I'm not a dietician or a doctor and I won't offer any specific medical advice. If you are taking a prescription medication or if you're worried about any particular condition please check with your doctor or dietitian before changing your diet.
Human nutrition is controversial
It's controversial because its complicated. For starters we still have lots to learn about how our bodies work. Then there's variation among individuals, as well as different goals, different agendas, even good and bad research with good and bad interpretations all adding to the confusion.
We can't even agree on the simple stuff – is bread a processed food that causes damage or a healthy staple? Can it be both?
Often there just aren't clear answers yet
Even so, it can still help to know what the questions are. Sometimes our beliefs can be so entrenched we don't even consider alternate ideas. Did you know that lots of people now believe saturated fat is healthy? So one of my goals for Get Zoned is to expose you to some of the questions you may not have thought about.
I try to be conservative with advice
I promote these ground rules:
- Don't eat more than you need – don't eat too much fat, carbohydrate, or protein, even if it's from a source generally regarded as healthy.
- Mainly eat foods with lots of micronutrients. Whole foods generally have more than processed foods.
- Limit intake of polyunsaturated omega-6 fats, and possibly supplement with long chain omega-3 fats.
- Avoid any foods you react badly to.
The first of those points started my whole nutrition escapade – during my teens and early twenties I believed it was perfectly healthy to eat as much fat free carbohydrate as I wanted, and while probably no-one told me that explicitly, that's what I'd come to believe from my general interest in nutrition. Then I read about and tried the Zone Diet and quickly realised that too much carbohydrate was just as bad as too much anything else.
Back then (mid to late 90s) it seemed hardly anyone realised this about carbohydrates. Today more and more people are learning – some have heard about the GI index, some have tried low carb diets, indeed many now promote very low or zero carb diets!
So currently there's the full spectrum, and a similar but opposite upheaval is happening with fats. I'm in the middle, I think a moderate amount of carbs is healthy, along with a moderate amount of fat and protein.
The Zone Diet
The Zone is the diet I had personal success with and started promoting many years ago. And I think the general guidelines Dr Sears originally set out have held up quite well – whatever you make of the theory, I still feel the basic Zone recommendations for amounts and types of foods to eat are a good place to start for most people trying to improve their health or lose weight.
That doesn't mean we have to obsess over exact measurements or ratios, but I think some structure and specific guidelines really help while we get a feel for what works for us – I'm sure many of you would be surprised how little you can eat and be satisfied when you pick the right foods.
Paleo food choices
On the other hand an active skinny person with a gluten intolerance might take or leave a few extra sugar calories, but giving up bread could rock their world.
Also, if a particular food is controversial I think it's very helpful to consider if we humans have ever eaten that food in that form throughout our evolutionary past.
What it's really all about
- Eat nourishing foods that supply everything we need to survive and thrive.
- Do that without overeating, that is, don't eat too much over and over again.
We're trying to avoid chronic high blood sugar levels and chronic high blood fat levels and chronic low level inflammation, which all probably compound each other and seem to be at the root of many modern degenerative diseases. Obesity is certainly associated with these conditions but it doesn't have to be present for problems to exist.
- Avoid anything else that causes chronic stress or inflammation.
This could include a food that elicits an allergic response, or a fat prone to oxidation, or even just a lack of sleep.
But sometimes health comes second...
I realise your views on animal welfare or the environment or religion may come first when deciding what to eat. You might just love beer. That's fine. I'm hoping you'll still be able to adapt and apply some of the guidelines presented here to your own way of life.