My own idea of a natural diet

Update: Obviously the following is not a great diet. Paleo/Primal is where real health lies.

Since my husband lost so much weight recently by following a loose version of the South Beach diet, a lot changed: we planted a garden, trying to grow our own vegetables, and I started following a similar food regime as well: a lower carb diet, with more vegetables in it. Doing so even helped my health issue somewhat: instead of getting sick every second or third day, it was reduced to once a week. Obviously an improvement.

JBQ and I have been joking that the traditionally accepted food pyramid is one of the reasons that America is obese. Also, I was reading lately that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. Cretans are among the peoples with the best health in the world, apparently.

In fact, prior to 1985 (the ’80s was the decade that Greece became “modern”), I don’t remember anyone in my vicinity to die of cancer. And yet, as time goes by, I hear of cancer for people I know in Greece more and more. In the olden days, that was something very rare. I personally attribute a good chunk of the blame to the food changes. Back in the day I remember myself eating wild or other vegetables, and beans, 6 days out of the 7. We usually had meat every Sunday. Then, the ’80s came, a lot of the EU “free money” was spent (in good and bad ways), and everyone started eating more meat, and more junk products.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We probably had a protein deficiency back then (although some of the vegetables we ate, like wild amaranth, were rich in protein too). But the point remains, I feel that our diet back then was better than what it is now. Less crap in the shelves (hell, there were no shelves).

So in the last few days I tried to create another food pyramid, one that I personally believe is more proper for hommo sapiens (no, I’m not a dietitian or a doctor btw — just a good observer). A pyramid that takes into account the ancient people, and the way they evolved, the new theories about bad carbs (that now are getting proven, I was reading recently), the studies about how good olive oil is, and how I felt way back then, and now. Basically, this food chart is a mix of personal experience & knowledge — which could be way off, but so far, it works for me: I’ve lost weight, and I feel healthier.

Much healthier than my very-low-calorie diet (if you remember that one, which I blogged about it too). At the end of my VLCD I lost half of my hair. And I was always hungry throughout the 3 months I managed to live at 900 calories a day. With this new diet (which is not an actual weight loss diet, but a lifestyle change), I eat like a cow — and I lose weight.

Some clarifications:

– The basic principle is: don’t overdose on anything. Even when we have to eat vegetables every day, have a selection of veggies, not a full plate of the same vegetable. Our progenitors didn’t have a giant broccoli for lunch. They most probably had a bit of this, and a bit of that, whatever they could find. Therefore, we evolved in a way where overdosing EVEN for “good” foods is probably bad for us.

– You noticed that I don’t value wheat/corn products a lot. That’s for two reasons: First, flour products are not exactly natural. You can’t find flour in the wild, you will have to make it, after heavily processing it (and processed food is not very natural). Also, we can get their minerals and vitamins from other sources too. Plus, there’s a high-fiber bran cereal in my chart, which can offer all the vitamins and gluten one needs. I started eating this cereal. It’s very good, except the added aspartame. Alternatively, go for added-fiber wholewheat bread. But avoid pasta — wholewheat of not. Pasta is even more processed, and it’s impossible to eat in small quantities (spaghetti bolognese would look silly without enough pasta in it).

– Regarding animal meat, the best would be eating it only once a week. But I think my JBQ likes his steaks, so it’d be difficult to not cook it more for him. Fish 2-3 times a week is a must though, I’d say.

– Regarding sugary products, e.g. desserts, it’s best to make them yourselves, to ensure that you’re using the best ingredients. Use agave nectar instead of actual sugar, but still, not very often. There’s no better dessert than a fruit salad (add a bit of natural orange juice), or a smoothie (blend frozen fruits, with a little bit of natural orange juice — again, no sugar is required). All the sugar one needs can be found in fruits. So there’s no reason for a lot of added sugar, or its substitutes.

– Raw root vegetables are OK, e.g. carrots. Cooked root vegetables are ok too, but not too often, and not at high doses. E.g. a small potato is ok, but giant jacket potatoes twice+ a week are not. I admit, this is mostly a keep-the-weight-off tactic more than a healthy one though. Root vegetables are not “bad”.

– Dark chocolate is fine (75% of cocoa or above).


Yousuf wrote on June 28th, 2010 at 2:27 PM PST:

Very good post, and we’re glad to see someone being healthier…hope this continues.

Have you tried growing chillies? they are awesome!

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Eugenia wrote on June 28th, 2010 at 2:56 PM PST:

Yes, we’re growing some tabasco chillies. 🙂

Glenn wrote on June 28th, 2010 at 7:41 PM PST:

It sounds like you’re on the right track. Gluten free is good if you can manage that. For anyone with a cold or flu, eating bread will only make it it worse. Rice pasta might be a good alternative to normal wheat pasta.

Agave is good too, but still not ideal according to some reports. But I still like it, as it’s cheaper than maple syrup.

What’s also important is when you eat the foods or how you combine them. Anything sweet like fruit should be eaten first in the morning, because it’s quick to digest. Fatty foods should be eaten later, with salad or veggies perhaps. If you eat sweet foods like fruit after a fatty meal, they’ll only get stuck in your system if eaten with or after the fatty foods, which isn’t healthy. So ideally, when you go to a restaurant, the dessert should be eaten first.

mikesum32 wrote on June 29th, 2010 at 12:05 AM PST:

Fructose (and sugar) is really bad for you.

Agave can be a lot worse that table sugar in this regard. It’s made like HFCS and, in fact has more fructose in many cases. HFCS is usually 55 per cent fructose and 45 per cent glucose, AFAIK. Table sugar is 50/50.

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Eugenia wrote on June 29th, 2010 at 12:09 AM PST:

Which is why I say “just eat fruits” and “there’s no reason for a lot of added sugar, or its substitutes.”.

However, sometimes you want to live a little.

Ivan wrote on July 4th, 2010 at 2:00 AM PST:

Eugenia, can you direct me to more information about JBQ’s diet? I’m overweight to and I’m desperately looking for motivation for a healthy life change, not a crash diet, but a life long change of eating habit.

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Eugenia wrote on July 5th, 2010 at 11:34 AM PST:

He used a loose version of the South Beach Diet. Basically, it’s the same as in the pyramid above, but with more meat in it.

Avoid all highly processed industrialized food. Eat very little sugar (you can eat sugar substitutes though, and fruits). Eat very little wholegrain-based cereal/bread with added fiber (no pasta, or at least have very little wholegrain pasta with added fiber). You can have some brown and wild rice (not white rice). Eat very little cooked vegetable roots like potatoes (carrots are fine raw). Very little of the tropical fruits.

Everything else is a go: meat, fish, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts. Just go easier on the starches (corn, wheat, potatoes etc) and sugar (get it from fruits). Always use olive oil instead of cheaper oils. The only food that is completely out of the question is the industrialized processed food. The rule of thumb is: if you don’t know how you would make it yourself from scratch, and without heavy machinery, don’t eat it.

And of course, you eat as much as you want.

stormrider wrote on July 7th, 2010 at 1:21 AM PST:

why wholegrain products are classified one level below sugary, and many levels above fruits??? I thought people need way more fibre (wholegrain) than carbs and sugars (fruit)

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Eugenia wrote on July 7th, 2010 at 1:54 AM PST:

Because there’s a difference between complex and simple carbs. Grains, raw sugar, and most roots are simple carbs, and therefore easier digestible. Because they get digested easily, we get a sugar spike in our bloodstream. The pancreas responds, and raises insulin levels. And this causes fat storage and weight gain, and secondarily (after a few years of doing this daily), diabetes.

Fiber can be found in the vegetables and most fruits. Fruits do have sugar, but when paired with fiber, they even out. As long as you eat lots of veggies/fruits, you will get all the fiber and sugar you need daily and you will have no real need for grains or cakes. You should not cut out grains completely though. You should just make sure you eat wholegrain products only (e.g. multi-grain wholegrain bread/pasta, wild/brown rice), and only a bit of that (e.g. only 1 slice of such a bread every 2-3 days, or a bit of pasta once a week).

How you cook these foods is also important. For example, boiling a potato with its skin but eating only its flesh has a glycemic load (GL) of just 6 (the lower the GL, the better), while if you bake the same potato with the skin and you eat the flesh, it has a GL 22.

It’s also important to note with what kind of accompaniments you pair some of these foods. For example, look at this picture, of a pasta salad. Such a pasta dish is fine, because it has relatively only a bit of wholegrain pasta, but mostly fibery vegetables (like the broccoli is). You should not overdose on anything, so what most people do (eat a full bowl of pasta in one seating), is just wrong. Heck, eating just broccoli would be equally wrong. Pan metron ariston. Instead, start with a soup or salad, and then have a bit of wholegrain pasta with a bit of this veggie, and a bit of the other veggie, some nuts, some cheese, some olive oil, and you’re good to go. And at the end, eat a fruit too. Eat fish 2-4 times a week, animal meat a bit less often. Alternate between high-fiber cereal with half-fat milk (never fat-free though, good fats are actually good), and fried eggs/omelet with orange juice for breakfast. Eat either pasta, potatoes or rice no more than 2-3 times a week, and at the small portions mentioned. Most of your main entrees should be vegetables.

Again, the only things prohibited are the highly processed junk food.

Basically, the South Beach Diet is just a “eat healthy” diet. Its main purpose is to get healthy. The fact that people lose weight with this diet is just something that happens on the side of the story. And what a popular dietitian once said, is still truth: “Eat [real] food. Mostly plants. Not too much”. It’s the secret to long life (thin people live longer).

stormrider wrote on July 7th, 2010 at 5:28 AM PST:

thanks for the feedback Eugenia, it would be also a very cool addition to point out that short-frequent meals keep your metabolism working so it can process all the nutrients (in contrast to 1 large meal that shocks the metabolism and makes the body think it’s starving -therefore storing fat)

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