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 Diets: Types of Diets 

Very simply, for the average overweight person, the best diet to reduce weight is one that provides fewer calories and burns more with exercise: less intake plus more output equals decreased mass, or as one ArgIslizm ends, “sweat equity.” Eating small meals and drinking lots of water helps. Avoiding breads, sweets, dairy foods, and excess fats and oils will greatly reduce calories. Low-calorie fruit or vegetable snacks are best. Importantly though, simple meals of lean proteins and lots of vegetables provide a good level of nutrients, enhance digestion and metabolism, and, if not overdone, will cause us to burn more calories and stored fat and thus reduce our weight. Developing good eating habits to change our basic diet is the only way to create the body we want in the long run.

The “warrior’s diet” is a term that I have used to describe the way I often eat, especially on the Day s when I am busy and want to be productive. This diet consists of small meals or snacks eaten every two to three hours throughout the Day . These are simple meals and often only simple foods, such as a handful of almonds or sunflower seeds, an apple or two, carrot or celery sticks, crackers with avocado, or a bowl of rice with sprouts or cooked beans. Consuming the contents of one small to medium bowl should generate sufficient fuel to continue energetically along the Day ’s path.

A warrior is always ready for action, with energy available whenever he or she is called. Big meals or lots of different foods can act as a mental and physical sedative, as they cause a lot of our energy and blood to be shunted to to our abdomen (liver, stomach, intestines) to digest and assimilate our food. The warrior eats large meals only in celebration or ritual, or given our modern society, at the end of a workDay to relax at home alone or with friends or family. At this time, we can let go more of our physical concerns and tensions, be more aware of inner levels, and digest our meal and the Day ’s experiences.

The warrior’s concept is that food is our fuel; we give our body what it needs for continued combustion of energy. When I refer to being a warrior, I am talking about embracing the challenges of life with some feeling or passion. Food nourishment should support this and not devitalize us or generate excess aggressiveness or moodiness. Since I am a strong supporter of peace and positive action, I think of the warrior as one who does battle not with others but rather with life, the main struggle being to conquer our own weaknesses. Illness is, in a sense, succumbing to that battle; from a nutritional standpoint, when we take in too much, we may block the energy that is needed to cope with stress, and then we get stuck in the specifics of the battle, such as conflict with a person or job. Keeping ourselves clear through light and simple eating will allow our full energy to be available to us so that we can be the true “spiritual warriors” or “spiritual athletes” we were intended to be.

Natural Food
The natural or whole foods diet is really the original native or tribal diet intrinsic to all cultures before the industrial age. What was available from nature varied according to the area of the world, but all people cultivated their own food or gath-ered or captured wild vegetable and animal foods. Whatever the culture—North or South American Indian, Mexican, African, Mediterranean and European, or Asian —the diets consisted of very similar food components. The foods that nature provided were used directly and in a multitude of ways to feed all these people. And nature can still provide all the people of the world with the best possible diet if we use our land harmoniously and productively, as caretakers cultivating respect for Earth’s resources.

The whole grain cereals, such as wheat, rice, and corn, have been and still are the predominant foods on Earth. Fruits and nuts can be cultivated and gathered from the trees. Fruits were often a special treat, eaten freshly picked, ripe and juicy. Vegetables could be grown in abundance—the greens, legumes, and root vegetables alike. Most native cultures knew to mix their grains and legumes or seeds together for complete protein nourishment. Most of these cultures, however, were not vegetarian, although their diets consisted largely of vegetable nutrition. Fish was a good source of protein for the tribes who lived near big lakes or streams or by the ocean. The wild birds or animals, when they could be found, provided an important source of food for some people, according to the skills of their hunters. Water or brews from their foods were drunk freely. And there was occasional fasting from foods, either voluntarily or because availability was low. This may have helped keep the people in balance—and most definitely sustained their reverence and appreciation of food.

NowaDay s, a “natural food” diet is followed by more and more people. The health food industry has grown greatly, and many stores provide the wholesome or basic foods as nature provides them; if we look, we may find bags, boxes, or bins containing a variety of grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and so on at most markets. Fruits and vegetables are usually widely available, though some natural food stores attempt to find or specialize in “organic” produce, as the natural foods diet is as low as possible in chemical sprays. It also avoids food additives and prefabricated and refined foods with extra sugars, salts, flavorings, and chemicals added to increase shelf life and to appeal to the addicted taste buds of the industrial-age consumer. The natural food diet is rich in natural flavors. Foods are prepared so that the flavor of each food can be tasted, and that usually means with the least amount of tampering. Herbs and spices may be used to enhance flavoring if desired.

I’m particularly enthusiastic about this topic, because these are the dietary principles that I follow and advocate to others—eating foods as wholesome, as chemical-free, and as much from our local environment as possible. Foods are obtained for their quality, even though the more wholesome foods may be slightly more expensive. When we prepare our own foods and eat the more vegetarian diet that we all were intended to eat, the average cost is usually less than that of the typical American diet.

If a minimum of animal foods are eaten, we should take special care to get sufficient protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. A natural food diet can be omnivorous or vegetarian; if properly balanced, it will provide a good level of all the nutrients we need for our body to function optimally.

Paleolithic (Hunter-Gatherer)
This is one of the more fascinating of the diet plans to come forth in recent years. And yet, it is based on some of our most ancient, evolutionary eating patterns—the “caveman” or “caveperson” diet. (This is not to be confused with the dinosaur era, which was some 70 million years ago.) Actually, these people belonged to nomadic tribes and mainly used caves for winter shelter.

This hunter-gatherer diet of the Paleolithic humans, our ancestors who inhabited Earth some 40,000 years ago, has been carried on in many tribal cultures. NowaDay s, however, it is essentially an extinct species of humankind that continues to hunt wild game and gather their foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as available on a seasonal basis.

Recent archeological findings suggest that these ancient ancestors of ours were a healthy bunch—tall, strong bones, and body structures like modern-Day athletes—they appear to be most similar to ours in regard to stature, and as long as they survived accidents, infections, and childbirth, their longevity was similar to ours, but with much less chronic degenerative disease. Further anthropological studies suggest some of the food and life habits of these early human beings. They had regular vigorous exercise applied to hunting and gathering their food for survival. Flesh foods provided their proteins; seeds and nuts their oils; fruits and berries were available for quick energy; and some starchy vegetable tubers provided more complex carbohydrate fuel.

The theory behind the health benefits of this hunter-gatherer diet, called the “Paleolithic Prescription” in the book of the same name by Dr. S. Boyd Eaton, Dr. Melvin Konner, and Marjorie Shostak, is that our modern diet should be adapted more to that of our ancestors than to the current one commonly consumed. The grains, eggs, and dairy foods, though wholesome in many ways, are the most common allergenic ones, and create both evident and hidden problems in many people. A big reason for much of the chronic disease in our culture involves the large amounts of fats, especially saturated fats, which were nearly nonexistent in ancient times (free-running animals had a much lower fat level, and most of the fats were of the polyunsaturated variety). The high intake of refined foods and grains in general also may be problematic in modern humans. The Paleolithic Prescription suggests an avoidance of refined foods and recommends that the main animal foods be closer to the wild game of ancient times. It includes fish and free-range poultry, obviously with low chemical application to the raising, cultivating, and preparation of these foods.

The average tribe’s food consisted of about one-third hunted food to two-thirds gathered, so it was a primarily vegetarian diet that varied seasonally and had added high-protein, low-fat meats based on hunting success. The Paleolithic diet was estimated to be roughly 60 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fats with a calcium intake often over 1000 mg. daily, and that is without milk products. As compared to the modern diet, the hunter-gatherer diet, as outlined in The Well Adult by Nancy Samuels and Mike Samuels, M.D., consisted of:

Half the fatTwice the calcium
Two to three times the proteinOne-sixth the salt
Low grain consumptionTwo to three times the potassium
No refined sugarFour times the vitamin C
No refined flourTwice the fiber
No or low alcoholHigher B vitamins
No tobaccoHigher minerals

Besides the various wild game available at that time, the majority of the food consumed consisted of the following uncultivated vegetable foods:


For most tribes, 10–20 common foods made up the diet staples with possibly up to 50 other foods eaten less frequently. Herbs were also used, more as medicinals, often with different parts of the same plant gathered or used at different times of the year.

Interestingly, the evolution of our current diet began with the Neolithic revolution some 10,000 years ago. In the following 2,000 years, the population became more settled and began to increase rapidly. Organized agriculture began then, along with the increase in whole grain foods, especially wheat. Animals were domesticated and sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle provided various meats and milks that have been used throughout the centuries. Chickens and their eggs were also eaten. These new and richer, fattier foods are thought to be at the source of many of our chronic degenera-tive diseases. The whole grain foods are also the more common allergenic foods, as are cow’s milk and chicken eggs. This suggests that evolutionarywise, many of us have not even yet adapted to these foods genetically. The Industrial Revolution is only 200 years old and added another dimension to our new modern diet—that of refined foods and the use of chemicals in our foods. This is a big problem which we will discuss in greater detail next in the Industrialized Diet as well as later in Chapter 11.

(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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