The Truth About All the Truths About a Healthy Diet

I think this blog is a long time coming. There are so many reports and documentaries, so much information, so many “facts” and “truths” being presented, all backed by their set of scientific research, with so many differing messages about what is healthy and unhealthy to eat, that it’s all getting pretty muddy. If scientists and experts and physicians and dieticians disagree, how in the world can the average Joe and Mary know what to eat? Can everything Dr. Oz says be trusted? Do other doctors and experts agree with Dr. Oz? Just the facts, pleeeease!!! We want the TRUTH!!!

Truth is so valuable, isn’t it? We want to know the truth about things, especially things that impact our health and well-being. So how can facts about food contradict? Isn’t a fact a fact and a truth a truth?

Can truth contradict? What if my truth says one thing and your truth says another – can we both be right?

What is truth, anyway?

Truth, by definition, cannot contradict itself. Truth IS, and whatever isn’t congruent with truth can’t also be true. Truth is exclusive – it necessarily excludes everything that is not true. Now this can get pretty complicated if, say, we’re talking about cosmic big-bang theory versus intelligent design / creationism. Why? Because the laws of physics apply only to the natural world, not the supernatural world. So scientific, physical “facts” will only prove things in the natural world, but can not measure, prove, or disprove anything pertaining to the supernatural world. But when we’re talking about nutritional science, there’s nothing supernatural. Things are pretty straightforward because it’s all physical matter and biochemical reactions. It’s all measurable, it’s all verifiable. At least, one would think so. But the reality is that even with nutritional science, disagreements over scientific research abound. Why is this? I posit a few reasons:

  1. Biased research conducted to prove a pre-determined outcome
  2. Biased interpretation of research results
  3. Biased media coverage
  4. Political lobbyists and special interest groups that push for certain scientific research results to go mainstream, and for others to be suppressed (think of the corn, soy, sugar, milk and beef industry’s influence on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and Food Pyramid over the past 3 decades).
  5. Reluctance to surrender sacred cows (beliefs and claims held strongly to, even if there is no proof or reason to support such beliefs or claims)
  6. Culture influences scientific research
  7. New scientific discoveries that shed light and expand or shift interpretations of earlier discoveries
  8. Difficulty in determining single causative factors of health or disease in the complex lives and practices of the most complex organism of all: the human being
  9. Likewise, difficulty in ruling out all confounding factors when studying the effects of one factor (for example, if trying to determine if saturated fat is bad for you or is directly responsible for high cholesterol, you have to take into account so many other factors that might affect high cholesterol, like sugar intake, processed carbohydrate intake, smoking, medications, exercise or lack thereof, stress levels, age, etc. You’d also want to distinguish between plant-based saturated fats like coconut and palm oils, and animal-based saturated fats from meats and dairy.)
  10. Every person is unique! We have these interesting genetic variations called SNPS (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that make one person require more leafy greens, and another person require more proteins. Add in our varied exposures to toxins (living near a non-organic farm or power plant), varied physical activities (Crossfitter versus truck driver), and stage in life, our nutritional requirements will surely differ.

So with all these challenges in figuring out what is scientific FACT, what do the experts actually suggest as a healthy diet?

Dr. Axe– creator of the wildly popular website

Promotes a “Healing Foods” dietthat is similar to Paleo in that it promotes an abundance of vegetables, fruits, herbs, seeds, and nuts. Where he departs from Paleo is his support of pastured raw dairy, and pasture-raised meat, poultry and eggs. The meats one consumes MUST be organic, grass-fed beef and wild game. No pork (carries viruses) and no shellfish (bottom feeders). Dr. Axe is also a creationist, so he doesn’t support the macroevolutionist theory behind the paleo diet.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, MD – Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, co-author of the massively popular book The China Study and author of The Low-Carb Fraud ; coined the term “whole food, plant-based.”

Vegan. Advocates plant-based foods. His research shows both correlation and causation between animal proteins and cancer.

Dr. Garth Davis, MD – Bariatric (weight loss) surgeon, author of Proteinaholic .

Vegan. Believes that excessive animal proteins and animal fats is the cause of obesity diabetes, not sugars.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD – Nutrition expert, author of several books including “Eat to Live,: creator of the nutrient-grading system called ANDI, coined the terms “nutritarian” and “nutrient density.”

Vegan. Promotes plant-based, micronutrient-rich foods, both cooked and raw.

Dr. Mark Hyman, MD – Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

“Pegan.” Dr. Hyman coined this term to describe the type of the diet he thinks is best: Paleo + Vegan. Basically, whole foods, abundance of veggies, fruits, seeds, and nuts, and a modest amount of organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised animal protein.

Dr. David Perlmutter, MD – distinguished neurologist and researcher, president of the Perlmutter Health Center, Functional Medicine practitioner, and best-selling author of Grain Brain.

No grains whatsoever. No wheat, carbs, or sugar. No breads, pastas tortillas, bagels, cookies… no brown rice, no oats, no barley. Period. His research shows links between grain-based carbs and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive decline.

What do most of the experts agree on and advocate?

  • EAT AN ABUNDANCE OF GREEN VEGETABLES, both cooked and raw. No one argues over greens.
  • GREATLY MINIMIZE ANIMAL PROTEINS. Remember, 10% or less. And make sure your meats are pasture-raised (grass-fed), and organic.
  • NO DAIRY (that includes cheese everyone!)
  • AVOID FOOD ALLERGENS UNIQUE TO YOU. You’ll want to get tested for hidden food sensitivities, avoid foods you test positive for, then possibly re-introduce them later after you heal your gut and strengthen your immune system. Eggs, dairy, and gluten are typically the most troublesome foods for most people.

What diet does Dr. Jamie follow?

I have been most influenced by the works of Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Axe, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and Dr. Fuhrman. I guess you could say I’m a pEGAN – emphasis on the vegan, with a little clean meat. I’m all about plant-based, nutrient-dense whole foods and superfoods. My diet is primarily vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, with a modest amount of grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, and wild-caught fish. I am mindful to include superfoods into my everyday meals: maca, cacao, chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, chlorella and seaweeds, etc. No dairy (that’s no cow milk, no cheese, no butter, no yogurts, no cream cheese). No eggs. No deep fried foods. No refined carbs. When I crave bread or pasta, I opt for gluten-free bread and brown rice/quinoa pasta. I eliminated my sweet tooth about 6 years ago through dietary improvements (which successfully healed my chronic allergies), so avoiding sweets is easy for me, as it can be for you.

What kind of diet does Dr. Jamie recommend to her patients?

In general, I recommend the same diet I follow: primarily vegan with modest amounts of clean, sustainable animal proteins. That means organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught, no hormones. NO dairy.  If you go 100% vegan, be mindful of the following:

  1. Supplement with B-vitamins, as the primary source of these ultra-important vitamins are from animal proteins
  2. Vary your protein sources across beans, seeds, nuts, and soy.
  3. Moderate your soy consumption. It’s easy to eat too much soy-based foods. Some studies show excessive soy consumption can block absorption of other nutrients and stimulate too much estrogen.
  4. Avoid soy-based “franken-foods” like soy hot dogs, soy burgers, and other meat substitutes that have soy protein isolate as their main ingredient. Soy protein isolate is highly processed, poorly digested, and shouldn’t even be considered a food.
  5. Be careful not to fill your diet with too many foods that meet the vegan criteria, but that are empty of nutrients, like chips and pastas.
  6. Vary your cooking methods for vegetables. The safest bet to avoid goitrogens from too many raw greens, and to avoid enzyme-depletion from too many cooked vegetables, is to do both raw and cooked veggies.
  7. Supplement with free-form amino acids to make sure you’re getting enough material for your protein, neurotransmitter, and hormone synthesis.
  8. Vary your plant-based milks. Rotate between almond, soy, cashew, rice, coconut, and flax milks. Too much of one type of protein, even a plant-based protein, can sometimes trigger food sensitivities or allergies within the body.

Is meat bad?

Boy oh boy, this is a hotly debated one, especially with the airing of the latest pro-vegan documentary, “What the Health?”, produced by vegan, animal-rights advocates. I’ll talk science, not ethics here. The research supports MODEST amounts of GRASS-FED, PASTURE-RAISED animal meats and PASTURE-RAISED ORGANIC eggs in the human diet as healthy because such proteins provide amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and B vitamins.

The negative health issues with meat are largely associated with processed, commercial meats like lunch meats, hot dogs, and your cuts of industrial beef, chicken, and eggs found in most grocery stores. They are more likely to be filled with antibiotics, hormones and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids because they are fed cheaper grains (corn and soy) rather than grass, which is their natural diet. So eating these types of commercial meats will increase inflammation, disrupt your own hormones, and create an imbalance in your gut microbiome (the trillions of healthy bacteria living in your GI tract). Because of some reputable epidemiological studies linking any kind of animal protein – pasture-raised or not – with increased cancer risk, I believe it is wise to keep all animal proteins to a minimum.

How much is a modest amount of animal protein?

Dr. Campbell, a vegan, suggests 20% or less of your diet should be derived from animal protein. I suggest 10% or less of your total food intake. So a good way to go about this is to divide your plate into 10 slices, and only one of those slices should contain animal protein. Of course, many of your meals should just be vegan: chock full of greens and other starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and gourds, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits (avocados!), herbs, and some whole grains.

What’s so bad about processed carbs?

In a nutshell, refined, processed carbs increase blood sugar, increase fat storage (making you gain unsightly weight), spike your insulin levels, promote inflammation, weaken your immune function, disrupt your hormones, and have very little nutritional value. Refined carbohydrates are notoriously low in, or void of, nutrients, so these carbs do not properly fuel your body’s systems. Consequently, your brain, heart, gut, immune, metabolic, and detox systems will all be compromised.

I’ve heard fat is good for you. Can I eat lots of it?

The answer to this depends on your health goals and what else you’re eating. If you’re looking to lose weight, you need to still watch your “healthy” fat intake. But if you’re wanting to lose weight and have completely cut out refined carbs, you can stand to take in more healthy fats. You don’t want to eat sugars and fats in combination – this is a quick way to get fat and inflamed. As for what fats are healthy, most people now know that the fats from salmon and other wild caught fish, avocado, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and coconut oil have great nutritional value. Avoid corn and soy oils, trans fats found in “fake” vegetable butters and shortenings, and deep fried foods. Limit your saturated fats from animal proteins.

Look, food should be enjoyable as much as it should be nutritious and life-giving. Like Dr. Garth Davis recommends to his diabetic and obese patients, make your diet uncomplicated. Don’t measure, don’t count calories. Just eat way more vegetables and fruits. Have a green smoothie, salad, cooked veggies, and a handful of berries every day. Snack on seeds and nuts and dark chocolate. Don’t worship chicken or any animal protein as a health food. Replace most or all of your meat-based meals with lentils, tofu, garbanzo beans, and fish. And always think: NUTRIENT-RICH, PLANT-BASED, WHOLE FOODS. That will always steer you in the right direction.