people who embrace low-carbohydrate diets follow programs based on the work of Dr. Robert Atkins. Atkins began his work in 1972, with the publication of Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.
A biography about Atkins, The True Story of the Man Behind the War on Carbohydrates, describes his life’s mission well. Atkins’s supporters claim that, under his plan, you can “eat delicious meals you love, never count calories, enjoy a cheeseburger when you’re hungry, see amazing results in 14 days, reach your ideal weight, and stay there.” Dieters can also supposedly eat all the meat and all the fat they want and still lose weight, which may be an attractive option for many people. People who suffer from candida or diabetes, both of which are aggravated by too much sugar consumption, can sometimes benefit from this way of eating.
Another popular low-carbohydrate diet is the keto diet. Keto gets its name from ketosis, which is a state of metabolism where the liver converts fat into ketones, which the body then uses for fuel. To maintain a state of ketosis, people who are following a ketogenic diet manage their intake of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) to get 15-30% of their calories from protein, 60-75% from fat, and 5-10% from vegetable-based carbs). The keto diet has been popularized by many celebrities who claim it helped them shed weight fast.
A common misconception about keto is that it is largely a meat-based diet. However, there are many non-starchy vegetables that contain less than 5 g carbs per serving, such as broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, spinach, and tomatoes, that are regularly used in keto meals. Phytonutrients (nutrients derived from plants) help fight inflammation and also provide antioxidants, which are important for reversing oxidation stress in our cells caused by free radicals. Hearty consumption of vegetables provides micronutrients that help prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Vegetables also contain fiber, which is important for maintaining regular bowel movements. Nuts and seeds are also good low-carb sources of fiber.
Note that there is increasing concern about tainted meat, hormones, and antibiotics in factory-farmed meat. Choosing organic animal food when possible can help to cut down on exposure to hormones and antibiotics. Another thing to consider is that the body is always trying to maintain an acid and alkaline balance. Protein is acidic. Therefore, it’s important to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits to maintain the body’s acid-alkaline balance.
High-carbohydrate diets are a modern take on traditional diets that relied on whole grains, beans, and vegetables.
I pinpoint the publication of Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé in 1972 as the beginning of a trend toward high-carbohydrate diets in America. This book eventually sold more than three million copies worldwide. Lappé postulated that human practices, not natural disasters, cause worldwide hunger. Food scarcity results when grain, rich in nutrients and able to support vast populations, is fed to livestock to produce meat, which yields only a fraction of those nutrients to many fewer people. Lappé theorized that traditional cultures stay healthy by mixing vegetable proteins together, such as the pairing of beans and grains. Her book’s publication coincided with an American hippie subculture that was turning its back on fast food and embracing natural foods, macrobiotics, Indian-style vegetarianism, and a grain-based diet as part of a general “back to the land” movement.
Then came Nathan Pritikin, a medical doctor who studied indigenous cultures around the world and noted they did not have the types of chronic disease suffered by people in developed countries. He attributed their health to a low-fat diet with lots of carbohydrates. Based on these insights, he created the Pritikin Longevity Center in 1976. In 1980, he co-authored a best-selling book, The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise, in which he advocated a low-fat, low-protein diet, with most nutrients coming from complex carbohydrates. Recommended foods included fresh and cooked fruits and vegetables, whole grains, breads, pasta, and small amounts of lean meat, fish, and poultry. He also encouraged a daily regimen of aerobic exercise.
In 1977, George McGovern, former director of the “Food for Peace” program under President Kennedy, headed the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. After years of discussion, scientific review, and debate, the committee encouraged the movement toward vegetable and grain-based diets in America—unwelcome news for the meat and dairy industries. Six years later, in 1983, Dr. John McDougall attracted public attention by designing a vegan diet of high-carbohydrate, low-protein foods. In 1993, Dr. Dean Ornish published the best-selling Eat More, Weigh Less, shattering the commonly held notion that losing weight requires enduring hunger. To actually eat more and still shed pounds was a truly revolutionary idea. Ornish embraced macrobiotics but had the foresight to realize that the Japanese foods, like seaweed and miso, and yin-yang philosophy were too foreign for most Americans. He incorporated the system’s basic dietary principles into his new diet and used more familiar American foods and concepts.
In 1988, the U.S. Surgeon General, in conjunction with the American Medical Association, conducted a study of various weight-loss plans. The study showed that two-thirds of people on these plans gained all of the weight back in one year, and 97% regained all of their weight within five years. A few years later, Ornish showed that, under his plan, patients lost 24 pounds in the first year and kept more than half the weight off for five years. He attributed much of his success to the fact that his patients could eat more food, thereby avoiding hunger pangs and cravings normally associated with dieting.
Ornish then approached insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, pointing out how much money they could save on payouts for heart bypass surgery if they instead enrolled their clients in his program. In response, the insurance companies put 300 people on his program and saved millions of dollars. The Ornish program for reversing heart disease is now commonly accepted by insurance companies as a deductible expense, a huge breakthrough for the nutrition world. His program recommends a diet largely composed of grains and vegetables, with a formula of 10% fat, 20% protein, and 70% carbohydrates. He also recommends yoga, meditation, and developing a loving heart—“hugging is healthy!”—to keep the arteries clean and clear.
Although this type of diet is high in carbohydrates, when keeping a whole-foods approach, you are getting complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates can offer a lot of fiber and nutrients. If these kinds of meals feel simple, play with making your plate full of color and spices. Eating meals consisting of largely grains and veggies may be great for some people’s health but might make others feel sluggish.
Veganism is the practice of abstaining from all animal products, rejecting the commodity status of sentient animals. Followers often extend the ethical principles of veganism into other areas of their lives and oppose the use of animals or animal products for any purpose.
The vegan lifestyle has become increasingly popular these days with help from famous figures, like television host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres and actress Alicia Silverstone, who make it seem more acceptable and doable. More companies are also responding to this trend by offering more vegan options, like Ben and Jerry’s creating a line of non-dairy, vegan ice creams made from almond milk.
Vegans do not eat any food from animal sources, including red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, or honey. They avoid wearing shoes, belts, or any other clothing made from an animal source as well. A 2016 poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group in the U.S. found that 3% of the country now identifies as vegetarian or vegan, up from 1% in 2009.
While vegan eating probably began in India or Asia, the first known vegan cookbook, No Animal Food: Two Essays and 100 Recipes, by Rupert H. Wheldon, was published in 1910 in London.1 The Vegan Society started in 1944 and created World Vegan Day, which is an annual celebration held in November.2 The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has recommended a no-cholesterol, low-fat vegan diet since 1991, and they have even created their own food groups: legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables, to replace the old USDA food groups (meat, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables).
People go vegan for many reasons, including health, animal rights, and the environment. From a health perspective, a well-balanced vegan diet greatly increases your intake of fruits and vegetables. Many people choose to be vegan to live a more activist lifestyle. By choosing not to support the way farmed animals are raised and treated or to eat any animal product, they take a strong stance on living a compassionate life.
Some athletes choose to adopt a vegan diet hoping it will improve their performance. World famous track star Carl Lewis went vegan to prepare for the World Championships in 1991, running what he called the best meet of his life. He earned 10 Olympic medals over his career, nine of them gold. At age 40, Rich Roll was 50 pounds overweight and completely out of shape. He made some major changes to his diet and lifestyle and became the first vegan to complete an Ultraman competition, finishing in the top 10 males. After tennis star Venus Williams was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, she drastically changed her diet to become a raw vegan. She continues to dominate in her sport.
Still, with any strict diet, downsides exist. Vegan diets do not naturally contain vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that contributes to cognitive function and metabolic functions, like enzyme production and hormonal regulation. Since the most usable forms of B12 come from animal sources, many vegans take a supplement to avoid deficiencies. Other potential nutrients of concern include iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
The Zone Diet and Glycemic Load
The Zone Diet is based on a theory that excess insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels, makes us gain weight and keep it on. By regulating blood sugar levels with a perfect balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins at every meal, the body burns fat more efficiently and has more energy.
The Zone Diet was developed by Dr. Barry Sears in the ’90s. He is the author of the bestseller Enter the Zone, which is based on more than 15 years of his research in the field of bio-nutrition and the role of diet in hormonal response, gene expression, and inflammation. The Zone is sometimes called a high-protein diet, but it’s less extreme than Atkins. The diet’s primary aim is to keep you in “the zone,” a sports term, describing an almost mystical state of heightened awareness and relaxed intensity in which athletes perform at their best with minimal effort. The goal is to become balanced, relaxed, and well fed so that your energy level is optimal for normal day-to-day living.
The Zone offers a specific meal plan based on each person’s gender, activity level, and amount of body fat. It’s called “the 40-30-30 diet” because for all of the Zone snacks and meals, you get 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat. The theory is that the more you give your body 40-30-30, the faster it will get accustomed to processing this food combination and settle into a specific metabolic state, leading to weight loss.
One of the goals of the Zone is to avoid peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels. A recommendation that I find effective is to eat a meal within one hour of waking up in the morning because that’s when your blood sugar is lowest. The Zone encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce bread, pasta, and white grains. The diet is big on drinking water, which I agree with wholeheartedly. I also like the Zone’s relaxed attitude about mistakes: No big deal if you fall off the diet, since you are only one meal away from getting back on track.
A downside to the Zone is that, unless you’re a scientist, it’s very hard to design each meal to be a perfectly balanced 40-30-30. It’s also difficult to be on a Zone diet and be a vegetarian because of the diet’s strong emphasis on eating protein. In response, the Zone has a plan called “Soy Zone,” which recommends eating more soy products. However, many people are allergic to soy or have difficulty digesting it in large quantities, so this is not a viable option for all vegetarians. Critics of the Zone often argue that weight loss on this program comes from restricting calories and not from any biochemical magic induced by the 40-30-30 formula. They also assert that, contrary to Sears’s claims, athletic performance may be impaired by reducing carbohydrates.
Our bodies are inclined to thrive on foods that were available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors from 10,000 years ago.
Similar to traditional ways of eating, the Paleo diet, also known as the paleolithic or caveman diet, harkens back to the eating ways of our ancestors, though this diet first came on the scene in the 1970s, thanks to Walter L. Voegtlin, a gastroenterologist who wrote The Stone Age Diet. In it, he argues that humans are carnivorous animals who need mostly fats and proteins and that our jaws and teeth resemble those of other carnivorous animals, like dogs, rather than those of plant-eating animals like sheep. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, links the movement to a 1985 article in the New England Journal of Medicine that claimed the diet could be a reference standard for modern human nutrition.
In 2009, Mark Sisson said you could reprogram your genes in the direction of weight loss, health, and longevity by following the 10 laws (only 2 of which concern food) in his book The Primal Blueprint, which outlines a variation of Paleo, allowing more healthy fats and cracking down on the use of artificial sweeteners that a lot of Paleo diet books allow. By 2010, the New York Times ran a piece about new-age cavemen, or urban dwellers who follow the Paleo path. The article chronicled a modern-day renaissance of the diet, following a few New Yorkers who said the diet had helped them clear up health issues. The article also publicized CrossFit, an intense fitness program that combines weightlifting and gymnastics, stating that many Paleo dieters also enjoy these rigorous workouts.
Again, I think any diet with a focus on protein will become popular in the Western world. I do like that this diet focuses on eating whole foods rather than processed foods, and I think many people benefit from this diet simply by removing flour and dairy from their diet, because many people are allergic or have sensitivities to these foods. The downside of this plan, as with many other diets, is that a strict eating plan can be impractical for most people. While it may feel good for a time, many people have a hard time keeping up with intense food rules.
Raw Food Diet
Raw or living food diets are based on unprocessed and uncooked plant foods. Raw foodists believe that eating food above 108 degrees will destroy vital enzymes in the food and disrupt your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food.
A raw food diet is one in which people choose to eat food that is not cooked or heated. The basic premise of raw food theory is that we are the only species that cooks our food, which destroys its natural enzymes. In its raw state, fresh food is composed of living cells. Raw foodists view cooked or heated food as dead and lifeless. Heating food changes its basic molecular structure, making it toxic or nutritionally compromised, according to this theory. Interestingly, some nutrients actually become more bioavailable after being exposed to heat. Raw food theory also states that cooked foods are extremely difficult to give up, but once people shift to eating primarily raw foods, they will experience clarity of mind, body, and spirit. Raw foodists believe raw plant food is the only food humans should eat.
Raw food can be very cleansing, healing, and refreshing to the body, and it is especially good for people who have eaten a lot of meat and processed food. Eating raw food may improve digestion and increase vitality. It is an environmentally supportive and ecologically friendly way of eating that can lead to a feeling of deep spiritual connection to nature. Going on a raw food diet can feel like fasting, as it helps remove toxins quickly and effectively from the body and can lead to weight loss. One of the biggest benefits of going on a raw food diet is that it gets people off sugary, processed junk foods. On the other hand, this diet can be too cleansing for people whose systems are weak and in need of regeneration. People with a sensitive digestive tract may find the nutrients in raw food too intense. The cooling effect of raw foods on the body makes this diet difficult to sustain during the winter months. People who are, to use a macrobiotic term, very yin—tall, thin, and/or spacy—may need a more grounding diet, as raw foods are also very yin. Getting adequate protein can be a challenge while following a raw foods diet. Some people can also experience sweet cravings from eating too much sugar from raw fruits. Additionally, a raw food diet can cause digestive distress, especially if you dive in all of a sudden. One approach is to gradually get into this diet to allow the GI tract time to adjust to all that roughage.
Some raw foodists are very adamant in their belief that cooked food is unfit for human consumption. Some eat 100% raw, some 75% raw, and some eat 15% raw. I encourage people to experiment with the percentage of raw food in their diet and notice how it affects them, especially in the summer months, when raw foods are easier for the body to process.
You can detoxify the body with a restricted plan of simple, whole foods, through fresh fruit and vegetable juicing, or even a master cleanse mixture of water fasting to boost health. Results from a cleansing diet include increased energy, better digestion, and greater mental clarity, and it can be a very effective method for determining food allergies.
One of the most well-known cleanses today is the Master Cleanse, or Lemonade Diet, a liquid mono-diet consisting of water with fresh lime or lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. Stanley Burroughs, creator of the Master Cleanse, recommends drinking the mixture 6 to 12 times a day for a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 40 days, depending on a person’s physical health. A laxative herbal tea, taken twice a day, and saltwater bathing are also recommended, but no other food is consumed during the cleanse. Directions for coming off the diet include a slow reincorporation of raw fruit, fruit juice, nuts, and vegetables. Burroughs suggests doing the cleanse four times a year for optimum health. The goal of the Master Cleanse is to correct all health disorders. This lemonade drink was first shown to help aid stomach ulcers, and then Burroughs began to recommend it for other conditions. He believes that when we cure one disease, we help cure them all and create vibrant overall health.
Improper diet causes the accumulation of waste, toxins, and poison in the colon. These filter into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body, inhabiting tissues and cells. The settling of these toxins weakens the cells and the entire immune system, exposing the body to disease. Cleansing the body of this built-up waste rejuvenates its innate healing mechanisms. It then functions at optimal capacity, reducing toxicity, restoring health and vitality, and increasing our life force.
Other people try less-extreme forms of cleansing, either with fresh fruit and vegetable juices or simply by eating unrefined, whole foods for a time. Joe Cross helped bring attention to the power of juicing in his documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, which tracked his progress on a 60-day juice fast. He lost nearly 100 pounds and got off his prescription medication for an autoimmune disease simply by increasing his consumption of fruits and vegetables. In 2008, Oprah and her staff embarked on a 21-day vegan cleanse and found amazing results from adopting this diet that is free of all animal products. Even in cleansing, we can see how some people thrive and others struggle with certain ways of eating or eliminating food from their diet, even for a relatively short period of time. Doing a cleanse or simply eliminating coffee, tea, sugar, and comfort foods for a set period of time is a freeing experience. Many people report that cleanses help them lose weight and feel healthier.
It’s common for people to decide they are going to fast in the springtime, especially if they’ve put on weight during the winter months. I’ve seen this pattern many times. People overeat during the holiday season, and then, when the weather gets warmer and the days get lighter, they announce to everyone they know, “Okay, now I’m going to clean it all up by going on a fast.” Being healthy is a daily practice. I do not believe that long-term fasting is an effective weight-loss method. Just by following the simple instructions in this book, you will gradually increase your health and vitality. Sudden fasts are a bit like meditating once a week, instead of integrating spirituality into your everyday lifestyle. The way I see it, I fast half my life. Pretty much every day, I fast from 8:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. I break my fast with my morning meal, called breakfast. This process has improved my digestion and my sleeping and allows me to wake up in the morning with a greater appetite for food and for life.
If you really want to fast, the best way is to cut out a specific, selected food, rather than reducing the overall quantity of food you eat. Just eliminating one food from your diet can be a major undertaking. For example, you might decide not to eat sugar for a week. This is a very big deal. Just try it and see. Or, if you know you eat too much chocolate, just cut out this one item, and create a fast this way. You can also fast by adding in food, such as freshly cooked vegetables, every day. This will crowd out other, less healthy foods. If you have success with adding and subtracting things on your menu, you can begin to cut more undesirable foods, one by one, and add more healthy foods, one by one.
When it comes to fasting and cleansing, remember that such valiant activities may appeal to your mind but can wreak havoc on your body. I suggest taking a middle path, doing things in moderation, and realizing that your body doesn’t necessarily know what your mind is thinking.
Autoimmune Protocols and Elimination Diets
Autoimmune protocols and elimination diets are designed to remove food-based irritants and common food allergens that can trigger body-wide inflammation, cause digestive distress, and worsen autoimmune disorders.
Food intolerances and intestinal permeability (or “leaky gut”) are now thought to be underlying (and sometimes related) factors in many autoimmune conditions. Leaky gut occurs when small gaps form between the cells that line the inside of the intestines, allowing small, undigested food particles and toxins to pass through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream. This causes the immune system to react as though it is constantly being invaded, and eventually this overreaction can lead to the body attacking its own tissues.
Autoimmune protocols (AIPs) focus on eliminating both the foods that can cause leaky gut and the foods that tend to provoke an inflammatory response. The goal is to calm and quiet the immune system so that it ceases to attack the body. Foods typically eliminated include grains and gluten, nightshades, dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, sugar, and artificial sweeteners. Additionally, autoimmune protocols may incorporate gut-healing and microbiome-rebalancing strategies like those described in the following section.
Whole30® is a popular, all-purpose elimination diet geared toward reducing inflammation, improving nutrition, regulating blood-sugar and hormonal responses, and enhancing gut health. For 30 days, you eliminate foods that commonly cause inflammation, gut damage, and blood-sugar imbalances (including all grains, dairy, added sugars, soy, corn, and alcohol) and instead eat nutrient-dense whole foods that encourage the body to repair and rebalance itself. After the 30 days, you slowly reintroduce foods and see how they impact you. If you notice that a reintroduced food causes a negative reaction, you can choose to avoid or eliminate it for a more extended period, or for good.
Autoimmune protocols and elimination diets can bring great relief to sufferers of a variety of chronic ailments, including fatigue, digestive distress, headaches, skin conditions, and many other health issues that can greatly compromise both health and quality of life.