Nutrition

Alkaline Diet

What is it? The alkaline diet is an old approach to managing chronic illness and inflammation. Popularised by Chiropractor Dr. Theodore Baroody in his book "Alkalise or die" and later on Dr. Robert Young in his book "the pH miracle", it was based upon the writings of earlier natural medicine practitioners such as chiropractor Dr. Bernard Jensen and JH Kellogg. The central premise is that much of the food we eat today (grains, processed foods and drinks, meat) along with a steep rise in pharmaceutical use has resulted in chemical imbalances in the body. Our organs only tolerate a very narrow range of pH (the measure of whether a system is alkaline or acidic) so when our body is flooded with acid forming chemicals, our alkaline maintenance processes become stressed, resulting in inefficient removal of excess acid. Because this acid is toxic, the body deposits this excess acidity throughout the tissues, which over time causes neuromuscular inflammation, brain chemistry changes and systemic arthritis. Eventually, even the organs begin to fail. By altering the foods we consume to minimise those that cause acid formation, the body is given time to excrete excess acids from the system, which results in improved health and vitality. In principle these alkaline-forming foods are largely comprised of fruits and vegetables and should form 80% of the diet. Acid forming foods such as meats, grains and processed foods should never make up more than 20% of your diet. Dairy foods range from strongly acid forming when in the form of cheeses, and less so for yoghurts and soft cheeses, while nuts and seeds tend to be somewhat neutral to acid. Generally, the diet should be largely vegetarian, with occasional meats and whole grains to provide additional nutrients. Some foods which are acids themselves (such as lemon juice and apple cider vinegar) break down into alkaline residues in the body, while other foods such as sugar forms acid, so it is important to obtain a chart of these foods to help you in your choices. In addition, many proponents of this diet also recommend a water ionisation unit to produce ionised alkaline water for consumption, however the evidence for its value is limited. On a similar note- bottled water sold as alkaline water is little more than just ordinary water with increased calcium carbonate, so spending money on this is not likely to be helpful. Pros: Fairly easy once you know the food placings Increases dramatically the amount of plant food in the diet Eliminates processed food Has wider health effects as well as weight loss Doesn't calorie count or emphasise portion sizes Cons: Can be hard to make the changes needed for some people Can lead to a healing crisis early on (withdrawal headaches etc.)  

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Zone Diet

What is it? When we consume carbohydrates the digestive system breaks them down into simple sugars that enter the bloodstream. Our pancreas then secretes the hormone insulin to drive these sugars into our cells. If the blood concentration of sugars falls too low, the pancreas secretes a different hormone called glucagon to shift sugars from the cells back into the bloodstream. When we eat a diet that is too full of sugars (or the carbohydrate starches that break down into them), then our sensitivity to these hormones becomes abnormal and can lead to obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes. The Zone diet arose as a means to try and maintain an appropriate balance of these hormones, by formulating an eating plan that maintains foods in ratios that aim to keep these hormones within their appropriate levels (or zone). The Zone diet advocates a strict balance between the amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats eaten during a meal, which equates to about 40:30:30 per cent respectively. In addition, grains are to be avoided, as they are believed to contribute to an unbalanced hormone response (as well as disturb normal digestive processes). There is also an emphasis on maintaining a strict eating schedule, with breakfast to be consumed within one hour of waking; lunch within 5 hours of breakfast; afternoon snack within 5 hours of lunch and dinner 2-3 hours after lunch, then finally a small snack just before bed. Pros: Advocates an increase in fruits and vegetables recommends a decrease in grains and processed foods Promotes the need for exercise No calorie counting Doesn't exclude many types of foods Cons: Rigid composition formula for each meal Schedule can be hard to keep

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Blood Type diet

What is it? The blood type diet originated with a theory proposed by Naturopath Peter Adamo that different foods react differently according to the blood constitution of the person. Part of this reactive process is blamed on Lectins, a class of toxin protein that is found within different food sources that interact with the digestive tract to inhibit digestion which ultimately leads to deficiency syndromes, reactive inflammation and eventually illness. Specific diets are prescribed for different blood groups, as follows:   Type O (the hunter): High protein (meat and seafood), low carb diets. Avoid dairy and vegetables. Avoid brassica family vegetables especially (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower etc.). No coffee   Type A (the agrarian or cultivator): Largely vegetarian (vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds), Carbs are OK but minimise dairy and fats. Coffee is OK   Type B (the nomad): Mixed and omnivorous- include meats, seafood, dairy, vegetables, wild game. Specific recommendations for weight loss include green vegetables, eggs and organ meats. These are the only group that supposedly thrive on dairy   Type AB (the enigma): Mixed and omnivorous- including a balance between meats, vegetables and dairy. Specific recommendations for weight loss include seafood, tofu and fruits such as pineapple. These are supposed to be the most recent to have developed and generally fall between the needs of group A and B. Pros: No calorie counting, easy to follow Not as restrictive as some diets General recommendations to avoid gluten, and get plenty of exercise Cons: There is no credible evidence to support the theory Based on a whole lot of false assumptions:  Hunter gatherers have not been shown to be predominantly type O Type O is not the oldest group chronologically Type B (those who supposedly thrive on dairy) is most common in Asia, where the incidence of lactose intolerance is highest Not well balanced and portions sizes are not restricted

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Atkins diet

What is it? The Atkins diet is a low carb-high protein diet aimed at rapid weight loss. The central premise of the diet is that we have two fuel systems: one that burns sugars (requiring insulin), and one that burns fat. If you consume too many starches (common in processed foods, grains and fruits), then the excess energy causes a drain on your insulin production, adrenal glands and cardiovascular system, resulting in obesity and a multitude of modern illnesses. By eating less sugar-based food, the body regulates its insulin levels better and minimises cravings. Like the Dukan diet, it has several phases which see a gradual increase in the re-introduction of withheld foods, though a maintenance of low-carb philosophy remains with Atkins, while the with the Dukan diet it does not. The Atkins diet aims to help people lose at least 6-7kg in the first two weeks, tapering down to 1-2kg per week over the subsequent phases. The first phase (2 weeks) of the Atkins diet includes high amounts of protein and fat, with minimal vegetable content (and no starch foods). Unlike the paleodiet, Atkins allows dairy in the form of cream, cheeses and yoghurt. The next three phases (weeks to months) gradually allow an increase in vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruit and some starch (rice, pasta etc.) until a balance point is found where weight can remain stable. So to summarise: Pros: Rapid weight loss Diabetes control The unlimited volume, dairy and meat content appeals to men in particular Cuts out processed carbs and alcohol Cons: Can lead to body odour, bad breath and constipation Lack of emphasis on plant foods, leading to nutritional deficit Excessive emphasis on fats and meat, which may be harmful

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Paleo diet

What is it? The paleo diet is an attempt to envisage what our pre-agricultural ancestors (hunter-gatherers) would have eaten, and to shift our food choices to reflect this way of eating. The premise is that we have lived as hunter gatherers for millennia and that our bodies are adapted for that type of diet. Since the advent of agriculture, we have shifted our diet into one of consuming grain, legumes, dairy products and nowadays, processed, refined and additive laden foods. By returning to our ancestral eating patterns, we may normalise our digestive function, and with that, cure diseases and improve our health and vitality. The problem with paleo diets is that there is no simple formula to replicate the diet of our ancestors- for whom we have very little data from the archaeological record. Even modern hunter gatherers live very diverse lifestyles, and food choices vary widely (consider the variation in options between Eskimos and Kalahari Bushmen). This has led to some bizarre and possibly detrimental variations of the paleodiet- for example, some purists only eat raw meat, claiming that cooking is a form of processing and therefore not acceptable. Others claim that beans and legumes are unacceptable because they are the product of agricultural modification. But perhaps most unhelpful are the recipe sections of most paleodiet books that seem to romanticise the hunter-gatherer lifestyle by advocating meat in virtually every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Clearly hunter-gatherers didn't get lucky with their bows and arrows that frequently. In fact, little mention is ever made of fasting in paleodiet books, which is strange, given that our species has been on the edge of starvation many times throughout history, as most hunter-gatherers remain to this day, in a constant search for food. Empty bellies are more realistically paleodiet than meat three times a day. That being said, there is much to commend a return to natural, unprocessed foods and a general disposition to the concept of paleo-eating is certainly a positive step in losing weight and recovering your health. So to summarise: Pros: They eliminate processed, industrialised food and return to natural animal and plant based whole foods They eliminate grains, which lack nutritive value, interfere with digestive processes and present the body with excess starchy calories They eliminate dairy, which is a food that is increasingly being shown to have detrimental rather than beneficial effects on long term health They encourage diversity in both the meats and plant foods you consume Can help you lose weight quickly Can help manage many of the diseases of affluence (such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, etc.) Cons: There is a wide variation in philosophies as to what to exclude and what to include Meat intake can be excessive It can be hard for some people to make the shift into an entirely different eating philosophy  

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