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Good Food or Bad?

By Gary F. Zeolla

Studying nutrition and healthy eating can be a dizzying experience. If you search the Web long enough, you'll find that almost for every food or food ingredient that some "experts" say is healthy or at least okay to consume you'll find other "experts" saying the very same item is unhealthy and possibly the cause of numerous health problems.

List of Disputed Items

Following is a list of disputed items:

Red meat

Chicken and other poultry

Fish

Shellfish

Milk and other dairy products

Eggs

Fruit

Whole grains (especially wheat)

Starchy vegetables like potatoes and carrots

Soy

Peanuts

Vegetable Oils

Canola Oil

Alcohol (especially red wine)

Sugar

Artificial ingredients (flavorings, colorings, etc.)

Vegetarians/ Vegans vs. Low Carb Advocates

Part of the reason for the dispute on many of these items is the dispute between those advocating a vegetarian or even vegan diet and those advocating a low carb diet. The term "vegetarian" refers to someone who does not consume "flesh foods" (red meat, poultry, fish) but does consume dairy products and eggs, while a "vegan" does not consume any of these foods.

By its nature, vegetarian/ vegan diets are almost invariably low in fat, especially saturated fat since animal foods are the primary contributors of saturated fats to the diet. By contrast, low carb diets are invariably high in fat, including saturated fat, and generally depend heavily on flesh foods, eggs, and some dairy products like cheese and butter.

Conversely, low carb diets will inevitably eliminate grains and beans (legumes) since these foods are high in carbs, while grains are a primary contributor of calories in a vegetarian/ vegan diet, and beans are a primary contributor of protein.

The two dietary plans simply couldn't be more different. Yet you have people who claim to thrive on one or the other, while you'll have others who will say they tried one or the other and found their health to deteriorate as a result.

I have tried each of these "extreme" dietary plans and had problems with both of them. The first problem is the problem that many have with either of them—they are very restrictive. There are just so many foods that are excluded that it can make it hard just to find something to eat that fits into the "plan" without eating the same thing over and over again. And it can be hard saying "no" to so many foods.

Saying "no" to obvious unhealthy foods like sweets is one thing, but the thing that got to me most was having to say "no" to what are generally considered to be healthy foods, like fruit while on a low-carb diet or fish while on a vegetarian/ vegan diet.

Both plans can also require a lot of preparation time. As stated, the low carb diet is meat heavy, so you find yourself having to cook meat often. While for a vegetarian/ vegan diet to be at all interesting requires learning to be "creative" with foods like beans to make casseroles and the like so as not to be eating just a dish of beans at every meal.

Other Reasons

But beyond advocates of these extreme dietary plans, there are many who claim that one or more of the above foods are unhealthy for reasons that are not so obvious.

For instance, grains are said not to be healthy by low-carbers because of their high carb content. But even some non-low carbers say grains are not healthy because they are not a "natural" food for human beings. It is claimed that grains "only" entered the human diet about 10,000 years ago, and that is not enough time for human beings to have adapted to eating grains.

Evidence for this is that it is claimed that degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease are "new" problems to the human race. That in ancient times people did not contract such diseases.

Now it is true that in the past hundred years or so, cancer and heart disease rates have risen. But that is the past 100 years, not the past 10,000 years. In other words, the advocates cannot have it both ways. They cannot claim that grains are causing these "new" problems when human beings have been consuming grains for millennia before the problems arose.

Evidence for this can be seen in the Bible. Grains of various sorts are mentioned frequently, with wheat being mentioned the most often. I detail this in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book. So grains have contributed greatly to the human diet for a long time.

But what has changed in the past 100 years is the type of grains consumed. In ancient times, the consumed grains were whole grains, while wheat and other grains were stone ground. But today, most of the grains consumed are refined, and even most whole grain bread is steel-mill ground rather than stone ground. And these differences make dramatic differences in the nutritional value of the grains. Again, I detail these differences in my Eating Plan book.

I also address in my Eating Plan book many of the other foods mentioned above. I, for instance, look at vegetarian claims that flesh foods are not healthy, at potential problems with vegetable oils, especially canola oil, at the pros and cons of alcohol consumption, and many others. So I will not repeat that information here.

But I will say, I back up my evaluations of the pros and cons arguments with Scripture and with scientific studies that look at the health benefits or detriments of each of these foods. And such backing is often lacking on Web pages degrading certain foods or professing the benefits of a particular dietary plan.

Note that the above list includes just about every category of food there is. About the only food items not in dispute are what I call "low calorie vegetables" in my Eating Plan book. That would be vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, and zucchini. But even then, some will tell you these foods need to be organic to avoid the pesticide residue of conventionally grown produce. That is another issue I address in my book.

My Interest

My interest in this debate has been raised due to my health being so poor despite following what I believe to be a healthy diet. My diet is based on the research presented in my book. But the fact remains, my health has been steadily deteriorating over the past decade or so. As such, it has me wondering if I am consuming something that is causing me problems, or maybe my entire way of eating is off base.

However, I have been tested for food allergies and intolerances, and the tests all come back negative. So there is no "obvious" culprit as far as a particular food goes for my problems. Now there are quite a few foods that do seem to cause me problems. But for them I get immediate negative reactions, so I know what they are. But I'm wondering if there could be foods that are causing a "delayed" reaction.

I could try eliminating one food at a time. But with my many problems, I doubt that just eliminating one food item would make much of a difference. So even if I had a problem with that particular food, I doubt I'd notice much of a difference from eliminating it. I'd have to eliminate all "problematic" foods. But there's no way of knowing what those are.

I've also already tried the more "extreme" diets mentioned above. In fact, I was following a vegan diet when my health problems began over a decade ago. And I have long felt that was the reason my health began to fail.

Later I tried a low carb diet for several months. Once I got used to it, my health seemed about the same on it. It didn't get worse, but it didn't improve either. But what did happen was my LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels skyrocketed. So after that blood test, I stopped the low carb diet.

But most of all, I doubt very much that diet is the root cause of my many problems. It's just that doctors have not been able to figure out what the problem is. I just keep getting worse without any explanation.

But I do know that if I go off of my healthy eating plan and start eating what I label as "non-God-given foods" in my book, then I get even worse. So it would seem that following my own eating plan is beneficial, keeping me from becoming completely non-functional. So I stand by what I have written in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book, despite my health problems. I do think it presents a healthy way of eating.

So all I can so to the reader is to get tested for food allergies and intolerances if you think you might have a problem with a particular food or foods. Then try the various dietary plans and see if they work for you. If a more "extreme" plan does, then fine, follow it. But if not, then give my eating plan a try. It is more moderate and easy to follows than most of the dietary plans out there. And as I said, it has the backing of Scripture and of scientific research.

Good Food or Bad?. Copyright 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Disclaimers: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any diet, exercise, or health improvement program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.

The above article was posted on this site February 4, 2012.
It originally appeared in the free email newsletter FitTips for One and All.

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