Dueling Diets: We Still Don’t Know What to Eat

Yes, different dietitians prefer and recommend different dietary patterns. No, these recommendations are not nearly as different as media hype would have you believe.

Few things seem to dominate health headlines more than the apparent feud between plant-eaters and meat-eaters. Because we believe in fact over fiction, THI has some key facts to dispel the myths and curtail the drama.

Headlines focus on nutrient battles: carbohydrates versus fats or protein dominant diets.  This is, in a word, ridiculous. You don’t eat a carbohydrate, you eat a potato, which also has protein, fiber and a plethora of vitamins and minerals.  You don’t eat a protein, you eat plants or animals that have amino acids along with other nutrient values. You don’t eat a fat, you eat avocado or bacon; each of which will have different effects on your health. We eat foods, not nutrients.

So, let’s take a look at some of the foods recommended by some supposedly waring diets.

Foods you can eat on a ketogenic diet: avocado, fish, nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, olives, berries.

Foods you can eat on a vegan diet: avocado, nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, starchy vegetables, berries, whole grains, beans, legumes, and fruits.

Foods you can eat on a vegetarian diet: avocado, berries, nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits,  dairy, eggs.

Foods you can eat on a paleo diet: grass-fed meat and wild game, fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, fruits, olives, vegetables, eggs

Foods you can eat on a flexitarian diet: avocado, nuts, seeds, non-starchy vegetables, berries,  starchy vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, and legumes, dairy, eggs, meat.

Notice a theme?  For optimal health, whether vegan, paleo, or something in-between, health practitioners can agree on the fundamental values of healthful foods.

There is of course, a difference when discussing diet as a specific treatment versus diet for overall health. Often, when a diet (such as keto) is discussed for short-term benefits, lengths of previous studies and specific dietary goals are not mentioned.  Headlines focus on the quick fix and not overall health and long-term implications.

At the same time, when we discuss the benefits of whole-grains and fruits, we are discussing how these whole foods can positively affect overall health. Should a person with type two diabetes manage how much and what types of carbohydrates they eat? Possibly. Is eating an apple the same as eating a bag of candy? Absolutely not.

Should a marathon runner tailor their diet differently than a weight-lifter? Maybe. Are there different nutrient requirements for children than for seniors? To an extent, yes.

Differences in details do not equal discord and disagreement on the fundamentals facts of what we know to be true. Healthy diets are composed of healthful foods.

 

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