Oct 4, 2013

The Way of Eating I Recommend

I eat what I eat because of particular medical problems, many perhaps arising from a "leaky gut." I describe my individual way of eating here:

What I eat is a subset of the McDougall Program way of eating. That Program is the best therapeutic way of eating for some individuals who are ill—for example, with obesity:

Nutritionist Jeff Novick lists diet programs similar in their overall pattern: http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2013/12/5_The_Specturm_Of_Health__The_Evidence_For_A_Whole_Food_Plant_Base_Diet_-_Pt_1.html

Occasionally friends ask what diet I recommend for maintaining or enhancing health for a lifetime. The way of eating that I generally recommend is not what I eat. The diet I recommend is the one I learned forty years ago, at the age of 30, from the book, Live Longer Now: The First One Hundred Years of Your Life, by Nathan Pritikin and others. A few used, inexpensive paperback copies of the book are available: http://www.amazon.com/Live-Longer-Now-Prit/dp/0425086917

Some of the details in the book are probably out of date now, but details are not important here. The book is helpful but you do not need it to understand what I recommend based on my experience.

At age 30, I had clogged arteries around my heart, chest pains (especially when I was under physical or mental stress), pain on the inside of my left arm (under stress), and high blood pressure. I had been eating the Standard American Diet—high fat, high protein, and Calorie Rich and Processed foods (C.R.A.P.). By adopting the Pritikin diet, described below, I lost 75 pounds in 15 months and got rid of all my symptoms.

OUTLINE OF THE DIET. Following are the defining characteristics of the diet I adopted, adapted, and now recommend:

1. Mostly coarse plant foods. That means fruit, vegetables and starches. Eat the fruit raw or cooked; eat the vegs cooked usually; and eat the starches cooked almost always. Eat the fruit, vegs, and starches in variety. Example starches are sweet potatoes, potatoes, beans, peas, grains, and so forth. Eat your food intact or whole. Intact means you can see the original food. An apple is an intact food; applesauce is not intact, though it may still be a whole food, that is, nothing significant has been removed and no substances have been added. Avoid juices and "smoothies" unless you have severe dental problems.

2. Overall, very low fat, with roughly 10% or fewer of the calories coming from fat. You do not need to count calories or weigh foods. Eat the right intact/whole foods, in roughly the right proportions (see below), and you will naturally eat foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients.

3. Very small amounts of meat rich in Vitamin B12 and maybe Vitamin D, the only essential nutrients missing from plant foods. (Sunshine may not supply enough Vitamin D if you live in a cloudy climate, as I do.) My information sources say the meats richest in B12 are clams, oysters, chicken liver, beef liver, and perhaps red salmon; salmon apparently also supplies Vitamin D. One or two tablespoons of one of these per meal should be sufficient to get the tiny amounts of B12 and D we need. Eat the meats in wide variety, but in very small amounts: shellfish, fish, poultry, beef, sheep, and so forth. The key is small amounts and mostly from the highest sources of Vitamins B12 and D.

4. No added, isolated fat. This means no butter, margarine, olive oil, bacon grease, and so forth. Learn to boil, bake, and steam foods, not fry them. The fats we need are contained in the foods we eat. We do not need to add isolated fats. 

Except for step 3, this way of eating is the McDougall Program Regular Diet. I am suggesting adding only enough of four or five meats to get naturally Vitamin B12 and maybe D—not from pills.

PROPORTIONS. I suggest roughly these proportions:
60% starches—intact or whole. Examples are potatoes, yams, and rice.
25% vegetables—intact or whole. Examples are spinach and bell peppers.
10% fruit—intact or whole. Examples are blueberries and oranges.
5% meats high in B12 and maybe D—in very small quantities, such as 1 tablespoon per meal. Examples are clams, oysters, chicken liver, beef liver, and red salmon.

EXCLUSIONS. Avoid all dairy products (though Pritikin allowed them in small quantities if very low fat). Avoid all C.R.A.P. foods such as candy and ice cream. Exclude alcohol, coffee, and tobaccoYou may want to exclude wheat and soy, two foods that cause trouble for some individuals. Last, minimize salt. (Because I have a tendency to high blood pressure, my current, one-year experiment is to eliminate all salt. So far, my blood pressure is lower.)

EXAMPLE. An example meal is: A large bowl of rice, a mound of spinach on top, an oyster or two mixed into the rice for flavoring, and an apple. Season it as you want: soy sauce, hot sauce, or other very low or non-fat condiments. Chew thoroughly and eat slowly.

EXERCISE. Pritikin also recommended exercise, especially "roving," which means walking plus occasionally running a short distance within each walk, if running is appropriate to your medical condition. Other exercises may be suitable, but I would recommend not sitting down to exercise, especially if you sit while working or in your usual entertainment. The important point is to stand up and move daily. You might also work with light weights or do calisthenics in addition to a light aerobic routine. 

RESULTS. On the Pritikin Program, all my heart disease symptoms disappeared and I lost about one pound per week, on average, for 75 weeks—without trying to lose weight and without restricting the amount that I ate. Of course, most of the weight loss occurred at the start. I only wanted to be healthy. I succeeded. I am nearing 70.

LOSING TOO MUCH? If you lose too much weight following the four steps above, add processed foods such as whole-grain pancakes and noodles, as well as small amounts of high-fat foods (whole or intact) such as nuts, avocados, olives, and so forth.

SUMMARY. I consider my recommended way of eating to be "whole food, plant-based." The "base" of the way of eating is plants (whole or intact), though this way of eating is not exclusively plants. This way of eating was generally the Asian way of eating until Western foods began making Asians fat. Think of Chinese farmers one hundred years ago. They ate mostly rice and sweet potatoes, vegetables (such as greens and green beans), and some fruit, with just enough meat to flavor the starches.

P. S. — Nutritionist Jeff Novick, for whom I have a lot of respect, discusses the spectrum of generally healthy diets, including those that include small amounts of animal products. See his December 5, 2013 article on his website: http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2013/12/5_The_Specturm_Of_Health__The_Evidence_For_A_Whole_Food_Plant_Base_Diet_-_Pt_1.html 

Burgess Laughlin
Author, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, described here.


Paul said...

Hi Burgess, thanks that's an interesting post, I have adopted adding the meat as well as a natural source of B12 and have seen improvements.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Paul, thank you.

I do not know what you mean by "meat as well as a natural source of B12." So far as I know, meats (of the types I named) are the only significant natural sources of B12.

The idea is to eat only or mostly the meats which are highest in B12 concentration. By doing that, one needs to eat only a very small amount of meat.

Paul said...

Hi Burgess, sorry,yes I meant to say meat as the natural source of B12, as opposed to vitamin B12 tablets.Its a great idea, but deviates from the Mc Dougall plan, its something I have had to do for the last 6 months but I have got to say it works, so far.

Sandra Pawula said...

Hi there,

Thanks so very much for this information / link to the low sulfur diet. I have mutations in the CBS gene, which require me to eat low sulfur. I had a sense of this before I discovered I have the mutation because all the various categories you list as being high sulfur are problematic for me. Yours is the best resource I discovered so far. Thank you again!

Paul said...

Hi burgess, if you don't me asking, why did you transition to meat for B12, what was the reason?

kind regards

Burgess Laughlin said...

I did not transition to eating meat for Vitamin B12. I eat no meat. I get B12 through a pill, as stated in my post, "What Do I Eat Now."

However, for anyone who has no inflammation reaction to meats, I think that getting a natural source of every food is healthier. The amount is very small.

Nutritionist Jeff Novick has suggested that anyone complying with the McDougall Program by about 95% (I do not remember the exact number) will probably be as healthy as he can be.

If you have proof that eating no meat, and taking a pill for B12, is healthier, I welcome it. Unfortunately, I doubt such studies have ever been done.

So, I am applying a general principle consistently: Get foods from whole sources.