Why Are We Arguing About This?

Jun 17, 2021 | Nutrition

An expert who I never hesitate to listen to, learn from, and follow up on their ideas is Dr. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine physician. And one of his recent gems I came across was coining the term “pegan” diet – a combo of paleo and vegan (he even wrote a book on it).

He coined this term after realizing that most fad diets and healthy ways of eating all center around mostly the same things – nutrient dense, whole foods.

And me being, well, me… I went down a big ole rabbit hole investigating this concept until I saw an Instagram post by Dr. Ben House (a PhD in nutrition) where he made a plea out to the ether for us (as a society) to stop paying for research studies to determine which way of eating is better because we’re all in agreement that for weight loss, when people eat primarily whole foods and get sufficient protein, the rest doesn’t really matter.

Best Diets of 2021

That post furthered my curiosity to see, just what are all these top diets, and just why are we still arguing about this (when in fact, it does seem as though we’re mostly all in agreement).

So to the Google I went to search “best diets 2021” and the first result was health.usnews.com’s list of their top 40 diets for 2021

Before I go any further, humor me by allowing me to say it’s completely bonkers that we’ve got SOOOO many diets out there that there can be a list of the top 40!!

We do America’s Top 40 songs each week because there are a bajillion songs each lasting a few minutes, so it at least makes sense that there are so many.

But diets??? Why do we need an endless amount of diets? (hint: we don’t)

It’s a bit mind blowing to me that we have enough to fill a top 40 list, and it’s also no wonder there’s so much damn confusion about what to eat!

Unlike a song that changes every 3-4 minutes, your way of eating takes months to figure out if it’s effective/works for you. It would take a lifetime to go through all of them as a test run to see what works.

Okay, rant over (sort of).

The Top 3

Since there’s clearly not enough time in the universe to go over all of them, the top three on the list are 1 – Mediterranean Diet and tied for 2 – Dash Diet 2 – Flexitarian diet.

The Mediterranean Diet isn’t just one diet, but rather a generalization about the eating habits of the countries around the Mediterranean. They seem to have less health issues compared to Americans, so we’re putting them all in the same diet box.

In general, those styles of eating fall within accepted ranges for the amount of protein, carbs, fat and other nutrients they provide. It’s lower in red meat, sugar, saturated fat and processed food while being high in produce, nuts, healthy fats and other healthy food.

Th Dash Diet is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – it’s a diet to reduce high blood pressure. It limits salt intake in addition to fatty meats, full fat dairy, sugary beverages and other sweets while encouraging fruits, veggies, whole grains and leaner proteins.

The Flexitarian Diet is a smushed-together way of saying flexible vegetarian. It’s a way of eating mostly vegetarian but still occasionally allowing meat if/when the craving arises. The thought behind it is that you can get many of the health benefits of eating a vegetarian diet, while still eating some limited quantities of meat.

Did You Notice A Trend?

Because you’re the smarty pants I think you are, I know you noticed all three of them encourage whole, nutrient dense foods (fruits, veggies and leaner meats) while discouraging processed, sugary foods.

Yet for some reason, advocates for each style will happily sit down to argue why their way of eating is superior to all other ways of eating, both for weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle. And it doesn’t matter if they’re arguing against another healthy diet, or the typical Standard American Diet (SAD – fitting, no?).

The real argument to be made isn’t which healthy way of eating is superior, but rather how can we get more people eating healthfully?

If we’re legitimately concerned with our health, why are we arguing the details of the 3% differences in healthy diets and yet 60% of American diets still come from processed and ultra-processed junk?

All that to say that if you’re reading this and are stuck on which diet to join the cult stick to, it really doesn’t matter because they’re mostly the same – whole, nutrient dense foods.

Focus more on enjoying that food, making it taste delicious and finding new ways to prepare it so you won’t get bored and default back to the SAD way of eating. 

Take notice of how your food makes you feel inside, not just on your taste buds – does it bring you a boost of energy and give you confidence and make you feel good? Or does it drag you down and make you want to take a nap?

That’s the real argument to be had – instead of determining which fruits and vegetables are best, determine which foods make you feel good! 

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