Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Perfect Diet?

Today we had a vegan lunch. Tomorrow - who knows.
Back in July I wrote this post about the Ketogenic diet versus a Vegan Diet. At that time I came down decidedly on the side of the keto diet because I was convinced by the carbs turning to glucose argument. I was, and am still, in favour of intermittent  fasting. However, I can't get the vegan factors out of my head. And, to make it all more complicated, I like history, nostalgia and tradition so what are you supposed to do about baking with real butter, chicken soup with kneidlech, shepherd's pie, Cornish pasties, and all other meat and potato pies?

I've spent hours on You Tube watching documentaries and testimonies form every camp. They all claim to solve the world-wide obesity crisis, reverse type 2 diabetes, reverse even stage 4 cancers, eradicate heart disease, eradicate strokes, eradicate dementia, eradicate almost everything including old age! Grown men and women shouting at each other with passionate anger that they have found the secret to universal good health.

Confused? I totally am. This is what I've found out about all the different ways of eating. Maybe if I write it all down we can see some helpful patterns.

1. What Grandma used to make.
It sounds sensible because who could be more sensible about food than Grandma. She cooked the family through the war (if  you're old enough, otherwise think Great-Grandma) and the nation have never been so healthy as they were then.

But if you're going to do it you need to do it like Grandma (or Great-Grandma) did it. They ate a little of everything, there was no (or very little) processed food, they did not eat between meals, they ate much smaller portions than we are used to now, sugar was rationed.

You also have to take into account that the wheat, vegetables, and especially the meat, that we buy nowadays is not as nutritionally sound as it was back then. The wheat has been modified, the vegetables are sprayed, the soil is depleted, the animals are fed antibiotics (and maybe hormones) to keep them alive and growing. And don't let's start on the spiritual notion that their stress and suffering in some way taints the meat, dairy and eggs. Ok, let's include that because we're not dismissing anything here and I sort of do believe it.

2. The Ketogenic Diet.
No carbohydrates except those occurring in salad and crusiferous vegetables. No sugar, flour, root vegetables, fruit (except berries), alcohol, grains, or milk. On the other hand you can have cheese, cream, butter, meat, fish, eggs, avocados and berries. They advise moderate amounts of protein so it's not Atkins. The perfect keto meal is a moderate portion of protein with loads of vegetables.

The science they claim is that carbs are just glucose waiting to happen, and that glucose is what leads to too much insulin, fatty livers, and all the other diseases mentioned above. Once you eliminate the carbs, your body has to use your stored fat for energy and you go into a state of ketosis and lose weight.

I don't dispute any of this. I've seen amazing transformations from obese and nearly dead couch potatoes to healthy, fit, exercising people with abundant energy and sparkles in their eyes. They have indeed reversed many of the dreaded diseases of middle-age and it shows on their blood tests.

3. Whole Food, Plant Based, Vegan.
I'm skipping vegetarian here because vegetarian makes no sense. The dairy cows and the laying hens are kept in the same conditions as the meat animals. Milk and eggs have the same fat, hormones, and antibiotics. Dairy and meat cows eat the same amount of grain (that could be used to feed hungry people) and give of the same the amount of gas. So if you're vegetarian but not vegan you're kidding yourself.

Vegan on its own is also not enough if we're looking for a healthy diet. Crisps, jelly beans, and all sorts of processed sugary snacks are vegan, You could live off them and still be vegan. So I'm only talking about whole food plant based vegan here.

The WFPB camp are about animal suffering, the planet, and our health. I agree with them about the animals. It's not like it was in olden times when you knew the farmer and the animals frolicked in the fields until their eventual demise. Despite the pictures of happy cows and hens on the packaging, all our meat comes from animals living suffering in factory conditions.

I agree with them about the planet. I have to take their word for it on the gas emissions being the biggest cause of greenhouse gas and therefore global warming. I do understand, however, that the enormous amount of grain fed to animals gives way less food than the grain would have given had it by-passed the fat and protein machine (i.e. the animal).

It only gets complicated when we look at the health benefits. Every amazing transformation and healing miracle I've seen from keto people, I've seen the exact same incredible results from the WFPB vegans. They say you can get enough protein from plants, avocados are super-foods, beans are the key to eternal good health, and you can reverse or prevent all the diseases we fear whilst simultaneously saving the planet and stopping animal suffering.

I also kinda have to agree that it doesn't make sense to be afraid of a potato (although you should be afraid of the vegetable oil in crisps and chips) or a piece of fruit. So again you have to be selective - a healthy WFPB vegan diet does not include sugar, vegetable oils, or any processed foods (including highly refined grains). You also need to eat the whole fruit and not just the juice as this leads to drinking the sugar from 10 oranges instead of the whole fruit and fibre of one orange.

The vegan doctors say they see clogged arteries full of animal fat and it's nothing to do with glucose. They advise high carb, low fat. I'm not a doctor.

4. One Ingredient Shopping.
You can have what you like as long as you buy only foods that consist of one ingredient. Meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, grains and nuts. I like this concept and you would necessarily eat less if you had to make everything from scratch. I just included this because it's a simple solution although it doesn't solve the carbs versus animals dilemma.

5. Intermittent Fasting.
This works with any diet and you can do it without any big dietary changes. The theory is that you leave time for your body to use up all the energy from the previous meal and get a chance to use some of your body fat for energy. It seems to be another way to get into ketosis.

People say that once they are using stored fat they have abundant energy whilst losing weight. Dr Jason Fung explains that your body tries to slow metabolism when it feels it's running out of food but once you go into ketosis there is a load of fat to burn so you don't slow down at all. He advises to eat low carb, high fat, and drink lots of water. (Actually everyone advises lots of water.)

Intermittent fasting can be as little as no eating between meals, skipping one meal a day, only eating one meal a day, fasting for 16 hours and eating only in an 8 hour window each day (or 18:6, or 20:4). It can be fasting for 2 days a week, or 3, or an extended water fast of several days. Or you could do an extended fast a number of times a year (after Xmas and after your summer holiday?). The beauty of it is that anyone can do it: you travel - don't eat, you have erratic schedules - don't eat, you have food allergies - don't eat, you can't afford a special diet - don't eat, you eat kosher/hallal - don't eat, you're vegan - don't eat, you're in keto - don't eat. Cute eh? I didn't make up that speech, Jason Fung says it. (Obviously some specific medical conditions mean that some people are not advised to fast.)

And, yes, all the amazing, incredible results seen on both keto diet and the WFPB vegan diet are also documented and available all over You Tube for intermittent fasting. Same. Same diseases cured, same conditions reversed, same healthy new lives for people who were almost dead. Go figure.

My Conclusions.
*If you want to save the planet and be kind to animals you need to be vegan.
*If you want good health and to save the planet and be kind to animals, you need to be WFPB vegan.
*If you want to lose weight quickly you could go Keto but some doctors swear that they see all that animal fat in the arteries. So you might be way more healthy and active than if you were obese and this might be why you have good blood work and fewer chronic conditions.
*If you work from home or part time, and have a garden, you could try buying (and growing) only one-ingredient food, cooking like Grandma, and eating like they did in the 1940s. I have no doubt that this would be healthy. It would also take up your whole life.
*Intermittent fasting works for most people on whatever level they want to do it. Many people find it easier not to eat at all than to restrict portions and types of food.
* Whatever works for you is better than eating junk, fast, processed, and sugary foods.

**** EVERYBODY AGREES that you should eat loads of vegetables and drink lots of water.
****EVERYBODY AGREES that you should avoid processed foods, sugar, vegetable oils and trans-fats.


  1. It really is enough to make you head straight for the ice-cream and chocolate - isn't it!!!!

    I think that everyone is different and we have to find what works best for ourselves. For me, that is low carb, protein at every meal along with lots of fruit & veg. I eat dairy, try to eat more fish these days and reduce my meat consumption in favour of more vegetarian meals. I have cut portion sizes and try to really watch the sweets (pastries & chocolates are my downfall)! I also practice intermittent fasting and often try to go 12 to 16 hours from an evening meal to a "breakfast". I can no longer do anything extreme and I think that's the most important thing - to find a way of eating that works for you and is something you can stick with. I don't demonize any food - even sugar - humans have a natural craving for sweets it's just that it used to be difficult or expensive to get those foods and now it's much too easy so it's up to us to use some willpower in order to not over indulge.
    I really think we've made it much more complicated than it needs to be - there is no magic bullet no matter what we eat - or don't eat - calories in needs to be less than energy expended or else we gain weight - a simple fact.

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