As cliché as it sounds, it’s true that our bodies are our temples. During our youth, we take it for granted, pushing ourselves to the limit by neglecting it through recreational foolery (alcohol, cigarettes, etc.) an unsubstantial diet (“junk” foods), lack of exercise and sleep, you name it. Eventually, profound weight gain, fatigue or a series of other unpleasant consequences due to poor eating habits prompt many of us to seek out a major dietary adjustment. Not just a modification that’s focused on short-term weight loss either – but one that promotes lasting good health and vitality.
It’s important, however, to explore the many dietary habits that claim to provide optimum health benefits. We may all need to eat, but finding ‘the best’ nutritional fit is different for each individual. For those considering making a change in your customs of consumption, here’s a look at some common – and not so common diets – as well as some pro’s and con’s to embracing them.
What exactly is a healthy diet anyway?
The standard definition of a healthful diet is one that helps maintain or improve health while preventing chronic health risks such as: obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
A healthy diet is also defined as the consumption of appropriate amounts of all nutrients, and an adequate amount of water. Nutrients can be obtained from many different foods, which means wide range of diets may be worth adhering to.
Have you ever considered vegetarianism?
It may be just a pipe dream, or perhaps you can’t begin to imagine your life without a charbroiled cheeseburger with a crispy layer of bacon on top. Nevertheless, vegetarianism is often one of the first nutritional regimes people seek in their quest for a healthier lifestyle.
Diets of the Herbivorous Variety:
TheVeggieTable.com describes a Vegetarian as someone whose diet does not include certain animal products. In addition to the health factor, folks are known to adopt it for spiritual and ethical reasons.
Semi-Vegetarians: Definitely the least militant of the group, Semi-Vegetarians are also considered by some to be Flexitarians. The diet is high in vegetables, grains and fruits, but unlike strict vegetarians, they are willing to eat some fish, poultry, dairy or meat periodically.
Perfect for those who can’t picture going on without milkshakes, cheese or omelet’s, these are vegetarians who leave all animal products at the store, except for the eggs and/or dairy, of course.
Subcategories include ovo vegetarians (eat eggs but not dairy) and lacto vegetarians (eat dairy but not eggs).
On the far extreme is this discerning group of individuals who eat neither animal meat, nor anything that comes from an animal. This also prohibits use of any animal products such as leather, fur, glue, etc. Veganism is commonly described as a diet that stems from both political and ethical beliefs concerning animal rights. If carried out thoughtfully, a vegan can achieve a balanced diet. The flipside of that coin can result in side effects due to severe vitamin deficiencies.
Perhaps with the exception of veganism, vegetarian practices are thought to provide vital nutrients that we need, minus the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants that are found in meat, eggs, and dairy products. According to GoVeg.com, plant-based diets protect us against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, strokes, and several types of cancer and strengthens the immune systems. Conversely, the American Heart Association warns that a vegetarian diet can be unhealthy if it contains too many calories and/or saturated fat and not enough important nutrients. As usual, balance is the name of the game.
This spiritual approach to vegetarianism entails a diet consisting of uncooked foods. RealFoods explains it as: a diet of mainly raw uncooked foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, fresh foods (foods that are still alive).
Raw foodists claim benefits such including: increased energy, clearer skin, improved digestion and weight loss. Consequences to a living food diet can include sudden weight loss and vital nutritional deficiencies. Also called real foods or whole foods diet, a holistic practitioner is recommended for beginners.
This one pretty much speaks for itself. There are only 3 words to sum up a dietary choice consisting of fruit, fruit-like vegetables and the occasional seeds and nuts: Proceed with caution.
The Macrobiotic Approach
Less flexible than semi-vegetarianism, a macrobiotic diet is low in meat, dairy products, and sugar. High in fiber, it’s comprised of a complete regimen of whole grains, soup, vegetables, beans, local fruits and animal products.
About.com describes the macrobiotic diet as a means to sustain healthy way of eating that integrates physical, spiritual, and planetary health.
Again, this brand of fare is thought by some nutritionists to be lacking vital nutrients, vitamins and protein. On the other hand, it’s been known improve a number of women’s health issues such as menopause, and PMS.
The Term “go with your gut” couldn’t be more relevant in terms of discovering one’s unique menu for optimal health. The inimitable Dick Gregory once said: “The old saying is true: ‘You are what you eat.’ It would be more accurate, perhaps, to say: ‘You are what you assimilate.’ That is, your body literally is what you assimilate from the “foods”-or more frequently “things”-you eat to rebuild cells and what you eliminate as waste products of the cell-building activity as you revitalize yourself each day.”