Basic nutrition series, part 5 – What are diets and why are there so many?

By Turun Kiropraktikkokeskus

Part 5: As we are surrounded by a multiplicity of dietary protocols and programs, we should make sure that we know how to define a diet and to recognize appropriate and healthy options.

What is the point of following a diet?

Awareness about the relationship between food and health is constantly increasing. Scientific research keeps demonstrating that what we eat has a significant impact on our overall health, function and well-being. Poor dietary habits, such as consuming excessive amounts of processed foods, refined oils and sugars, while lacking fiber, essential amino acids and micronutrients, have been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases and health problems. Therefore, adopting a healthy and balanced diet can help improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.

As a result, people are increasingly interested in exploring different dietary approaches that can help them achieve their health goals, such as weight loss, disease prevention, or improved athletic performance. Next to these common goals, there are other dimensions that might determine the specificity of a diet such as intolerances, existing conditions and also ethical preferences. As a consequence, diets can vary widely in their composition, with some emphasizing particular food groups, macronutrient ratios, or calorie restrictions. The key factor that distinguishes a diet from simply eating is that it implies a deliberate and conscious effort to modify one’s eating habits in pursuit of a specific outcome. It is therefore important to keep in mind that diets can be classified according to the objective they are designed to fulfill, which is why we are very unlikely to follow only one diet throughout the course of our lives.

Which diet is made for me?

It is highly important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all diet and that individual dietary needs and preferences should be taken into account when choosing one. The AK assessment helps patients to identify deficient nutrients and inflammatory foods, and makes it possible for each and every individual to adapt their dietary habits to restore function and health.

Where should we start?

According to the WHO, “a healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer”. In other words, a healthy diet should provide the body with the necessary energy, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to function properly. Diets should not be viewed as short-term weight-focused calorie or fat limiting strategies but should serve health as a priority.

Among the current most popular diets, the paleo diet emphasizes whole foods such as meat, fish, vegetables, and some fruit, while eliminating processed foods, grains, and dairy. This diet was first introduced in 1975 by the gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin in his book The Stone Age Diet : Based on In-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man. He observed that modern humans eat foods that turn out to be unsuitable for our genetics and evolution, being a cause of metabolic disorders such as obesity. This conclusion has then been confirmed and further developed by the radiologist Stanley Boyd Eaton in his article Paleolithic nutrition, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1985, or by Loren Cordain in his book The Paleo Diet published in 2002.

Nowadays, food-processing procedures are omnipresent and have altered several fundamental characteristics of the human diet.

  • First, the production, sanitation and transformation processes through which food and water are obtained load them with phytochemicals and metal particles that are toxic to the body.
  • Then, the high prevalence of heavily processed and refined carbohydrates has introduced an unprecedented glycemic load that has disrupted the balance of macronutrients in our bodies. As a result, we have become accustomed to these types of foods, often turning away from whole, fiber-rich options that are more beneficial for our health.
  • Moreover, food processing has also disrupted the balance of our fat sources, as the structure of fats has been modified in ways that blur the line between their potential health benefits and risks. This can have significant implications for our overall health and well-being.
  • Furthermore, the normalization of hypercaloric foods has led to a decrease in the overall micronutrient density of our diets. This is because many food processing techniques strip our foods of their essential nutrients, leaving us with little more than empty calories. As a result, we may be consuming more calories than we need without receiving the necessary vitamins and minerals to maintain optimal health.

By focusing on naturally available foods and avoiding industrialized and processed substitutes, the Paleo Diet is a good starting point to provide the body with what it needs according to what our body has required for generations.

Beyond the Paleo diet itself, a healthy diet can be one that, with the exception of intolerances and allergies:

  • Avoids industrial seed oils and chemically induced trans fats, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, excess sugars and artificial sweeteners.
  • Includes nutrient-dense vegetables, adequate water intake, healthy fats from organic, grass-fed, free range sources, wild-caught fish, avocados, naturally extracted Extra Virgin olive oil and raw nuts and seeds ; high-quality proteins from grass-fed red meat, free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, and free-range eggs, limited amounts of whole fruits, some form of organic full-fat dairy (yes even butter), and well-prepared legumes in limited amounts.

Defining and implementing a healthy diet is one of the main determining steps we need to take to begin caring for our health.