Alternative Diets and Your Health
There are so many diets being touted as the best for optimal health it is hard to keep it all straight. In more mainstream conversation you might hear about the Atkins diet or the South Beach Diet but in alternative health circles you hear about the benefits of vegetarian or vegan diets, macrobiotic or whole foods diets, or raw foods diets. So which one, if any, is for you?
Here is a brief overview of the more popular alternative diets and you can see which one would best fit your lifestyle and health goals. The important thing to remember when trying any new eating plan or diet is to listen to what your body is telling you. Keep a journal and evaluate how you feel, how your skin and fingernails look, weight losses, digestive issues you may have, and daily energy levels. Here is to helping you find the way of eating that will work best for you!
Vegetarian/ Vegan Diets
As the name suggests, vegetarians eat a diet based upon plant foods (vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains) and they eat little to no animal products (meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy). Some vegetarians will eat select animal products only such as lacto-ovo vegetarians who will eat diary and eggs or lacto vegetarians that will eat dairy.
Vegans on the other hand eat a strict plant based diet and usually their avoidance of animal products extends into other life areas as well and they will not buy clothing or other products that contain even tiny amount of animal products.
Vegetarians and vegans often believe that plant based foods help them defend against disease and illness, that plant foods are less risky for contamination and environmental damage, and that eating meat based diets is a form of animal cruelty. Since vegetarian and vegans diets are low in fat and high in fiber and other plant nutrients their diet is a far cry from the high fat, junk food diets so common today.
Macrobiotic or Whole Foods Diets
Macrobiotic basically means long life in Greek. This diet is based upon eating grains as a main source of dietary nutrition and supplementing with other nutritious foods such as vegetables, beans, fermented soy, nuts, seaweed, fish, and fruits. The macrobiotic diet discourages refined sugars and processed foods, encouraging instead unprocessed or “whole” foods. Macrobiotic eaters also strive to eat the freshest foods they can find and for this reason they also choose to eat local foods that are grown close to their homes. For this reason they also eat very seasonally.
This diet also emphasizes the need for balance with some foods being labeled either yin or yang. No foods are forbidden as long as the proper balance is maintained. Yin foods would include refined sugars, alcohol, coffee, and dairy. Yang foods are most commonly meat products, eggs, and fish. Whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, seaweed and the like are all balancing foods.
Raw Foods Diet
The living foods or raw foods diet generally includes vegetarian/vegan foods but goes a step beyond and also eliminates cooked and processed foods. Raw diet enthusiasts believe that living foods have life giving enzymes that are destroyed during processing and cooking, rendering those foods toxic. They feel it is best to eat them raw. Their diet consists mainly of uncooked and unprocessed grains, vegetables, nuts, sprouts, fresh and dried fruits, seeds, beans, and seaweed. Raw diets also usually include a lot fresh juices and water.
Those who follow raw foods diets believe that this way of eating reduces risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes and greatly improves their energy levels, skin appearance, digestive processes, and weight loss efforts.
All of these diets will have benefits and drawbacks but hopefully with a little experimentation you can see if any of these diets or portions of them will benefit your own health.