Are you confused? I am. Confused enough that I’ve just spent a few hours researching two sets of vastly divergent dietary claims, one derived from Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain, touting the consumption of fat and proteins from meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and nuts, the other advocating eating only foods derived from plants, cutting out all dairy products, eggs, fish and meat.
Fans on both sides claim that they’ve the discovered the secret of maintaining health and well-being through adhering to a specific diet. Beyond that, they disagree heartily and say they have the scientific facts to prove it. I’ll say this much: they agree that sugar’s bad and nuts are good.
Are they both nuts? Who are we to believe? What should we be eating if we want to feel good, avoid Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes, maintain a healthy weight and have enough energy to go for a run now and then?
Two of the healthiest, most athletic and energetic men I know eat from opposite sides of the spectrum and they’ve each been adhering to their plant-based and Paleo diets for a very long time. I wish I could get them to confront each other. If we are to assume that you are what you eat, these examples don’t help much when it comes to deciding what to put into our mouths every day.
Neither of these diets are easy to follow. On what turned out to be a short-lived plant-based kick, I came home from a trip to grocery store sans eggs, cheese, meat and milk. Two days later I was back at the store again, to fill in the blank spots in my fridge. I figured I was a failure.
At a recent annual banquet for a national running club, I was more than a little surprised to see that an enormous hunk of prime rib was the central feature of the meal even though a major race was scheduled for the following day. Now that slab of meat looked good and smelled good, but I knew that if I ate it, I could say good-bye to a decent race the following morning. I managed to con a kindly waiter into bringing me the vegetarian alternative for which I was extremely grateful.
Knowing what to eat used to be much easier. We asked few questions. We ate what was put before us. The goal was to clean our plates, waste nothing and remember little children around the world who went hungry. No one questioned the nutritional value of Cheerios or hamburgers, peanut butter or Velveeta cheese.
How is it that we survived? More to the point, how are we going to survive confronted with so many difficult choices? Our fruits and veggies often come to us from far away and sprayed with chemicals. Our meat is shot through with growth hormones and antibiotics. Gluten lies hidden in places we never suspected making digestion problematic for many of us.
It’s a knotty problem, but take heart. Eat nuts, stay away from sugar, and go for a run, bike ride, walk or swim whenever you can manage it. As far as whatever else you consume—you’re on your own. For some helpful advice see Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (www.nancyclarkrd.com)