WHICH DIET IS MOST BALANCED?
After all this discussion, what type of diet is the most balanced in many ways (out of the numerous diets we know of today) and would offer the most health benefits?
The so called “Mediterranean diet” is certainly more of a balanced system. There are no absolute rules. It is just about limiting red meat to one or two times a week, in small portions, and eating other proteins to a healthy amount (very little chicken, some eggs and some fish, but not in huge amounts either), incorporating a lot of plant based foods including beans (which are nutritious and if prepared properly give a good amount of protein and nutrition), high fiber grains rather than refined carbs, reducing sugar intake and high fat intake (although olive oil is used on salads quite a lot), and using nuts, seeds, and fruits in moderation as snacks, desserts etc. It is certainly more flexible compared to other strict, limited diets. Mediterranean region covers many countries including Iran and Israel so the diet can include many recipes from many regions. However, I must mention: even though a Mediterranean diet is healthier, in America or some other countries it may not be as effective because the quality of fruits and vegetables are not the same. In America, even organic produce is not the way they should be: they are organic from the definition of what America requires to call something organic, but the land is fertilized with organic nutrients but not necessarily very natural, or organic pesticides are used which also are not necessarily that healthy etc. Nevertheless, we have to do what is without our abilities and trust in the Almighty to keep us healthy.
There is room in the Mediterranean diet to adjust to each person’s preferences or needs. You can eat a Mediterranean diet but make it gluten free. You can be vegan or vegetarian on a Mediterranean diet. Or you can eat meat and chicken kabob on a Mediterranean diet. You can even indulge in pizza and the occasional sweet on this diet. You can eat a Mediterranean diet if you are diabetic or watching your sugar intake. It is all about balance and moderation, and about following healthy guidelines for meals.
And actually, the so called Mediterranean diet is not limited to the Mediterranean region of the world. In every culture and country, there are healthy foods we can add to our own diets. It is all about eating in balance.
When there is balance, your body is not missing vitamins or minerals. You don’t feel you are lacking anything so you do not feel you need to eat all day. It balances body and mind. Therefore, you are less likely to binge eat or gain weight. When you learn to lead a balanced life in all areas you become a balanced, calmer person.
It is very important to have enough vitamins and minerals, as so many functions in the body depend on them. In fact, many problems are often caused by demineralization. Some ways to add minerals to the diet (besides supplements) is to eat more seaweed, to swim in the ocean, to eat more fermented foods and to eat more greens.
So perhaps rather than calling it the Mediterranean diet, we should rename it: the Balanced Diet. It does not have to come from any particular region like the Mediterranean. It is just about balance and healthy cooking, which can be done anywhere in the world with the local ingredients you have.
Another important point is that lack of balance in nutrition is actually what leads to many illnesses. Many chronic health problems or even serious health issues are connected to a lack of nutrition or to deficiency in certain nutrients. Illness sometimes occurs due to external situations: chemicals within food, or chemicals in the environment, or eating wrong foods, not exercising enough, poor quality air etc. But lacking nutrients can also cause illness.
The problem is that in USA, much of the soil is depleted of nutrients, so even organic produce may not have enough vitamins or minerals. We just have to do our best. Growing your own vegetables in your own healthy soil is actually one of the best options, wherever possible.
Vegetable juicing has its place in a healthy diet, but in moderation and depending on one’s individual constitution etc. In general, drinking a lot of vegetable juices or smoothies is not so healthy. It is preferable to consume fruits and vegetables in their whole form. But some juicing is okay to provide added nutrition. Carrot, celery, parsley or other greens and beets are good for juicing but not in big amounts. Juicing of vegetables can also be problematic and bypasses the breakdown of nutrients properly through chewing.
Fruit smoothies are less healthy and should be used only on occasion. Consuming too much fructose in fruits, without the fibers (as we do in smoothies) is not very good in general. But they can be refreshing and give energy when used in moderation, especially in very hot climates. But it is well publicized in many places that fruit smoothies are not too good because, again, they lack proper fiber when they are blended and swallowed without chewing.
There is room for extremes in diet when the situation is extreme. If a person is healing from a serious or chronic illness, that person may require a more strict regimen of food or a greater increase of certain foods or nutrients. For example, if a person is diabetic, they need to very strictly watch their intake of sugar and carbs. But that is part of the healing process or the way to control their condition. (But what may have led to the diabetes in the first place? An overconsumption of sugar or carbs that turn into sugar! If one ate in an unbalanced manner, that is what can lead to problems later. And then one needs to go to some extreme to regain balance and proper function in the body)
But for a normal situation, balance is the key. If in the first place one does not consume too much sugar, too many refined carbs, too much oil etc. one tends to be in better health and able to think and to function better. Too much sugar can make a person sleepy and gain weight or can make a person feel weak or nauseous etc. Sugar can have a very damaging effect if eaten to excess. For example, many people have elevated triglyceride levels due to too much sugar consumption, including drinking a lot of fruit juices. Now it has been proven scientifically that fruit juice (too much fructose) can raise triglycerides. Some people become hypoglycemic when they overeat sugar. Refined sugar is not a good choice in general. It has now been shown medically that too much sugar consumption is implicated in many illnesses, including heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, autoimmune conditions and so on. Sugar elevates triglycerides, which in turn can cause many issues (including being implicated in stroke), and sugar has been pin pointed as one of the culprits in elevating LDL cholesterol too.