There are so many diets to choose from. What is a diet anyway? By definition, it is the kinds of food that a person habitually eats. However, it’s also a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.
It seems that there is an endless number of special diets and fads to choose from these days. It can be confusing. And minus specific allergies which might require certain food restrictions or medical interventions that limit this or that, one has to wonder which diet is right? Well, that depends on who you talk to and it depends on what you really need. Unfortunately, even if you choose one, many of these diets are taken WAY TOO FAR or done for the wrong reasons. Another problem is that the information that is provided about these diets is often heavily biased or simply lacking detail. It seems that few are willing to provide basic information in an unbiased manner anymore. Let me change that.
Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions?
- Should I intermittent fast or eat one meal a day?
- Should I eat breakfast?
- Should I eat multiple times a day?
- Should I follow a paleo diet?
- Should I eat a keto diet?
- Should I eat mostly or only vegetables?
- Should I eat only fruits?
- Should I avoid carbs?
- Should I avoid grains?
- Should I eat a low-calorie diet?
If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, then undoubtedly, you’ve likely researched and now have what you believe to be the answers. Take a moment to challenge that belief though. I’ve been asked these questions repeatedly over the years and I think most would be surprised by my answer. Most people (including my doctors) consider me to be a fairly healthy and knowledgeable guy and often ask about what diet I subscribe to. Being the author of “Natural Health Made Easy: The Briobiotic Protocol“, many expect me to have a specific position on each of them. Well… I do! The irony is that I can answer all of these questions and sum up my position on each with one simple word…
Think about it; we can’t really approach our diet from a regimented point of view. Well, we can… but it’s usually not the best idea. Our bodies are simply not designed that way. Genetically speaking, we are hunter-gatherers. This means that our bodies were designed to accept different things at different intervals. In fact, certain biological processes and outside influences often result in different requirements at different times. This is sort of how like we should starve a bacterial infection and feed a virus: it’s situational. Our lives are situational and our diets should be as well.
Let me proceed with the idea that three square meals a day is a fairly new idea (in the grand scheme of things). Sure, it’s nice and we should all appreciate every meal that we get because we know that there are some people out there who do not have that luxury. But that’s the thing; we should understand that luxury is exactly what eating plenty is and that it’s not something that should be indulged in every day of our lives. Let’s explore that list of questions again in a little more detail to help explain that last point.
Should I intermittent fast or eat one meal a day?
Sometimes. The evidence of this comes from something known as autophagy. Autophagy is a process in the body that deals with the destruction of cells. It maintains the proper turnover of the destroyed cell parts and creates new cells. In fact, studies have shown that you can actually renew your immune system almost entirely through autophagy alone. The catch is that autophagy requires fasting of at least 16-24 hours before it even begins and tops out several days later. This means that if you’re eating three, four, five, or even six meals a day, every day, then you’re simply not going to get the health benefits of autophagy because it isn’t going to happen. So… one meal or even no meal is going to be of benefit to you from time to time. Stretch that fast out for two to three days and watch the benefits increase.
Should I eat breakfast?
Sometimes. Studies repeatedly show that eating a hearty breakfast helps people lose weight, reduce cravings, and burn calories. On the other hand, the evidence also suggests that by skipping breakfast, you will see a reduction in inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood pressure and that you can actually improve cardiovascular function, increase cell repair and increase your growth hormone levels. One size simply does not fit all and every situation is going to be different – from day to day. So consider the following word as a clue about your eating habits. Breakfast… as in… a break in the fast you should have just had. Did you know that not more than 50 years ago, it was common for people to fast roughly 14 hours in a day? Just something to think about. Anyway, if you’re going to skip a day of eating, you can surely break your fast the following morning with a hearty breakfast… or wait until dinner… or extend the fast all together. Lots of options there.
Should I eat multiple times a day?
Sometimes. It really depends on what’s going on in your life. As you’ve seen, eating NO times a day can be good. The same can be true for multiple times as well. Research has shown that increased meal frequency has positive effects on cholesterol and insulin levels. That’s cool but just know that studies have also shown that switching from three daily meals to six doesn’t really boost calorie-burning or fat loss and it actually made people want to eat more. But this can be really good if your situation calls for it. It really depends on your individual needs. Ultimately, you want the benefits of fasting but sometimes you will need the added nutrients that multiple meals can provide. A big part of this equation is your activity levels. Are you an All-Star athlete or a computer gamer that doesn’t get up much? It’s relative and depends on YOUR needs.
Should I follow a paleo diet?
Sometimes. The paleo diet is a very healthy way to eat. It is rich in meats and should come with a strong side of vegetables, fruits, and nuts which are all staples of a solid diet. And because of the massive meat consumption, you get all of the benefits of B-12. B-12 is made in abundance (naturally) when meat is digested in the gut. Why is this important? Well, vitamin B-12 is involved in red cell production, the function, and development of the brain, nerve cells, the myelin sheaths that protect nerves, and so on. So if you value your blood, brain, and healthy nerves… ensure you’re getting plenty of B-12.
But if B-12 is so important, then why would I say to follow this diet only sometimes? Well, nature gives us a clue. One of the most common complaints from people on a paleo diet is an increase in constipation. Why? Well, much of it is due to misconceptions about what a hunter-gatherer might have actually eaten. Ultimately though, the paleo diet avoids things like dairy, legumes, and grains. The issue here is that by going with that version of a paleo diet, you’re avoiding things that are generally considered a decent source of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. Much of this likely has more to do the with idea that the meat-eaters eat primarily meat and skimp on the veggies So consider that as you weigh this option and adjust accordingly.
Should I eat a keto diet?
Sometimes. Fat loss and a lowered desire to eat – not too shabby for those seeking to lose a few pounds or those seeking to change things up. Plus, you get similar benefits to paleo in regard to the B-12. Of course, that benefit comes at the elevated risk of things like kidney stones, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, decreased bone mineral density, and gastrointestinal distress. On top of that, it’s extremely hard to follow. This one becomes “sometimes” out of simple logic but it’s nice to mix it up with this one once in a while.
Should I eat mostly or only vegetables?
Sometimes. Of course, this depends on which types of vegetables you pick. Certain types are just fine. What many do not know is that the good ones are actually fruits. These types of vegetables are great! Clearly, we need them and clearly, we need lots of them. We get all sorts of nutrients and fiber from these vegetables. The benefits don’t stop there. Studies have shown that these vegetables help us prevent various forms of cancer, lower blood pressure, prevent and even reverse diabetes and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, eating primarily or only vegetables limits things like vitamin D3 and zinc and it can cause anemia, anxiety, and even depression. This is probably due to the lack of B-12 but researchers are still trying to figure that part out. Regardless, clearly, vegetarianism and veganism are not what nature intended (as evidenced by the abundance of deficiencies that result from it) – but extended periods of it from time to time are not a bad idea.
Should I eat only fruits?
Sometimes. Fruits are amazing; of that, there is no doubt. Not only are they delicious, but they are also great for the body. In fact, not only do they contain an abundance of soluble and insoluble fiber, but they also contain things like vitamins A, C, E, and K and several of the B vitamins. These are all essential for our bodies for a slew of reasons. So what are they missing? Just the essentials like vitamins D, B-12, thiamin, and niacin. What aren’t they missing? Lots and lots of sugar! Nope… this isn’t our total solution either.
Should I avoid carbs?
Sometimes. The problem is not the carb though. Misconceptions abound on this one but let’s just clear this up. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Good luck avoiding these for too long. Sure, you could avoid CERTAIN KINDS of carbs like sugar and even certain starches… but you wouldn’t want to avoid them all. Certain kinds of natural sugars provide essential nutrients that keep our bodies healthy and can help prevent several diseases. These sugars can provide an additional benefit as well and I shouldn’t even have to discuss the importance of fiber at this point. Ultimately, one simply could not adhere to this type of diet without causing some issues in the body.
Should I avoid grains?
Sometimes. Full disclosure: I am not a fan of grains and think people should avoid them. However, I understand the argument regarding dietary fiber. Just remember that dietary fiber can come in many different forms such as berries. Grains are just part of that puzzle and an easy source for us to get the fiber. Easy isn’t always best though. You have to consider the source. Refined grains are just bad – I would really hope that at this point in the game, that statement wouldn’t get too much resistance. Whole grains are decent though. They can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and they may even lower the risk of heart disease. Additionally, whole grains tend to be high B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium. However, all of this can come at a cost (if you are not choosing wisely). It is known that some grains can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut and contribute to candida infections. This often results in reduced nutrient absorption. That’s not all! Some have pesticide residues. This can make you sick long-term. And due to modern farming practices, we have begun to see the destructive power of lectins. Basically, lectins are the defense mechanism of the grain itself. For some (and many more that don’t realize it yet) these chemical compounds can cause serious digestive and immune problems. To make it simple though, just know that whole grains are better than refined grains. Still, if I were forced to choose a grain to consume, I would probably lean towards grains such as brown rice, millet, and sorghum, along with pseudo-grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and wild rice. This is because while these are still grains, they have been shown to have numerous health benefits without all of the bad that the others provide. Perhaps it’s a double-edged sword. I guess we’ll see.
Should I eat a low-calorie diet?
Sometimes. Too many people don’t understand what “calories” even are or why they are avoiding them. Calories in food provide energy in the form of heat so that our bodies can function properly. So if we wanted to be REAL about this diet, we could call it a low-fuel or low-energy diet. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound so great. Some people do this to lose weight and it’s true that you will. This is especially true if your activity level is high. But like many of the other “diets“, it’s unsustainable for several reasons; like the fatigued and nauseous feelings, people get constipation, the muscle loss, and the formation of gallstones.
Do you see what I mean? Each one of these has their place but it will likely vary depending on your needs. Nature has given us an abundance of clues to follow. Too many of us simply ignore them. It’s sort of like the topics I wrote about in the Briobiotic Protocol; not everything is so cut and dry or black and white. We have to listen to nature (and our bodies) and act accordingly.
So, what do I do? Well, I’m just writing this to provide you with some things to consider. I am not trying to push a certain lifestyle on you. However, I don’t mind telling you. Just keep in mind that I’m not your doctor and you have to do what is ultimately right for you. Simplistically, I listen to my body and appeal to nature. Indeed, I approach diet a bit differently than most.
Sometimes, I fast for days. Many times I eat only once a day. Sometimes I even eat twice a day. I rarely eat three or more times a day. Sometimes I eat dinner. Sometimes it’s lunch and dinner or just breakfast. I mix it up and do not count calories. My body tells me what I need.
As for the “type” of diet, I prefer a more “Tribal” diet. In this, I consume mostly lean meats and animals products. This is followed up with a variety of pickable fruits. I tend to avoid vegetables because I am aware of both the defense mechanisms that a lot of plants have and I am aware of modern farming practices. I also consume plenty of salt. That about sums it up. The benefits that I have seen are weight loss, better sleep, no crashing, little hunger, clearer thinking, and so on. My blood work looks great as well!
Understand that I eat with purpose and I fast with purpose. I know that my biology is still hunter-gatherer. I know that if I were alive 40,000 years ago, there would be times I wouldn’t eat at all. I likely wouldn’t have a farm or crops because I would be on the move hunting beasts. There would be times that I would fill up on fruit alone. There would be times I would get the kill, consume the meat and drink the milk from the utter. But arguably the most important part would be that I wouldn’t have a factory ensuring that my food could last a year or more by removing certain essential enzymes while stuffing it with chemicals I couldn’t pronounce.
My advice is to simply mix it up with a heavy lean towards your nutritional goals by consuming REAL FOOD. Don’t over-complicate it though. Enjoy your life because the scientific discoveries will likely change a few more times before it’s all settled. Learn the pros and cons of all of the various diets and find your perfect mix. It does not have to be all of one or another. In my life… I find that the mix is what benefits me the most. At the end of the day, realize that all of these great diets are still great diets… sometimes.
Want to learn more? Check out my article titled, “Let’s Talk About Health Food – Consider This.”
Dr. Robertson is a health researcher and educator, not a physician. The information provided here is not medical advice, a professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or service to you or any other individual. The information provided is for educational and anecdotal purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Dr. Robertson is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or additional information, services, or product you obtain or utilize. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL 911 OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.