Sunday, October 23, 2011

Diet Roundup

The New Atkins
This is a 4-phase approach to weight loss.  It starts with a more stringent program, then ends with the maintenance phase.  This low-carb program is unlike the Atkins we all learned about a decade ago because they are now encouraging five servings of veggies per day and touting it as a healthy lifestyle with plenty of options for how to follow these phases.  Their website has menu planning tools, recipes, and you can also buy their bars and shakes.  The basic idea is that you change your body from a carb-burning to a fat-burning machine.  They claim this will give you more energy as you lose weight.  Instead of counting calories, they have meal guidelines and daily carb counts.  There are lists of acceptable foods for each phase, and they recommend never being hungry and eating every few hours while awake.  It is very specific, but there seem to be many tools to help you plan what to eat.

The Zone
This has also been around for a while, and doesn't allow complex carbohydrates.  Its basic premise is to visually have 2/3 of your plate as colorful carbs (i.e. simple carbohydrates like fruits and veggies), 1/3 as protein, and a dash of healthy oils.  There are daily maximums, though, so it is a bit more complex than it seems.  The website details these, and has recipe and meal suggestions.  Dr. Sears' website also has plenty of supplements and meal replacement items, as well as a two-week meal purchase plan to get you going.  

Paleo/ Primal
The idea behind these diets is that man has only lived in cities for the last 100 years, and only had agriculture for the last 10,000 years, but our bodies have been the same for 40,000 years.  As such, they argue that the diet best suited to us (and henceforth the one in which we will look our best and be healthiest) is a hunter gatherer diet made up of meat, fruit, and vegetables.  And to have this be mostly items that would have been gathered, since early man would likely have done most of his eating as a feast or famine with meat. They also say to eat offal as much as possible, and as much game as possible as well. All the foods sourced should be organic and grass fed and as high of a quality and purity as possible. The folks arguing for a primal blueprint diet also argue for exercising like a caveman; that is, to exercise in short bursts (ie run from predators), to walk slowly for a long time (ie gather food or migrate), and to carry heavy things around (ie move rocks etc). This way of eating is also argued to make you feel better and to help your genes reach their maximal expression.

The gut and psychology syndrome diet (GAPS) is geared towards those who are autistic, skistophrenic, or have other illnesses, but sounds like it could help anyone heal allergies and recover from their illnesses. Dr. McBride claims that her GAPS diet is similar to the specific carbohydrate diet, which used to be prescribed to autistic patients, but better. This diet has an introduction and maintenance phase, and the introduction is in phases. Depending on the patient's age, you could run through them in 6 to 18 months, or maybe longer. The idea behind the diet is that illness is caused by the gut, and this diet can heal the gut. She gives very specific lists of foods and how to prepare them in order to give the gut a long enough break to heal.  It is a grain-free diet, although properly prepared grains are legal later. On the diet, bone broth is liberally consumed, as are boiled meats, animal fats, and some cooked vegetables.  You make your own yogurt, and consume probiotic food, including home fermented sauerkraut. These help the gut repopulate good bacteria as the bad bacteria are dying.  Supplements include fermented cod liver oil and probiotics. There is also a detoxification component (enemas). You gradually add back in foods like cooked and raw fruits and soaked nuts. The internet is full of people on this diet, so many tools are available in addition to the book to help you menu plan and follow the diet. People who are very ill have seen their conditions reverse as well as skin clear up and allergies disappear after following this diet. It is very rigid, but promises life altering results.

Weston Price 
Weston Price was a prominent dentist who, in the early 1900s, took a research voyage around the world to look at teeth, and talk to people about their diets. He visited many indiginous cultures, and his timing was such that he caught many groups in which some people were eating traditionally and some had adapted the foods of the white man (modern packaged foods made with white flour and white sugar). What he found was that those who adhered to their traditional cuisine and cooking methods were those with the broadest faces, whose jaws had room for all of their teeth, and whose teeth were intact and aligned properly. These people showed better overall health and wellness. He found these same results within communities and even within families in order to rule out the question of it being the genes. He methodically proved it to be gene expression, and directly linked to food consumption. He tested their foods for nutrient value, and examined cooking methods. 
The cookbook Nourishing Traditions is written with these food preparation techniques. These include soaking grains and nuts, fermenting vegetables, making and using stock, and avoiding white flour and processed sugar. In addition to following these methods, the daily food balance is important. 

In the book Cure Tooth Decay, which is one of myriad books based on Price's research, Dr. Nagiel recommends daily meat and vegetable stew, drinking raw milk, eating fermented foods, avoiding grains, and severely limiting sweets of any sort except occasional in-season cooked fruit. He also recommends supplemental fermented cod liver oil mixed with high vitamin butter oil. This butter oil contains Price's mysterious vitamin K2, which he thought was the secret of many groups' longevity and health. It is found in raw spring butter from pastured cows. He also recommends eating plenty of fats, but only from pastured animals or unheated olive oil. Price's research and recommendations can help to maximize our genetic expression by eating the most nutrient dense food available. 

In the book Deep Nutrition, Dr. Shanahan uses Price's research to recommend traditional cuisine.  She recommends avoiding processed sugar and vegetable oils, and what she calls the Four Pillars of traditional cuisine: meat on the bone, fermented and sprouted foods, organs and other "nasty bits," and fresh, unadulterated plant and animal products.

If this is daunting, Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley is a co-op kitchen which cooks as recommend and sells their food weekly. The portions are small, so it seems a bit expensive, but the food is highly nourishing. The ingredients are sourced from the best the bay area has to offer (organic, grass-fed, local). They also re-use everything, and sell the food in glass mason jars, so the environmental impact is negligible. You just need to plan in advance for the week, but once you are on their email list and weekly cycle, it is easy.

Food Delivery 
Another option is in-home food delivery (or weekly pickup). There are a number of businesses who plan your diet for you, then you can either pick them up or have the food delivered. Diet to Go is one of these services. You can pick up twice weekly at a gym in Walnut Creek, or have it delivered weekly via FedEx for a few more dollars. Bistro MD is another service that mails a weekly box of fresh food that is frozen then packed in dry ice in a cooler and shipped to you. You can choose how many days per week and how many meals you want with these services. They also will let you substitute what foods you like and dislike. They even let you choose low carb or low calorie. Both of these services are comparable, with tasty food and plenty of variety. They both also use a variety of oils and could use fewer additives to be a bit "cleaner" eating. Neither is organic. The environmental footprint of these also can't be small, since the meals are individually packaged and shipped weekly.  But they are delicious and so easy. All you do is re-heat. Bistro MD is a bit tastier and organized better than Diet to Go, which serves mostly Americana. 

Other services that do this are NutriSystem, eDiets, Freshology, and the Chef's Diet. NutriSystem ships monthly and is a lot cheaper (around $7 per day). Diet to go, Bistro MD, and eDiets all average $25/ day. The Chef's Diet and Freshology are nearly double the cost.

Eat Right for Your Type
Eat Right 4 Your Type is based on a similar idea as the primal diets. But he takes it in a slightly different direction.  The idea is that we all have a best diet for us, which is what our ancestors ate. Dr. D'Adamo says we can determine our optimal diet by looking at our blood type. Each blood type represents a different lineage, and each lineage flourished under different circumstances. He gives lists of foods for you to eat and avoid based on your blood type. He also makes personality generalizations and offers advice as to your best way to exercise.

Dr. Mark Hyman also uses the idea of nutrigenomics, which is that each person has their own ideal diet. He also believes in food as medicine, and throughout his books there are quizzes to help you determine which areas you need more help with (ie add supplements or herbs, or just foods). He has 7 keys, including detoxification (sauna), stress management, gut health, hormonal balance, the environment, inflammation, and exercise. His book guides you through your own journey to improve your health and vitality. He sells a cookbook as well, though the main book helps implement the food choices with pre-planned menus, shopping, and pantry lists.

Raw Vegan 
Our food is full of enzymes. These help our bodies digest the food. Those who are Raw Vegan believe that heating food above 115 degrees kills these enzymes. They believe that the life force of the plants can increase their life force when ingested Raw. There are plenty of cookbooks and websites with recipe ideas that go far beyond juices and smoothies. Foods include raw soups, dehydrated crackers, and sprouts in many ways. Cafe Gratitude in Oakland and Berkeley was opened as a Raw Vegan restaurant. Followers of a Raw Vegan lifestyle thin out as time goes by, and they often claim detoxification benefits as well as increased vigor.

Cleanse Diets
A Cleanse is not so much a diet as just a starting point, or one to return to annually (or semi-annually, or quarterly). The idea behind a Cleanse is that the body absorbs toxins as a result of daily life: from our foods, the air, and our buildings. These toxins can tax our systems, and giving the liver and colon a break can help them work better the rest of the time. To give them a break, you spend around 10 days doing something special. On the Master Cleanse, the time is spent drinking lemonade made from filtered water, lemons or limes, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. There is also detoxification in the form of senna tea or by drinking Epson salt. People often lose a lot of weight quickly. Coming off the Master Cleanse requires diligence and planning, otherwise sickness and weight gain result. To come off this, or any other cleanse, properly you must begin by eating slowly and the diet which comes after must be less toxifying than that which preceded, otherwise all is for naught.  Other cleanses include fruit or vegetable juice cleanses, or a smoothie cleanse. Dr. Elson Haas has a number of ideas in his book, and he runs group cleanse sessions out of his San Rafael office.

The pH Miracle 
Every food is either an acid or a base, and the alkalinity of the food effects the alkalinity of our tissues. Our optimal pH is slightly alkaline, and eating more vegetables and fewer grains and meats helps tip the body towards better health. Dr. Robert Young and Shelley Young tout this, as well as drinking alkaline water and a green drink, to help you be at your ideal weight. They also urge a mostly raw diet, filled with sprouted foods and healthy fats.

Group Support Programs
Many people need help as they lose weight. Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers are two programs you can join which can guide you by using an actual human face to face who knows you. They each also have an online only option. Each allows a certain number of each food per day, and you can prepare your own food or buy it ready-made. Each has changed its image through time to keep up with trends while helping people lose weight.  They are based on calorie counts and food groups.

Meal Replacements 
Medifast and Slim Fast are two of the better known examples of meal replacement diets. With these, you replace a portion of your daily meals with their shakes. These are quick-loss programs, which means the transition back to food often comes with re-gaining the weight. They are easy to use, though. Each offers more than just shakes as well, although the ingredients are far from wholesome.  Medifast has a number of specialty programs, including one for nursing mothers. It seems to be just their regular program plus 300 calories per day, though.  Slim Fast is widely available, and relatively inexpensive.

Diet Comparison Chart

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