When I first start working with patients, it’s common for them to say to me, “Oh I eat healthily; I am vegetarian.” Or fill in the blank, “I am fruitarian, vegan, keto, etc.” I am able to stay up to date on diet trends simply from listening to my new patients. And guess what? All eating plans work until they don’t. The problem with specific diets is one, that we are not designed to eat the same way all of the time, and two just because we are avoiding certain foods doesn’t necessarily mean we are eating nutrient-dense real foods. When we get stuck in a specific “diet,” we miss the nutritional variety that our bodies need.
Before grocery stores, we were dependent upon seasons and where and how food was grown, foraged, or hunted. We had seasons of eating a lot and seasons of eating very little. We ate root vegetables in the winter. Roots are actually the food storage units for the plants to nourish themselves throughout the winter months. They are packed with vitamins c, k, potassium, manganese, and fiber, and most of them are very high in antioxidants. This is exactly the type of nourishment we need in the winter months, and nature provides that for us. Isn’t that fascinatingly cool?!
If we look at what humans ate before the days of electricity, refrigerators, and shipping food all over the country and world, we can see that there were times of eating vegetarian, times of eating heavy meat, times of eating heavy fruit, and times of eating a lot and very little. Human diets once naturally ebbed and flowed with the seasons and what was available.
Are there benefits to eating vegetarian? Absolutely. However, what I am seeing is very rarely are they eating raw or minimally processed foods, instead, they are eating packaged foods that are almost dead of any valued nutrients. Eventually, they will experience a type of vitamin b deficiency that is only found in meats. It is extremely difficult to maintain balanced mental health without b vitamins, along with a plethora of other symptoms like fatigue, irregular heartbeat, weight loss, and anxiety just to name a few. We also want to ensure when we are eating vegetarian, we aren’t doing what I did when I was vegetarian, which can better be described as “crapitarian,” a.k.a. any “food” as long as it was not meat. When I have patients who have been eating “keto,” I often see heavy dairy and meat consumption, with no emphasis on these being organic, which leads to inflammation. These patients are generally lacking enough fiber and nutritional variety that we need from vegetables and fruit. The point is, short periods of time with any of these diets can really change our health, but eventually specific diets can really limit us and the variety that is needed for our overall health.
Ideally, we need to eat foods straight from the earth, as local as possible, and in season. We can take breaks from eating with intermittent fasting and give our bodies a reset and our digestive systems a break. When we focus on organic plants, fruits, nuts/seeds, and local, well-raised meats, a vibrant array of nourishing foods is available for us, which is much better than locking ourselves into one definitive die
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