12 Jul Which Tribe Do You Belong To
Reading level: Everyone + Clinicians - Pleasure read (with some opinion) Time: < 5 minutes Why: I love food and want others to love it too. Let's worry less about the details
Do you worry you about what you eat?
Do you wonder if should go gluten-free? Or maybe you should eat a paleo based diet? Someone might have told you that your body does not like carbs, they’ll give you a wheat belly, and you should be eating lots of fat as with the Atkins Diet . Do you wonder why there is so much fuss over eating genetically modified organism (GMOs) and just presume that they are bad for our health and the planet?
Whether the South Beach Diet, Atkins, Paleo, Gluten Free, Mediterranean, high fat, high protein, variations of vegetarian / veganism, or any of the hundreds of designer diets, there is a lot of fuss about how you should be eating. It is a little stressful.
The idea of food tribalism (abiding by a particular diet) is a relatively new phenomenon born in a world where we have so many options of what to eat. Each tribe preaches that their way of eating is the best, most optimizing, and “healthiest” way to live. Each promises it will provide you the most energy and prosperity. Most of these diets are cultural phenomenons that spread based on celebrity endorsement, blogging and word-of-mouth. We all know someone who belongs to one of these tribes, because they advertise it.
The diet is designed first, in some cases lots of money is made (gluten-free food is a $450 Million cdn dollar market) , and university researchers attempt to catch-up and determine if it works. Repeat.
None of them actually work in the way they promise to. They certainly might help certain people reach certain goals, whether it is temporary weight loss, strength and muscle-building, improved energy and vitality or managing certain symptoms. They will not help universally because every human’s physiologically is slightly different – we all have different needs.
If a particular diet works for a patient or friend to reach a goal, that is amazing. I love hearing from patients that they have improved their diet in a safe manner and that they are now feeling better and are happier. I want you to feel great!
But at sometimes I think we have lost sight of what is most important (at least to me).
When we argue passionately about a lifestyle we adopt for health, I think we are ultimately arguing and striving for greater longevity will less morbidity: living longer and feeling better throughout!
Much of the perceived benefit we feel from a particular diet is placebo, while the long-term benefits are unknown and in some cases, might be more detrimental; “I Just feel better when I don’t eat gluten”. As an example, it seems odd to base a diet like paleo to provide longevity when our ancestors lived to 35 years old eating that way (yes there are confounding factors but still!)
When we look to societies and areas of the globe (Sardinia, Okinawa, Lima Loma California) where people seem to live the longest, they do not belong to food tribes and the keys to longevity seem to be relatively simple. They do not follow strict dietary dogma.
The main characteristic that is similar between these location is that their diets are primarily plant-based. When they do, They consume alcohol in moderation.
In Sardinia they consume a varietal of red wine that is very rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. They do consume wheat, but it is durum based and unleavened. The eat grass fed meat and their cheeses are rich in omega 3 (not omega 6) fatty acids from these animals
On the island of Okinawa, Japan, their vegetable based diet is complimented by a 5-fold increase in the consumption of soy and a high intake of green tea.
Amazingly, their prosperity might have less to do with what they eat, but how they eat it!!
They practice and abide by the Confucius saying of “Hada Hachi Buddhai”, which translates to “eat until you are 8 parts (out of ten) full”. The practice of serving food in the kitchen as opposed to family style at the table, and using smaller plates, helps to avoid over-eating. They consume fewer calories as a result
Imagine trying to market a diet based on small plates, knowing what “Hada Hachi Buddhai” means and simply serving food away from the kitchen table. There is nothing sexy and trendy about that but studies have shown that these practices might add 5-10 good years to your life.
We might be stressing and worrying too much about what we eat. I will continue to preach balance and lets of fruits + vegetable because it is what seems to work best. Continue to eat a particular way if it makes you feel and perform your best without compromising your long-term health. And always keep in mind that there is no short-term fix to achieve longevity but the cumulation of good daily practices, with a little fun mixed in.
Please feel free to share your opinion or constructive discussion.
Dr Alex[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]