Human Nutrition 101: Is There One Diet For All Of Us

By Varsha Rathod, M.D.

Have you been perplexed by the plethora of concepts on what is considered optimal for human nutrition? These range from eating raw and vegan, vegan, vegetarian (with or without eggs, dairy and fish), vegetarian and poultry/fish, all meats and vegetarian, meats and no carbohydrates from grains, starchy fruits and vegetables to a diet of raw meat and fish with berries and a few vegetables. Then there is the idea that oil should not be consumed. It has taken me years to sift through all this data to make sense of it. I will offer a few salient ideas that I use in my personal and professional life.

When you compare Humans to Herbivores and Meat-eaters, you will find that Humans aren’t designed to eat meat but are similar to herbivores. I say this because meat-eaters have claws but Human and Herbivores do not. Meat-eaters have sharp front teeth for tearing with no flat molar teeth for grinding. Human and Herbivores have no sharp front teeth but both have flat rear molars for grinding. Meat-eaters have an intestinal tract that is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly. Humans and Herbivores have intestinal tracts 10-12 times their body length. Meat-eaters have strong hydrochloric acid in the stomach to digest meat. Human and Herbivores both have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater. Meat-eaters have acid saliva with no enzyme ptylalin to pre-digest grains. However, Human and Herbivores have alkaline saliva with ptylalin to pre-digest grains. I give this example because it is important to know your nutritional purpose. We as humans currently are conditioned to eat meat, but most of mankind for most human history lived on vegetarian food (plants, etc.).
Human nutrition and demographic analysis done by Dr. Collin Campbell, PhD. as well as clinical outcomes by Dr. Dean Ornish,MD., Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn MD., and Dr. James McDougall, MD., to name just a few, very strongly suggest that a Whole foods, Plant based diet with minimal added oil is overall the best diet to prevent degenerative diseases that afflict human health such as Obesity, Diabetes, Cancer, Autoimmunity, Atherosclerosis and other inflammatory as well as degenerative diseases.

While the Mediterranean diet (lean meats and a variety of vegetables) has been shown to decrease the incidence of degenerative diseases, it does not reverse it. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that each of us to maintain optimal health should strive to eat a diet rich in the following:

A: WHOLE FOODS. A Whole food is defined as a food that has been minimally manipulated by man and is not artificially engineered. For example, wheat is considered whole as the whole grain, organically raised and not genetically modified. It is considered to be more processed when we make flour from it and then use the flour to make pasta, breads etc. It is best to eat it in the grain form as whole wheat pilaf or cracked wheat known as bulgur or as sprouted wheat products. A whole food should never contain un-pronounceable names or items that are not recognized as food (e.g. BHT, splenda, aspartame monosodium glutamate), food dyes and preservatives. It is best consumed fresh or frozen and sometimes canned.

B: PLANT BASED ITEMS: All vegetables, sea vegetables such as a variety of seaweed, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds would come under this category. It is best to eat these in a variety of color to help increase the availability of polyphenols, flavones, flavonoids and other non-calorie producing chemical compounds which provide information for our bodies to decrease inflammation and assist with detoxification.

C: OILS: Should be used sparingly as it is associated with inflammation when not balanced. It is best consumed as seeds, nuts and their respective butters.
My approach to optimizing health is good nutrition first. I educate my patients on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Once patients understand this role in the healing and prevention process, we are then able to continue to build a healthy relationship and attainable goals.

Dr. Varsha Rathod is a board certified Rheumatologist and Internist at Preventive Medicine in the Westport Plaza Area of St. Louis, MO. The practice has focused on a combination of traditional and holistic medicine since 1967. For more articles and information about integrative solutions please visit www.preventivemedicinestl.com or call Preventive Medicine at 314-997-5403.

The Healthy Planet does not endorse any information contained in articles, advertisements or directory listings and we suggest consulting a health care professional before beginning any therapy or medical treatment.