This is probably what you'd look like at the end of this post
I think everyone will agree that the best way to eat right is to eat plenty of nutritious foods and, if possible, eat only nutritious foods. And hence the nutrition concepts concepts such as paleo, primal, eat real food, GAPS, WAPF etc. are pretty awesome. Forget the different diets circling around the internet. Forget high fat low carb. Forget moderate protein. Forget macronutrient ratios. The concept of good nutrition is that quality of food is paramount. As long as one eats foods that are devoid of anti-nutrients and wholesome and unprocessed, it can be accepted that the said person is ‘eating right’.
So in as little words as possible, any good diet concept should preach the following.
- Eat meat, whole eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, fruits, unprocessed whole dairy and nuts.
- Stay away from any and all potentially allergenic grains like wheat.
- Stay away from any and all legumes, beans and lentils unless they are soaked/fermented.
- Stay away from anything processed.
As you can see, the emphasis here is staying away from all foods that could potentially hurt you and eating only foods that are benign. And as it turns out, the foods that don’t hurt you are actually filled with plenty of nutrients and actually help you w.r.t health and longevity. Now getting into a little more detail, the following minutiae really matter.
- Red meat is great but all red meat should be grass-fed/finished.
- Poultry is healthy but all poultry should be free range.
- Seafood is filled with nutrients but all seafood should be wild caught.
- Whole eggs are more loaded than multi-vitamin tablets but all eggs should be organic and free range.
- Vegetables and fruits are king but all vegetables and fruits should be organic.
- Dairy, and especially dairy fat, is healthful but all dairy should be from grass-fed animals or should at least be organic.
What’s the problem really?
All these nutrition concepts – paleo, primal, eat real food, GAPS, WAPF – work and there is absolutely no surprise there. If you eat high quality food and stay away from any and all anti-nutrients that irritate your gut, there is no chance that you won’t get healthier.
But here’s the catch. These concepts only works under one condition – you have got to do it right!
Let me explain.
Health is a not short-term goal. Health is the cumulative result of many years of eating good food among other things like leading an active and stress-free lifestyle. So for any of these nutrition concepts to help with long term health (and hence longevity), one needs to ‘do it’ for many many days. In other words – the diet needs to be sustainable. So then, the question is…
Are these concepts sustainable?
If you live in the US or in any other developed country, you’d notice that most things are easy. This holds true for everything from cleaning the house to depositing cash to eating nutritious food. But if you live in India or in any other developing country, you’d realize that it is indeed hard to get things done. And eating right isn’t an exception.
As much as advocates of all these nutrition concepts (yours truly included) argue that their concept of eating is suitable for everyone, sustainable and more environmentally friendly than agriculture dependent feeding, I still haven’t found answers to the following questions.
- If meat, seafood & eggs forms a considerable portion of one’s diet and if high quality meat (grass-fed, wild caught etc.) is a requirement, what about places where high quality meat is unheard of?
- If dairy is healthful and necessary for healthy living (especially in the absence of meat), what happens if grass-fed cows don’t exist and the term organic milk is always associated with ‘what is that?’ or ‘now you owe me your car’? You could go raw, but what happens if raw milk is diluted with questionable water and if raw milk is indeed unhygienic?
If you’ve read even some of my articles, you’d know that I’m a big proponent of sustainability and I keep banging on the same point over and over again…
Is your super healthy diet and/or nutrition concept sustainable?
The answer to this question depends on many factors and two of the main factors are ‘availability’ and ‘affordability’. Sure, you may have discovered the world’s best diet, but can you ‘do it’ right? Are high quality foods available? If yes, are they reasonably affordable? If yes again, is this affordable availability sustainable?
And IMHO, if you don’t have answers to these questions, then you’re just buying into another fad! Why? Well, because what isn’t sustainable doesn’t last!
Coming to India:
As most of you know, I recently moved to India (a developing country) from the US (a developed country) and I cant guarantee that the fight to ‘eat right’ is harder here… much harder.
Allow me to elaborate.
Let’s say Rahul, a chubby 40+ metabolically deranged desk-job worker with a sedentary lifestyle and limited experience and enthusiasm towards health and fitness, has been advised by his doctor to ‘eat right’. So he decides to try one of the above stated nutrition concepts. All his meals contain mostly meat, eggs, vegetables and fruits. He consumes limited whole milk dairy and enjoys a cup or two of rice say every once or twice a week.
While Rahul read the right literature, took the best advice and is following the plan as closely as possible, he doesn’t realize a few things.
- The commonly available meat (beef, lamb, chicken etc.) is in no way close to grass-fed or free range.
- Most commercially available seafood is farmed.
- All commonly available eggs are from factory farmed hens.
- Whole milk available in regular supermarkets are made from milk solids.
- Vegetables and fruits are loaded with pesticides.
Ummm… this is what I call – epic fail!
I’m sure many of you can relate to our imaginary Indian – Rahul. You’ve made up your mind, modified your pantry and even tweeted your resolution! But are you doing it right? If yes, care to share? If not, what are you going to do about it?
Do I have answers to these questions? Have I modified my dietary recommendations? Are things really that bad or am I just orthorexic? We’ll find out in the next post.