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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

Book Review - Traditional Nutrition

I've never believed there is one 'perfect diet' for everyone, which is why I individualize every meal plan. Anyone can specialize in one type of diet, but please don't tell me that all people should follow any low carb, vegan, keto, plant based, carnivore, paleo or vegetarian plan.

I've only ever spent days in my own body, experiencing my own reactions to food. I know that any meat restriction will be followed by a week of severe depression. I will eat rare steak to help lift myself out of the funk and reduce the swelling in my gut. Yes, I've probably tried your plan. It's just too dangerous for me to experiment with limiting meat.

I've watched the same effect when a client who identifies as a vegetarian begins to experiment with meat because it's 'prescribed' for a certain ailment. A discomfort, depression, stuckness may set in. In this case I can adjust the diet back to vegetarian, using supplements temporarily for the ailment and digestion so they can, once again, be healthy as a vegetarian.

While interviewing clients, my first step is to pull out what you're doing that's working! What are you enjoying daily that we can expand upon that might support your health? If you're a generally healthy person, I'm going to assume that most of your diet is working for you! If you're very sick and wanting to do anything possible we may completely switch up your diet, but it will be a slow process to make sure your body likes the new foods. You are the expert on your body and I'm the expert on a variety of different healing food plans.

Experiments are always biased somewhere along the way and if the experiment isn't biased then the reporting can be biased. Imagine an experiment that says beans are great for your health. The actual experiment may have found 80% of participants who ate 1/2 cup beans daily over 3 months experienced lower body fat, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure - Great! The conclusion is clear that beans are healthy. The study doesn't show that for 20% of people these markers all went up, plus irritable bowel got worse. What does that mean for you? Experiment with beans and notice your own symptoms.

In Traditional Nutrition, Ben Hirshberg reviews 11 different healthy cultures and concludes they all ate very different carb, fat, meat ratios and there was no one food in common to explain the health. The main similarity is that all cultures had tight knit communities and social cultures and they all ate, whole, unrefined foods that were grown and raised on nutrient dense soils.

Followers of these two researchers have used Weston A Price's research to argue that butter and free range animals are the key to health and Dan Buettner's followers have used his research on "the blue zones" to advocate for a vegan, low fat diet. When you look at the actual diets of all these cultures, these exact patterns simply do not exist as rules across each of their studied cultures. All 11 cultures were extremely healthy and all ate a variety of foods without consuming modern processed foods such as white sugar, white flour and vegetable oils. Buettner's populations tended to have a higher carb to meat ratio while Price's population had a higher meat to carb ratio - but neither abstained from either. Humans have an amazing capacity to pull nutrients from all types of food and thrive in a variety of diets.

Balanced nutrition doesn't incite the same extreme passionate rhetoric as a one sided approach. However, I feel extremely passionate about balanced nutrition and the right of each individual to evaluate how you feel to determine whether or not a food is 'healthy'. Sure, study and experiment with the latest diet program; but don't do it because some research said it's the best way. Experiment to see if it's the best way for you and listen to your body.


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