What are we ... and does it really matter?
Before you take on a special diet and absorb it like a religion, lay back, take a deep breath and try to observe the human species diet from the bird`s-eye view:
What is the human race and what does it mean for you and your health goals?
The human species diet: A big controversial topic.
Are we carnivores?
Scientists, all over the globe, are still debating it: are we carnivores (meat eater), herbivores (vegetarian) or even frugivores (nuts and fruits)? There are so many arguments for and against every theory. Some say we are meat eaters, because of human’s ability to produce hydrochloric acid (still in much lower concentration than other meat eating mammals). This is an acid the stomach needs to digest meat, something not found in herbivores. Other say the length of human’s intestinal tract is similar to herbivores (the intestinal tract can reach more than 10 times the body length), meat eating mammal’s intestinal tract reaches about 3 times its body length.
Omnivores for sure – we eat it all!
But does it really matter? More importantly, everybody finds his/her personal feel good package no matter of the historical human species diet background. It seems we have always been nutritional opportunists and an important factor is that the human pancreas produces all the necessary digestive enzymes to handle vegetables and meats alike.
The most popular diets
There can be significant differences in following a specific diet. You don’t have to follow a specific diet to eat natch-urally, the basic rules of the body’s metabolism are valid for every body. More importantly than following a specific diet is to avoid high-glycemic foods (sugar, bread, rice, potato, specific fruits etc.) and food groups which causes digestive problems. Don’t exclude anything which might work great for you, just because somebody else didn’t approve it.
The human species diet is very versatile. We listed some diets with a short description:
Ketogenic diets are very low carbohydrate diets. The effect of eating almost no carbohydrates is that the body’s glucose level is dropping so low that the body has to produce ketones from body fat to provide the body with energy. Ketones are the energy source in a ketogenic stage instead of glucose. This stage of ketosis can be a medical treatment (e.g. epilepsy in children) and it is the success factor of intermittent fasting. To enter full ketosis (greater than 1.5 mmol/L) it can take between a couple hours and up to 2 days. Every cheat meal, including carbohydrates, will kick you out off ketosis. Atkins is the best known keto diet. While it might be very effective for losing weight consider the side effects that might occur. A good summary of how the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Dietetic Association and others see the Atkin’s diet can be found on Dr. Michael Greger’s webpage.
Summary: Being in a keto stage will result in weight loss, but long term keto phases should be avoided based on reported side effects like electrolyte deficiencies, bad breath, fatigue, high cholesterol, constipation, loss of up to 15% of maximum performance in athletes, failure-rate and frustration due to the restrictive regime and yo-yo effect if not kept constant.
This diet is also called the cavemen diet. It is referring to a time before grains were introduced as part of the human diet. Entire food groups are eliminated in the Paleo diet: grains (bread, pasta etc.), legumes, dairy and others.
Sensitive topics in Paleo:
- cooking/baking with ingredients which have unstable fatty acids creating free radicals (nuts, nut meals/flours)
- cooking/baking with ingredients with a very high glycemic index resulting in the blood sugar roller coaster, e.g. tubers
- cooking/baking with protein powders, they are highly processed, the heat stability is in question and many are contaminated
- unnecessary high protein intake may lead to unwanted cell growth (not all ancestors were meat eater)
- entering a long term keto stage through a low carb approach (compare effects in KETO/ATKINS above)
- too much fructose consumption may jeopardize weight goals, Dr. Richard Johnson, University of Colorado and others have identified the fructose issue
Summary: The circumstances, demands and the food itself has dramatically changed since ancestors times.
Vegans, also called strict Vegetarian, differentiate themselves from Vegetarians by not consuming any products from animal origins.
There is a group, Raw Vegan, which goes one step further and consumes raw foods or food which is cooked at a very low temperature (maximum 118°F/48°C).
Known deficiencies which might occur with a Vegan diet:
- low Omega-3 intake (can be balanced through increased intake of some seeds)
- Vitamin D (can be produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight, go outdoors), Calcium, Zinc and especially Vitamin B12 should be supplemented
Summary: Experienced Vegans can handle the potential risk of creating nutritional deficiencies by putting together the right ingredients. Active Vegans should keep an eye on getting the right and complete protein intake while minimizing the dependency on supplements in form of pills and powders.
Vegetarians don’t eat meat. The reason for that has different origins:
- Moral, due to the treatment of animals. A very good example is the crate treatment of veal
- Health reasons
Experienced Vegetarians can live a healthy life once they have found a good nutritional package that avoids potential deficiencies, mainly minerals, vitamins and the lack of complete proteins.
The largest, most popular, Vegetarian sub-group, lacto-ovo Vegetarians, are eating eggs and dairy. All natch recipes are categorized for that group. If you don’t want to eat eggs or dairy please check out the Vegan recipes.
Summary: Like with a Vegan diet, it is important for Vegetarians to get the right amount and the right quality of proteins.
The Zone is locking in the ratio of macro-nutrients to a certain percentage for every meal. This should generate a maximum of good eicosanoids, which should have various roles in inflammation, fever, regulation of blood pressure, blood clotting, immune system modulation, control of reproductive processes and tissue growth, and regulation of the sleep/wake cycle.
Some sensitive topics of the Zone diet:
- although the Glycemic Index is mentioned in the Zone book, many Zone recipes contain bread
- the Zone bars, sold via Internet, contain sugars
- the Zone book contains a long list of fast food recommendations
Summary: A fixed macro-nutrient ratio seems very inflexible because, in our opinion, daytime and activity level (e.g. post work-out meals) might require a variation of this ratio. For people who want to be in the Zone, we categorized the natch recipes with “Zone” if applicable. As with every diet it is important to choose ingredients smart and to avoid fast food.