The Healthiest Diet
Dr. Michael Kane
In college, I was granola crunchy. I was into natural foods and helped run “The Pine Tree Food Coop” on campus. I had crunchy granola friends who were good cooks and taught me how to prepare some amazing meals with whole grains, beans, and lots of veggies. I learned what “al dente” meant and for the first time in my life, had broccoli that was not overcooked. The search for healthy eating was inspired out of the motivation to be more connected to the food that sustained me. I was pushing myself to be more environmentally aware. I had no car and biked everywhere, ran 6-8 miles a day and taught myself to swim. I was young and in good shape.
Along this journey, I tried various diets. I went completely vegan. In the extreme did a raw foods diet, a macrobiotic diet, completed periods of fasting with juices and water. At one point after college, I lived in a huge house with 8 other like-minded friends. We had an organic garden, we grew our own sprouts and bought mostly all of our food in bulk. We had a rotational cooking schedule; each cooking once a week for the whole gang of us. I enjoyed the concepts of eating local organic foods and eating more in line with the seasons. I felt amazing.
In Naturopathic school, the nutritional classes provided a macro and micronutrient understanding of foods, along with the ideas of individual diet optimization. We learned about, food sensitivities, chemical and pesticide exposure, soil nutrient depletion, and therapeutic diets for treating specific health concerns. We attended lectures on Blood Type Diet, Vegan Diets, Anti-Inflammatory diets, and the Allergy Elimination Diet. We learned to modify diets for all food sensitivities, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and grain free diets. The concept of “Food As Medicine” introduced many ways to work with individuals with specific health concerns. Coming out of school, I was overflowing with nutritional knowledge.
In starting practice I thought it would be easy to get my patients to eat healthy. I would devise “ A Healthiest Diet Plan” and just get all my patients do it and just watch their health improve. What I came to realize is that diet change can be a significant challenge for many. And that a one size fits all approach might not be the best place to start.
I learned that listening is incredibly important. Patients often will know what works best for them. They can often create their own “eating healthier goals.” Being on a goal plan for health always starts with what we as individuals already know about themselves. And where more insight is needed I am always willing to help with the prioritization of goals and provide additional information or if needed.
So if someone today asks me “ What diet do you recommend for all your patients ?” I tell them I think there are good general guidelines for healthy eating and there are individual considerations that need to be taken into account. So, if I had to come up with some general guidelines for what the Healthiest Diet would look like I would include:
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables; organic for those foods that are on the high pesticide crop list. (The Dirty Dozen List). Consider growing your own.
- Choose a diversity of veggies. Think rainbow of color.
- Remove all know food sensitivities ( testing is available, most common are gluten, dairy, egg, soy and corn)
- Remove or reduce the consumption of sugars and foods high on the glycemic index.
- Consume adequate amounts of clean water away from meals
- Eat foods that are grown locally and seasonally with good soil management practices
- Include some of the following supper foods in your diet
- sprouts (broccoli, alfalfa, sunflower, lentils)
- fermented foods (pickles, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh)
- leafy greens ( swiss chard, kale, collards, arugula)
- berries and cherries
- nuts and seeds
- crucifierous veggies
- Remove all Genetically Modified Foods from your diet
- Include in your diet foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids
- If you eat animal protein, get grass fed products and keep the portion size reasonable 3-5 oz.
- If you are vegan make sure you eat good plant based proteins and have certain nutrients like Vitamin B12/folate and iron blood levels checked.
- Include periods of fasting.
- Avoid eating at least 2-3 hours before going to bed.
Pay attention to your digestive health. Your gut is a great barometer for diet change feedback. The main influence on our gut bacteria is our diet. Improving your nutrition will have significant health benefits.
Food is medicine. If you have a specific health concern, talk to your naturopath about what specific diet suggestions might be important for you.
A global/environmental perspective on sustainability and climate change impact the mix. I would add elimination of animal protein and eating locally grown produce as priorities in these recommendations. Animals produce huge amounts of greenhouse gasses and require abundant resources of feed and water. The transportation of foods across the globe also has a tremendous impact on greenhouse gases.
In the end I would say most people know what eating healthy looks like. The knowledge base is there. Creating new habits that is often the challenge.