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Friday, April 20, 2012

Sorting diet advice fact from fiction

Last time, I talked about Stevia, and we ended up going in a few circles trying to sort through conflicting evidence.

I started to talk about how I sort through it all and decide what gets to come into my home and make its way onto my table.  Then, I noticed that my post was getting really long and needed to be divided into two posts.

So, here we are today.

How do I decide what's healthy?

It's so difficult to sort through the evidence out there. Some say milk is good for you - but only if it's raw. Some say raw milk will kill you. Some say all animal products are deadly, you should go vegan. All of them have some pretty convincing arguments and great charts and data to back it up. How do you sort through it all?

First of all, I figure that if the scientific community can get a few things wrong and change their tune, I can't expect to have get it all right the first time, either. Is this a little scary? Yes. However, I just do the best I can with what I have. So far, it's worked well for my family. I am continually studying and trying different things to see what works best for our household.

Also, everyone's lifestyle and genetic makeup are different. We need high protein, high fat diets at our house, but this would probably not work for everyone. It's important to learn to listen to your body and make connections between what you eat and how you feel. Most of us are really out of tune with this connection, but it's there, I promise.

All that said, here's my general process for deciding if diet advice is worth following:

Is it natural?
Is this something I could theoretically do myself, in my own kitchen? Or would I need a lab to recreate it?
Can I pronounce all of the ingredients? Do I know what they are? (Sometimes, these big words are not so scary at all, and I confess to buying plenty of foods with unknown ingredients - but I try to stick with "real" ingredients as much as I possibly can.) I believe that our bodies were designed to have foods close to the way they themselves were originally designed, and the further we get from that (through chemical changes brought about in unnatural ways), the more likely a food is to be bad for our health.

Is it food?
This sounds silly, but I've heard lots of naysayers point out that there are plenty of poisonous plants in nature and just because something's natural doesn't mean it's healthy.
This is true. Don't go out and eat any plant or animal you see and expect to be the picture of health.
Thank you, captain obvious.
*Also, herbal medicine is medicine. Treat it with respect and realize that "natural" does not mean "take as much as you want without seeking professional advice"

What does my gut tell me (literally and figuratively)?
In other words, does it make common sense, and how does a certain food make me feel? I generally don't take diet advice that comes out nowhere to me, it needs to fit what I already know from experience. For example, I had no idea that there was scientific evidence that sugar supressed the immune system until I was researching for this blog post a few weeks ago. I did know, however, that if I ate too much sugar for more than a few days in a row, I tended to get sick.

When I found out that studies show what I had already experienced, I didn't have question it, I just took it as evidence to support what I already knew.

I once tried out a vegan diet, believing it was best for me and the planet. I felt worse than I ever had before and I got depressed. When I discovered the Weston A. Price foundation, and saw that a lot of mainstream medical professionals were changing their tune about dietary cholesterol and animal product consumption, I tried our their theories. I now feel 100% better than before.

Those are really the main three, but I also consider other things like how nutritious the food is and if it's considered biblically unclean (many Levitical laws about hygiene and diet have been found to be legitimately good for our health, and I feel the laws about clean and unclean foods probably fall under this list, whether we have complete information as to why or not).

The one thing I recommend that everyone to is keep trying. Being a little confused about some diet advice is absolutely not an excuse to give up and start feeding your family whatever the heck you want. Unless you just want to be sick. There is enough information out there that is agreed upon for everyone to make an effort.

I realize that I've stepped into a hairy subject, and I feel that this post is a terribly incomplete explanation, but I felt it would be good to explain myself a little bit. I also feel like I've rambled quite a bit...

I'd really love to hear from you readers - how do you separate the fact from the fiction in an arena that has become so political and money driven? What resources to you trust most?

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