The Energy Diet
By Sherri Jacobs, ND.
No carbs? Low fat? High protein? Grapefruit Only? Raw foods? Body type? Jenny Craig? Are we inherently meat eaters, or vegetarians? It's abundantly clear that the route to health is through a healthy lifestyle, which includes wonderful food, but with so many diets out there, what should we do? Theories abound, but why is the information so confusing and why is it such a difficult process? It doesn't necessarily have to be so complicated to achieve your optimal health
I imagine I have experimented with almost every possible way of eating vegetarian, vegan, carnivorous, blood type, Atkins, raw food, South Beach, macrobiotic, Mediterranean, I could list diets forever, but the point is that, as yet, I have not found any of them to be the perfect diet. I have not found any of them to be the "magic bullet" and have found the dietary returns to be mixed. I have found the short-lived perfection of some diets and the disappointing long-term results of most.
During my years of dietary exploration, I found myself buried in research at Bastyr University in Seattle, the most prominent school of integrative natural medicine, working towards a doctorate degree in Naturopathic Medicine. Quite sure I could find the perfect diet in a research book, a lecture, or my clinical rotations, I was anxious and alert for the answer to dietary success. After 5 years of medical school, clinical research and extensive patient feedback, I believe that I have found the answer I was seeking: there simply is no diet that is right for everyone in every stage of their life.
Each person should have their own dietary prescription that is unique to them. A dietary plan for one person may energize and strengthen them, and the same plan may fatigue and weaken someone else. Each person's biochemistry is unique. And, if you find a certain way of eating that moves you towards optimal health, it will likely have to change as you change.
I have recommended many types of diets to patients to achieve their therapeutic goals and witnessed incredible recovery. However, the therapeutic diets I usually recommend are just that, therapeutic and not necessarily meant to be followed for a lifetime. I have seen people thrive on vegan diets for years, and then reach a point of exhaustion. I have seen people count their carbs, lose incredible amounts of weight, feel amazingly well, but gain the weight back, and maybe more, a year later. These diets ultimately failed them. I believe a diet should be therapeutic and specific for each person and their current state of health. Fortunately, everyone can benefit from an energetically based diet. Every person can utilize a few basic guidelines when choosing foods.
We are energetic beings, vital, vibrant, beautiful, and changing at every moment. There is not one part of our body that is stagnant or fixed. For instance, our bones which seem so rigid and defined are extremely dynamic structures, spending each and every moment wagering a delicate balance of remodeling in order to meet our ever-changing needs. As constantly changing dynamic beings, our dietary choices should reflect and encourage this process.
So, what is the optimal diet for health and vitality over a lifetime? It is a diet based on colorful foods that are energetically alive, seasonal, and local. It is a diet that respects the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives. My colleague would say "eat a rainbow" because it's a diet full of a variety fruits, vegetables, meats, and more. It's a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and the full spectrum of vital nutrients necessary for optimal health. It's full of colorful foods, and the result is beautiful.
The recommendation to eat a variety of colorful foods is based upon extensive research that demonstrates that these whole, unadulterated foods provide optimal nutrition. For instance, a red pepper is not just a colorful addition to your salad; it's a food rich in B vitamins, Vitamins A and C, lycopene, carotenoids, bioflavanoids, fiber, and much more. The studies behind these ingredients show their tremendous health benefits, but the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is vital to consume these as food and not just as supplements.
What we take in should be alive and vibrant if we want to feel alive and vibrant. Food should be colorful and have some resemblance to its growing process. When you pick up a food at the grocery store, ask yourself, "have I ever seen this growing, could I imagine running into this in the wild somewhere?" I have never seen a jelly bean tree, not that it wouldn't be beautiful, but I have seen a cherry tree. The foods you choose to eat should be energetically alive and fresh from the farm if you want to feel alive after eating them.
In our practice, we see many people who have food sensitivities, especially to wheat. Whole wheat is not inherently bad for us or difficult to digest, but the addition of wheat to practically every food on the market, its processing, and mono-cropping has caused our systems to become burdened and no longer able to tolerate the constant barrage of one food. Our bodies start to mount immune responses when we give it the same foods each day, especially when those foods have been highly processed. By choosing only seasonal, locally grown foods, we are naturally rotating the foods, allowing our bodies to properly digest and absorb the nutrients. Food rotation allows our bodies to take a break form the processing of certain nutrients on a daily basis. We are eating a variety of nutritious, fresh seasonally rotated foods, the way our ancestors have for many years.
There are no good or bad foods, but there are vibrant foods and dead foods, foods that enhance vitality and foods that strip it away. My diet advice is to eat a rainbow. Your plate should have a vast array of multi-colored vibrant foods. Stop thinking about fat grams and carb counting and start thinking about whether what you are going to put in your mouth is vibrant, alive, and available in nature. Ask yourself the following questions before you put a food into your mouth, "Is this food full of life and vitality?" "Can I visualize it growing or living in nature?" Is it available locally or was it transported from a place far away with a different climate?" If you ask yourself these questions and choose your food based on its energetic qualities, you will find lifelong health and vibrancy.
Author Sherri Jacobs is a Bastyr University Graduate and Certified Nutrition Specialist, practicing naturopathic medicine in the state of South Carolina.
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