Paleo, the 5-2, Atkins, Raw vegan, Pescatarian, Dairy free, Gluten free, Soy free, Egg free. All these diets are the rage right now. Whilst a minority of the people participating in these protocols have actual health concerns that require them to eat this way, the majority of people don’t. Here’s why I think people could be damaging their health rather than helping it.
Firstly, i’d like to explain what holistic nutrition means. Holistic nutrition means you cannot take any food or food group and cut it out based on what it does to one person. That’s not holistic. That’s not individualised. Foods do not have the same function and response in every person’s body.
Let’s take coffee, for example. Like everything else and everyone else, coffee needs to be seen holistically and individually. I have said this before in a previous article, however I’m frequently being asked why the research concerning coffee is so contradictory. Really and truly, if we understand that all foods have different nutritional elements that are required by some and not by others, then we’ll understand that information is not contradictory, it’s just not able to be applied to everyone. This concept is something I really want people to understand, because people get mislead thinking that all our bodies have the same foundations and requirements. And they don’t.
As a nutritionist, I have never and will never, tell someone to cut out a food unless there is a valid and specific reason to do so, based on their specific bodily functions and requirements. I strongly suggest everyone adopts this mentality. Whilst wheat and red meat is problematic for some, it could be very well required for another. Cutting out food groups unnecessarily can mean you develop deficiencies, imbalances and systemic problems when trying to re-introduce them. Remember that food is medicine - so by meddling around with your own food groups and nutrient intakes, you are effectively handling your own medicine intake and dosages. Not one diet, whether it be vegan, paleo or gluten free can be addressed as beneficial to everyone. Suggesting that the vegan diet is a superior way to eat for all people is like saying that all humans suit bright red hair.
Let’s talk about dairy for a second. Yes, cutting out dairy products has been found to bring down inflammation markers in people who have inflammation in their body. However, for the population who do not have high inflammation markers, cutting out dairy could be unnecessary and potentially going to cause problems later on if the diet is not well balanced to factor in this food group.
For those of you that are certain that no-one should be eating dairy because we are the only species to consume that of another's milk, I just want to remind you that we actually have an enzyme in our body, called lactase, which is there to break down lactose. There are plenty of factors at play here as to why some are intolerant to lactose and some aren't, but it's not as straight forward as 'no one should be eating dairy'.
Like any other food group, proper food sourcing is vital. Especially with dairy. The dairy industry uses lots of nasty additives and animals practises that you don’t want to know about in their products, so I personally think it's important to source grass fed and pasture raised, ideally organic products.
Firstly, proper sourced dairy will have higher traces of Omega 3’s but also its been found that grass fed cheese and butter has 500% more lineloic acid, which is a healthy and natural fat.
Secondly, one of the main minerals inside our bones is calcium and if we don’t consume enough of it, our body starts eating away at the calcium we already have stored. This means, we need to consume calcium regularly to ensure the stored calcium is staying there and protecting our bones. I’d hate to see the result of this dairy free trend in years to come, because the evidence shows that full fat dairy, containing calcium and its cofactors, improves bone density and reduces instance of osteoporosis.
Yes, there are plant sources of calcium that when measured by mineral dosage appear to have as much calcium as dairy, however dairy products provide minerals that are more absorbable and utilisable by the body. Full fat dairy is full of calcium and protein that our body recognises, Vitamin D (which is just as important as calcium for bone density), B Vitamins, Vitamin A and more in smaller amounts. If you don’t or can’t eat dairy, make sure you are still consuming calcium in abundance.
Holistic nutrition means assessing what YOUR body needs and eating in accordance to how all your body systems function. That is, taking your nervous system, musculo-skeletal system, digestive system, endocrine system etc into consideration when figuring out what YOU should be eating. This is how I practise as a nutritionist and how everyone should view nutrition.