Searching for Dietary Truth
Kyle D Christensen, DC, ND, MH
Misinformation seems to be coming at us from nearly every direction. The media, the politicians, the food manufacturing industry, the drug industry, and any other group or organization that wants our support or money. The benefits we enjoy by living in a free market in a country with the right of free speech carries with it the cost of sometimes being manipulated.
This is also true of what we are being encouraged to eat. The pharmaceutical and food manufacturing industries (dairy and beef especially) have a pretty tight grip on the information and misinformation that is put in front of us. Believe everything they say, and dinnertime would be reduced to microwaving processed pre-packaged foods followed by a handful of pills to offset the symptoms of the health issues that ensue.
It sure would be nice if we had a standard on which to judge our dietary practices. Well, we do. While it may not be laid out in the form of a pyramid or pie/plate chart, the Scriptures give us much more information than most may realize.
As I have studied and have begun to understand what I should eat, I have been pleased to discover that God's recommendations line up very well with what the research is showing.
First let me touch on a popular diet trend that does not line up with what I feel is absolute truth; that being the Ketogenic diet. This diet was popularized by Dr. Atkins in the 1960's. Today ketogenic diets are known as Paleo, Primal, Low-Carb and a plethora of catchy names. The concept is to deprive your body of it's primary fuel (glucose) so fat (ketones) are metabolized instead. This meat/fat/protein rich and carbohydrate poor diet can result in weight loss, reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, help protect against some cancers, fight brain disease & neurological disorders. All of this is great; however, there are a couple of major problems that researchers and advocates are often unwilling to look at. The low-carb ketogenic diet is not sustainable. Secondly, the Low-Carb diet seems to only shine if you are eating lower protein as well. What?! Yeah, the low carb diet can work, but you also need to lay off the meat for optimal results. Researchers agree that a "properly formulated low carb diet" is more plant based than animal based. Peddlers of low carb don't tend to point this out. And eating this "properly formulated diet can require some pretty processed foods to keep it low-carb. The primary problem is when someone does low-carb or keto, they do not eat a "properly formulated low carb diet". They eat lots of meat, dairy and eggs - which do cause health issues and problems.
In a controlled study, which often will provide and deliver the food, patients are compliant (until the end of the study). However, those whose diets are restricted to only meat and vegetables (70% of your calories are from fat), get pretty sick of it and look forward to the day when they can have a baked potato or piece of bread. I know there are exceptions, there may be those who are willing and can afford to eat this way forever. I just haven't met any of them.
The other issue, of course, this is the MOST EXPENSIVE diet. That is, unless you have been suckered in to buying and popping a bunch of pills (herbs, supplements or drugs) as part of your regiment.
I know some of you may be blue in the face by now, but the reality is that there have not been any long-term studies. Ok, I've read the one that looked at 3 people who made it 5 years on the low-carb diet, and yes their health appeared to be good. But seriously, besides these 3 people, are there any studies supporting this? Most "long-term" studies in the benefits of the ketogenic diet are only 24 weeks long.
I am not disputing that eating this way can produce some positive results. What I am saying, is the results are short lived because it is rare that anyone will eat this way for the rest of their life. For most people, the ketogenic approach is not sustainable or cost effective (more on the cost later). I will confess, there was one ketogenic diet that proved to be successful. It was one that included NO meat or animal products. A vegan keto, if you will. Very expensive, but it was do-able. The reality however is that it is very rare to find someone doing keto who is not eating lots of meat, dairy and eggs.
Now looking at the other extreme is the high carb or starch diet - if you call eating bread, potatoes, pasta and rice radical and extreme. This is the diet that was advocated by Daniel (of the Lion's Den fame) when he told the King he would not eat his meat or drink his wine and would rather eat "pulse". Pulse as translated from the Hebrew is legumes (beans, peas and lentils). Some English translations suggest it's vegetables only, but the Hebrew is more accurate. So this diet advocated in the Old Testament and expanded upon through out many other scriptural verse suggests a diet that is centered around starches (whole grains - wheat, rice, millet, barley, oats, corn, legumes/beans, root vegetables - potatoes, sweet potatoes - , vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds). The "staff of life" or the major source of calories are the starches, which is surprisingly contrary to many vegan and vegetarian approaches. This type of diet is not restrictive in how much you eat. Because of the high fiber content of this diet, you will obtain and maintain an ideal weight. And because you are eating your bodies preferred choice of fuel (starches), energy is high.
An Example of a Starch Based Diet
And compared to the ketogenic diet research (which has very limited research being done), the high carb - eat whole grains, vegetable and fruits approach to health has tens of thousands of studies validating its benefit and effectiveness. So what about lectins? Beans and grains contain lectins and they're bad right? Well, not exactly. Some can be harmful while others are helpful (ie. Preventing and attacking cancers). Without going into a whole other topic let me just say - don't eat your dry beans or whole grains crunchy and raw and uncooked, then lectins will not be a problem.
When it comes to improving health, preventing and reversing disease, the starch-based whole-food diet proves to be effective not only in quick improvement, but also long-term results AND long-term compliance.
These are a few of the conditions PROVEN to benefit from the Starch centered diet.
- Arthritis: AS(ankylosing Spondylitis), Gout, Psoriatic, Rheumatoid)
- Atherosclerosis (Heart Disease, Carotid artery disease, Stroke)
- Cancers (Colon, Breast, Uterus, Ovary, Kidney, Prostate)
- Cataracts & Macular Degeneration
- Colitis (Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, IBS [Irritable Bowel Disease])
- Dementia (Alzheimer's, Cognitive Dysfunction)
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Gastritis (ulcers)
- Hearing loss
- Hiatus hernia
- Kidney Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson's Disease
- Varicose veins
Now, this starch-based diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and is very low fat. Yikes!!! How can anyone live without all of what we've grown to love? Let's take a look to the Old Testament in the Bible. Ask this question: So if God's people were told to eat this basically vegetarian diet, aren't they going to be missing out on some essential nutrients? The answer if YES! But God's brilliance shines through here. Rather than telling people to be strict vegans (no animal products in any way, shape or form), the children of Israel were taught to perform animal sacrifices during their holy days. Each family would bring the appropriate animal to the priest (which they raised or purchased). The animal would be sacrificed, symbolic of Gods ultimate sacrifice of His son. A portion of the meat would be given to the priest and the remainder taken home for the family to prepare and consume.
So as I see it, we can be pretty strict vegetarians but every few weeks, we have a barbeque. This approach is brilliant. A Vegetarian, that cheats once in a while. No vitamin B12 deficiency. Enough Iron, Zinc, and everything else we need from the occasional eating of animal flesh. Additionally, by eating animal products once in a while, you can escape the mental and emotional mindset of being "a vegan or vegetarian" that can result in an attitude of judgment towards others and sometimes borderlines a mental disorder.
Two prominent religious groups have dietary codes that when followed result in tremendous health and longevity. The Seventh-Day Adventists and the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). Both Christian groups advocate abstinence of tobacco and drinking alcohol, as well as to eat a vegetarian diet with the option to include animal products in times of great need. The Adventists report that about 35% of its congregants are vegetarian. While the Mormons also abstain from coffee and tea, they seem to pay little attention to eating animal flesh "sparingly". The dietary recommendations of these two groups is well worth a more devoted study and application. The LDS diet teaches that grains and starches should be the "Staff of Life" contributing the majority of our calories with the addition of seasonal fruits and vegetables. This "staff of life" is the primary villain in the ketogenic arena.
Next comes the issue of cost. The average cost of eating a Ketogenic Diet is about $21 per day per person. (I know some claim to do it on the cheap - but who wants to eat roadkill - just kidding). For two adults, this comes to $1,260 per month. Wow! Can you imagine feeding a family of six this way. Usually I see mom OR dad eating this way, but not the rest of the family because it costs too much. Even those who argue this diet's virtues are eating their steak and eggs while the kids continue to eat cold cereal and ramen. Another issue to consider is that animal products are the most likely foods to be contaminated with pathogens or tainted with antibiotics, drugs and hormones.
On the brighter side of the dietary plate, the starch based diet comes in at around $3 to 3.50 per day with a monthly cost of $180 to 210 per month for two. This includes lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, etc. Woohoo, at this low cost you could easily afford to buy organic. Now, if money is an issue at all with your family finances, the vegetarian way is definitely more attractive. If you were to calculate eating some meat a couple times per month, your cost would go up a little but not much. Heck, even if you ate starched-based for 3 or 4 days per week, you would reap both health and financial benefits.
There are several very good resources for more information. One of the best is Michael Greger, MD website: www.nutritionfacts.org. As well as his book: How Not to Die, where each chapter discusses how not to die from one of the top 15 killers in America. Such as How not to die of heart disease, How not to die from diabetes, etc.
Of course, the stricter you follow this starch-based diet, the quicker will be your return to health. But any changes in this direction will be positive.
Understand that both of these diets require that you give up junk foods, soda pop, candy, highly processed food, etc. Everything you should expect from a diet concerned with health.
So bringing this discussion back to my original concern - We hate the misinformation and subtle dishonesty related to diet. And sadly most of us don't examine the footnoted resources that far too often misquote the research. So is the ketogenic diet frenzy lying to us? Yes and No. There are definite provable results to eating keto for certain health concerns. But it appears that the large quantity of meat and animal products are problematic. For most of us, the low-carb diet is not sustainable and very expensive. Eating a starch-based whole food diet is a plan that has a long track record of health and longevity (see my article on the Blue Zones). The starch-based diet is full of the foods we love and crave - bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, and corn. You don't need to write off meat, ice cream or any of the rich foods you've grown accustom to enjoying - only save them for special occasions (and no, every day cannot be special).
There are absolute truths and relative truth in life. I personally believe the human body was designed to eat from the bounty of what is grown in nature. I believe our diets should be predominantly plant-based and very occasionally animal flesh. To me this is an absolute truth. The animal-based ketogenic dietary approach is more of a relative or situational truth. Yes, you can get results but the low carb or keto diet is not designed for a long-term lifestyle. Even much of the research suggests keto for 24 weeks to be followed by the Mediterranean Diet (starch-based diet) for long-term to maintain your health improvements.
This starch-based diet (what and how to eat) is spelled out more clearly on my Blog - click here.Also check out my YouTube channel for recipes and meal ideas. The key to good health really is eating delicious food and this healthy starch-based diet has endless possibilities.
Dr Kyle Christensen
December 15, 2017