WHICH DIET WORKS BEST – Paleo, Vegan, Mediterranean, Vegetarian?
DR Ruth Rabinowitz MB BCh
Midst a slew of contradictory research on whether to avoid wheat, meat, fat, grains, dairy and soya and whether to go Paleo, Vegan, Mediterranean or Vegetarian, come words of wisdom from Dr Jon Barron. Read his newsletter on his web site for a more extensive view of the issue.
DR Jon Barron So what diet do I recommend?
After intensively studying this field for 48 years now, my diet of choice is the Mediterranean diet–but a very particular form of it. Historically speaking, the Mediterranean diet is not “actually” the diet of any country or area; instead, it is “inspired” by the traditional dietary patterns of the peoples of southern Italy, Greece, and Spain. The more generic forms of the diet–and the form followed by most of the physicians in the survey–center around high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, with moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products.
The version of the Mediterranean diet that I recommend modifies that as follows:
- High consumption of non-starchy vegetables and greens. Although the Mediterranean diet is not necessarily a vegetarian diet, fresh vegetables and salad greens are its single most important component. Fresh vegetables have high nutrient density. That is: they provide high levels of nutrition with the fewest number of calories. Broccoli, for example, provides more protein per calorie than a lean steak. Note: that’s per calorie, not per ounce or pound; and it’s not a complete protein. You need other amino acid rich foods to complement it so that you can maximize its protein value. But that said, fresh vegetables are among the most nutrient dense foods available. Vegetable juices are also extremely healthy. Just don’t go crazy with the high sugar vegetables such as beets and carrots.
- Moderate to high consumption of wild caught fish (if desired…and if it’s still available).
- Moderate consumption of organic, free-range chicken or turkey (if desired). Remember: non-organic poultry is likely to contain high levels of arsenic and chicken tumors.
- Moderate consumption of nuts and seeds (if not allergic). And keep in mind that sprouting nuts and seeds–if you can find any that are not pasteurized nowadays–dramatically improves their nutrition level and health benefits, while reducing the possibility of any adverse reactions. Among the best nuts to eat are almonds and walnuts, and for seeds we’re looking at sunflower, flax, and chia seeds.
- Moderate consumption of chlorella, spirulina, and blue green algae (if not allergic). They are a great source of protein (albeit quite expensive). They are also nutrient dense and are great for removing toxins and heavy metals from the body, especially chlorella.
- Moderate consumption of fruit. Fruits are incredibly high in antioxidants, which is good. But they are also very high in sugars, which is not so good. Eating whole fruit helps modify the sugar hit. If you drink fruit juices, then you absolutely must restrict yourself to fresh squeezed–and dilute them with fresh water when you drink them…to cut the sugar hit.
- Moderate consumption of oils and fats such as:
- Olive oil.
- Walnut oil.
- Avocado oil.
- Coconut oil.
- Organic butter from grass fed cows.
- With supplemental krill oil, squid oil, fish oil, and flax lignans.
- Avoid like the plague all manmade trans fats (natural ones are fine) and all ultra-refined, high omega-6 vegetable oils (the kind that can last on your shelf for years without ever going rancid).
- Moderate consumption of organic, cage free eggs (if desired).
- Low to moderate consumption of organic, free-range meat and meat products (if desired).
- Low consumption of organic, raw dairy products–mostly as yogurt and cheese (if desired). Whey is certainly a concentrated source of supplemental protein, but it’s also extremely high in allergens. I would keep consumption moderate to low.
- Low consumption of legumes and, if you eat them, make sure you soak them before cooking and then cook them well before eating.
- Low consumption of unfermented soy products such as tofu and soy milk. Adults can consume moderate levels of fermented soy, but children should avoid all soy as the phytoestrogen content is just too much for them.
- Low consumption of unrefined, organic grain products. (Avoid the newer strains of non-organic high gliadin wheat.) And if you have celiac disease, then avoid them altogether. Do not substitute with high glycemic, non-gluten knock offs. Since this diet recommends low consumption of these foods anyway, simply eliminating them is not that big a sacrifice. If you don’t have a gluten problem, barley is not a bad choice as it is low glycemic. Even better ispre-sprouted barley, which is a nutritional powerhouse.
- Extremely low (or no) consumption of high glycemic refined grains, starches (e.g. potatoes), isolated sugars, and any modern, high-gliadin, genetically engineered strains of wheat.
It is said that we dig our graves one forkful at a time. There is much truth in that statement. Likewise, making smart dietary choices gives you much better odds of living a long, healthy life. Not a guarantee–just better odds. In the end, it’s your body, your life, your choice. Only you can determine what that choice will be–not your doctor.