Some diets have proven benefits, some don’t

There are two diets that have a great deal to recommend them: the Mediterranean diet and the Okinawa diet.

Gluten intolerance has become an epidemic. Grocery shelves are loaded with gluten-free products. Celiac disease, the most extreme form of gluten intolerance, may be genetically carried, but many carriers do not develop the disease. The disease, like other immune system disorders, has to be triggered. ‘Triggered’ appears to be the operative word in allergies. That should mean that while the tendency may be genetic, the trigger is in our environment.

Dr. David Perlmutter’s recent bestseller, Grain Brain, targets carbohydrates, accusing them of causing dementia related to diabetes. Perlmutter advocates his version of the Stone Age or Paleolithic diet, with 75 per cent fats and five per cent carbohydrates. Sweets, fruits, vegetable cellulose, seeds and nuts, anything that is, or turns into sugars, are to be replaced, mostly with fats.

The jury is still out on Perlmutter’s theories and facts, and many independent experts disagree, but the impact on the general public of this kind of prescription for healthy eating could seriously affect our food systems if readers adopt his diet uncritically. Availability of what we have regarded as staple foods could be drastically reduced due to low sales.

It is very recently that excessive processing of foods has invaded our meals. Carlos Monteira, a senior UN nutrition specialist, is urging much less dependence on ultra-processed foods and we have a long way to go in stepping back from the kinds of cheap fast foods and snacks which provide almost no nourishment.

Michael Pollan’s advice in his excellent book In Defence of Food, is “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Rather than jumping on the Stone Age diet bandwagon, we could simply reduce our intake of sugars and take the advice of Monteira and Pollan in avoiding the over-processed foods we know to be bad for us, while acknowledging Perlmutter’s concern by reducing excessive intake of sweet treats.

There are two diets that have a great deal to recommend them: the Mediterranean diet and the Okinawa diet. Both are proven to have major health benefits. Both include diet as an integral part of lifestyle, including high activity, stress-free attitudes and little money.

There is nothing commercial about these diets, no corporate ownership and no one stands to gain from promoting them. Neither outlaws carbohydrates. The Mediterranean diet is high in consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products, moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat.

As for the Okinawa diet, people there have lower incidences of cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s than the U.S. They eat a lot of vegetables they grow themselves, as well as sweet potatoes, and they get their protein from soy, legumes and fish. They have interactive, intergenerational community social lives. And they have five times as many centenarians as the U.S.

Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@shaw.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIU Mariners add provincial championship to undefeated season

Vancouver Island University women’s team defeats Camosun in PacWest final

Nanaimo Clippers win Island Division, will face Alberni in playoffs

Clippers blow out Bulldogs 6-1 on last day of BCHL regular season

Petition underway to stop bylaw on homeless camping in Regional District of Nanaimo

‘Canadians are known for their meekness but this time we need to have a voice’

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reconciliation requires that all parties have a voice

Pipeline protests by the hereditary chiefs and their supporters have legitimacy, says letter writer

Oak Bay wins Vancouver Island basketball championship in Nanaimo

Third-place NDSS will get to challenge second place Claremont for a berth in provincials

Oak Bay wins Vancouver Island basketball championship in Nanaimo

Third-place NDSS will get to challenge second place Claremont for a berth in provincials

Massive early-morning blaze destroys Vancouver Island home

Firefighters from three departments called in to battle fire at unoccupied residence

First win, fifth win highlight BC Senior Curling finals

Donna Mychaluk wins first title after finishing second five times; Wes Craig takes fifth crown

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

VIDEO: Wounded Warrior Run leaves Port Hardy on eight-day trek down Vancouver island

The team’s fundraising goal this year is $250,000, which is double last year’s goal.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Most Read