I’ve been working at making some dietary changes for a while now — with health issues, it’s not moving very fast as I rarely have the energy to cook. I’m feeling my way along as most of the so-called wisdom out there doesn’t seem to suit me. If John Doe tells me he absolutely has to eat a low/no carb diet I believe him. If Jane Doe tells me she has to eat a purely raw foods diet, I believe her. If Jacob Smith tells me he needs to eat vegan, I believe him. What I don’t believe is that just because no carbs or raw food or vegan is great for John or Jane or Jacob that that means any of those diets is the one true and only diet for every person.
One of the minefields of alternative health is that it seems most practitioners and most people who are into alternative healers have some diet they favor and they tout it for everyone. And people who go on a diet that changes their world tend to want everyone else to be on that diet. Some of my troubles began when I read Diet for a Small Planet years ago and decided to become a vegetarian. My health started going downhill and after a couple of years my blood pressure was 80/50. It took years before I realized that the diet caused most of the trouble. Over time I did realized that I don’t do very well on any vegetarian diet and raw-foods-only sends me on a downward spiral in short order. Over time I’ve been led down many more unfortunate roads by listening to other people going on about one diet or food theory or another. Much of what has worked for others I know hasn’t worked for me.
On the long healing journey a few practitioners advised me repeatedly that I needed to eat red meat regularly. I’d quit the vegetarian bit but mostly ate fish and poultry and for years I resisted eating red meat more than occasionally. In the last ten years, however, I’ve realized that I perk up remarkably every time I eat red meat. I’ve had meals with a few vegetarians who were startled when I showed up pale and shaky and then turned rosy-cheeked and lively as soon as I had a few bites of beef or lamb! Recently I’ve realized that I generally do better with protein than carbs or a vegetable-heavy diet.
I’ve struggled with anemia since I was 5 and red meat is the only source of heme iron, which has a far greater absorption rate than the iron in plant foods — and the protein in the meat aids the absorption. My anemia also reflects deficiencies in copper and zinc and they’re also absorbed better from red meat. I’m guessing these factors are why my body does better with red meat but there are other nutritional benefits that could also account for it. Among others, there are also high levels of several antioxidants, including coQ10, which are also absorbed better when ingested via red meat.
So I’m working on figuring out what my best diet looks like. Unfortunately a lot of my go-to easy foods for days when I’m not feeling up to cooking involve carbs — gluten free and sprouted or whole grain aside, it’s still low in protein. Though I haven’t bought into the Paleo diet, its popularity means there are lots of high protein and low carb recipes floating around. Over at Rarasaur she’s provided some links to good recipes so I’ve started there.
Every one of those special diets out there works for some people. I encourage you, though, to learn your own body well enough to be able to recognize whether a given one works for you. The hard part, if you don’t fit any of the current boxes (yes, the experts change their minds about what we need to eat on a regular basis so you can always wait to see what the next wave brings…) is working out the best diet for you. Up to now I’ve mostly learned what doesn’t work for me with a small selection of items I’ve figured out I need. If you put aside what your mouth wants to eat, what your inner child wants to eat, etc., do you know which foods give your body a wave of happy energy or leave you feeling energized?