For decades, the word "diet" has been grossly misused by health gurus and multinationals to promote various fads and foods.
The biggest problem "diets", is that they're associated with a 'temporary' eating plan to achieve a certain goal - usually weight loss - rather than a sustainable approach to health and nutrition over a life time.
In addition, most diets have "no-go-zone" food groups that lead to deficiencies.
And they give you an inevitable sense of deprivation, which is ultimately why most diets simply don't last.
Short term results or benefits, are quickly overcome by a return to normal eating habits, once it becomes clear that the diet is unsustainable as a lifestyle option.
At its core, this entire process overlooks the true meaning of the word "diet" and what healthy eating is really about.
The true meaning of Diet
The word diet originates from the latin, DIAETA, meaning, “Manner of Living”.
In other words, a DIET is a way of life not a temporary way of eating, as it has been framed and exploited by the fad diet community.
You are what you eat over the long term, which is why a better approach to think nutrition and lifestyle (the true meaning of diet), rather than quick-fix "dieting".
Nutrition: Ancient wisdom
The word nutrition also has its origins from the latin, broadly meaning "process of light".
In other words, anciently it was understood that sound nutrition was primarily sourced from living foods (plants) because they generate electrical energy within the body that the cells can identify with.
Not only that, it was observed that all plant foods have signature patterns that mirror and nutritionally target specific parts of the human anatomy: for example, a sweet potato looks just like the pancreas, a tomato looks just like the heart, a sliced carrot resembles the structure of the eyes, sliced citrus fruits mirror the anatomy of the female breast etc.
And today's nutritional sciences have proved that these ancient observations are definitely on the money.
It's also interesting to note how all plant foods fall into one of the 7 colour categories of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet - further highlighting the relationship between whole foods and nature around us.
What makes a balance diet
Since the real meaning of diet is that it represents a way of eating over the long term, it's important to consider a food framework that can serve you and your lifestyle not just temporarily.
This means, instead of focussing on excluding macro nutrients or major food groups (as most diets tend to do), here are some common sense eating principles that can help you to build your own food framework around:
- Avoid or Limit processed packaged foods - found in 90% of packaged foods you'll find on your supermarket shelf, these are laden with harmful, artificial additives, preservatives and cancer-causing chemicals
- Avoid or Limit refined sugars and grains - found in breakfast cereals, energy bars, cookies, cakes and white bread, these cause insulin resistance, leading to weight gain, diabetes and chronic fatigue symptoms
- Avoid or Limit trans fats and hydrogenated oils - found in margarine, fried take-away foods, baked goods, dough and many vegetable oils such as soybean and blended safflower oil. These elevate bad cholesterol LDL: Low-Density Lipoprotein, that leads to cardio vascular disease and inflammation in the body
- Embrace the 80/20 rule - Aim to eat at least an 80% whole food diet, rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds from all colours of the rainbow spectrum that provide a wide variety of nutrients. Apportion the remaining 20% of your diet to more concentrated whole foods such as whole grains, legumes and hormone-free, grass fed animal products (if you're not vegetarian)
- Start and finish your day with lighter foods such as smoothies and soups that go easy on your digestive system, eating heavier meals in the middle of the day or at least 2-3 hours before bed time
- Include good fats in your diet from quality sources such as extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, walnut oil, flax seed oil, raw coconut oil and avocados
- Consider intermittent fasting for 14-16 hours per day for at least 3 days per week to shorten your consumption window, allowing your digestive system a chance to reset.
Additional Dietary Tips
- Eat Locally & Seasonally - Not all foods come forth naturally all year round, meaning it's healthiest to eat the foods that are in season when they're in season. The best way to do this is to avoid shopping for fresh produce at supermarkets, which is often subjected to a large range of chemicals in growing, transportation and storage, instead sourcing your produce close to source from your local farmer's markets as often as possible. Generally, the higher water content juicer fruit and vegetables come forth in the summer time, and the denser vegetables and dark leafy greens thrive in the cooler months
- Include Fermented Foods - including fermented foods in your diet is vital because they contain natural probiotics which cultivate healthy bacteria in the gut and a thriving microbiome, which is crucial for well functioning digestive and immune systems. Some of the best sources include, organic yogurt (dairy and coconut varieties), kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, olives, cheeses (no animal rennet) and kombucha
- Drink Coffee Before Noon - If coffee is part of your daily ritual, it's best to drink it in the morning for two main reasons: the polyphenols in coffee assist with the elimination of waste during your digestive cycle (morning), plus it provides the body and brain boosting benefits at the time when you need them most - at the start of your day
- Drink Plenty of Water - It should go without saying, but it is important to always ensure you're drinking at least 2 litres of clean water per day to replenish the body, help flush out waste and support a healthy brain. A more optimum level is 1 litre of water per 22 kilos of body weight, particularly if you are very active and lose a lot of fluid through exercise or at work
- Eat An Apple A Day - There is much truth to the old saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". Apples are one of nature's all round multi-seasonal fruits that provide a wide range of nutritional benefits for all round health, so eating an apple a day is a great habit to get into.
The Main Takeaway
Don't get caught up in fad diets whose philosophies promote eliminating certain whole food groups or macro nutrients that exist in nature for the human nutrition for a reason.
A healthy diet is all about embracing a wide variety of foods from nature's table, sourced as close to home as possible, and making them the major part of your diet over the long term.
Remember, the meaning of "diet" has nothing to do with a temporary eating regime. The real meaning of diet is a sustainable, lifestyle approach to nutrition that encompasses a common-sense set of eating standards, that will serve you in your ongoing quest for robust health and the avoidance of sickness and disease.
Learn more about a healthier diet in our other blog Top 7 Reasons to Embrace a Plant-Based Diet & How To Do It
Tolman Self Care.