“One person’s meat is another’s poison”, Titus Lucretius Carus coined this expression in the first century BC, “quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” (what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others). This is surely ancient wisdom that seems to fit the current dilemma, which could be called the “Dietary 80-80 Dilemma”.
Do we need to make a choice between one “healthy” diet and another? Is that what you are trying to decide right now? Often food choices are made based on availability, cost, time availability and timing and we will look at these co-factors later. It may not be simply the choice of one or the other lifestyle defined by extremes ie 80% carbs or 80% fats, (#LCHF or #LFHC) health through nutrition, what if the beginnings of health through optimal nutrition was discovering your own personal needs, a so called personalised diet.
For some people the moral aspect of food and drink choices might be paramount, and that can truly lead the person to limiting their choices and options, an example is veganism, a totally plant diet. Cruelty to animals or even just eating another living being might be the personal stimulus for specific dietary choices or maybe specific religions mandate eating behaviours again which can mean adjustments from the optimal to a limited food basket!
So let’s remind ourselves about the basic differences and then the commonalities with each of the expert recommended healthy eating patterns and lifestyles. LCHF implies a very high fat, low carbohydrate, low protein nutritional pattern, typically 80%/10%/10%. Sources of foods include saturated and unsaturated fats, whole meats and fish, full fat dairy, nuts, eggs, green vegetables, berries, and some fruits plus water, teas, coffee and some alcohol. Low processed whole food approach based on avoiding grains and focused on high quality fats. On the other side of the church is the LFHC approach also usually termed a “Plant Based” diet, where plant based means vegan or possibly vegetarian, the avoidance of any non vegetable nutrient sources; meats, fish, eggs, cheeses, milk or even algae. So what does this mean, very low fats naturally from plant sources such as nuts, avocados, seeds, low plant sourced protein and the great majority of daily caloric intake and nutrients from carbohydrates including vegetables of all kinds, berries and fruits. Again we see a trend here towards least processed, sometimes raw vegetables, fruits, fats, nuts and water, but including wine, beer and other alcohol. So there we have it, two choices or are there?
IN THE AISLES AND BETWEEN THE AISLES – our discussion has been mostly about the two sides of the nutrition church that seem at first completely opposed but on investigation we have found several points of agreement, our so called Common Grounds. Least processed, 10% protein, being the most important common ground even though sources will vary clearly between a plant based and animal focused diet.
CO-FACTORS – Often food choices are made based on availability, cost, time availability and timing so let’s take a look at these co-factors for nutritional benefit and your own diet. How much of your weekly budget can be spent on foods? Higher quality usually means higher cost and lower volume. How often can you shop for fresh essential whole foods rather than canned or processed-packaged foods which last much longer? Which whole foods are available at what time of year? Is there an optimal time to eat an optimal diet or can dietary wholesomeness be occasional for the same health benefits? No matter the biggest factor here is probably cost for most people.
PROTEIN: I just read an article by Rich Roll and I’m happy to see he agrees with the 10% protein dietary advice and as he says all amino acids can be had from plant based foods and in any case we only need about 0.5 grams/kg so for a 150lb/70kg human we need 35 grams of protein (including all essential amino acids). One Chicken breast contains about 50 grams protein, so that’s our daily protein taken care of for the non veg based. For plant based humans an avocado, spinach, broccoli, beans and nuts easily provides the protein needed. So the question comes down to the fat vs carbs argument and it seems we have two very strong logical arguments.
If you choose one, lets say the LCHF and a plant based diet is it possible to get enough fats and remain happy, satisfied and satiated with the daily food volume? After all 1500-1800 KCal is not much food volume and is a sensible intake for the majority of sedentary people. If you choose the LFHC plant based diet , does it give you the nutrients needed? Plant based I think tends to be lighter on the body, easier to digest and with more fiber and I think when you focus on the micro-nutrients needed by the body you get a smarter diet. After all no-one ever says I am carb or fat deficient but we all say I’m magnesium or vitamin D, C, E or folate or iron etc deficient. So my point is always, which foods , drinks, supplements and lifestyle choices provide the most micro-nutrients which after all are the essentials needed for optimal health. Considering that carbohydrate is absolutely not necessary for humans or is it? Ask experts on the LCHF side of the aisle!
A 2002 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states, “The currently established human essential nutrients are water, energy, amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), essential fatty acids (linoleic and α-linolenic acids), vitamins (ascorbic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B-12), minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron), trace minerals (zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, and chromium), electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride), and ultratrace minerals. Note the absence of specific carbohydrates from this list. “ One aspect of carbohydrate need is fiber for a healthy gut which in turn leads to better overall health, so perhaps the only justification for carbohydrate is to supply the gut with fiber which does not contribute to calorie intake and can be had from such vegetables as broccoli which are also a high protein and also unsaturated fat source.
So what do we do? It seems to me that a whole foods dietary blend with a desire to ensure maximum intake of healthy micro-nutrients where satisfaction comes from fats from a variety of sources, your fiber comes from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, peas and beans, your micro-nutrients from a variety of nuts, fruits, berries, supplements and your protein from a variety of sources plant or animal depending on beliefs and personal stance. Supplements to such a healthful diet include caffeine from teas and coffees, wine, beer, a high quality micro-nutrient source like Green Vibrance. To complement this you absolutely need water, high quality water not contaminated with chemicals (un-purified tap water in most houses), sunlight and access to the earth’s magnetic field. Exercise and movement add to a growing sense and feeling of well-being, so be sure to move and exercise daily. Sleep, now dont get me started, just get enough for you!