For years I’ve been eating and advocating an omnivorous produce-dominated diet, one that is vegetable rich but not vegetarian where vegetables or vegetables and fruits make up the largest volume of food consumed. My previous book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook, features fascinating facts about the benefits of such a diet and how it can facilitate body fat reduction and long term weight control, a clear complexion and more youthful skin, better mental focus, good digestion and elimination, reduced food cravings, lifelong vitality, and healthier smarter children.
My co-author, Don Matesz, and I include documented food ways of pre-agricultural people free of modern degenerative diseases who ate this way. We expound on the benefits of fruits and vegetables (as well as meat and show readers how they can easily consume 3 to 5 USDA servings of produce per meal.
Mainstream is catching up
Still, it’s taken the mainstream media a while to advocate a diet richer in vegetables and fruits where fresh produce replaces more of the grain, processed food, and sugar. Several months ago I read an article in the Nutrition Action Health Letter advocating eating more vegetables and fewer grains to provide more alkaline buffers, thereby reducing muscle wasting and to bone loss as we age.
We knew that!
This is something Don and I discuss in our Garden of Eating Book (published in January of 2004) that we learned from the work of professor Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, and his colleagues Dr. David A. Bushinsky, M.D., professor of medicine and pharmacology and physiology at the University of Rochester (New York) School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Dr. Anthony Sebastian, M.D., professor in the Department of Medicine and General Clinical Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco.
How to create an alkaline diet
In our book we show that you don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to create an alkaline diet. We show that all you have to do is eat more than twice as much fruits and vegetables as meat [or grain] to avoid a net acid overload to your system.
Why does this matter?
“Normal metabolism produces acids, including sulfuric acid, a by-product of protein breakdown. Too much acid accumulation will irritate, inflame, and erode tissues and impair the function of energy-generating and life-sustaining systems. To neutralize and excrete these acids, the body needs a reserve of alkaline elements or compounds.
“Fruits and vegetables provide potassium citrate and malate that the body metabolizes to potassium bicarbonate, which effectively neutralizes acidic by-products of metabolism. If this bicarbonate is not available, calcium may be drawn from the bones to neutralize acids before excretion." (Excertp from The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook.)
The scientists we site in The Garden of Eating found that a slight systemic acidosis corrodes bones and muscles, reduces rejuvenating growth hormone production, and accelerates aging. Other studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
Veggies win again!
The April 2011 issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter includes another study that expounds on the benefits of eating more fresh vegetables and fruit.
“Call it sneaky. Call it smart,” they say. “If you secretly swap pureed vegetables for other ingredients in some dishes, people will eat fewer calories and won’t notice the difference.” (Hey, we’ve been telling people to do that for more than a decade!)
Nutrition Action editors site a recent study where “Researchers at Pennsylvania State University offered 41 young men and women breakfast, lunch, and dinner once a week for three weeks. At each meal, one dish—the carrot bread at breakfast, the macaroni and cheese for lunch, and the chicken-and-rice casserole for dinner—contained pureed vegetables in place of other ingredients.”
They found that “When enough pureed vegetables were added to triple the amount of veggies in a dish, the calories [consumed] dropped by 15%. When enough were added to increase the vegetables by 4 1/2 times, the calories [consumed] dropped by 25%.”
How much food do you eat?
For years Don Matesz and I have both been telling people that studies have shown that most people eat 3 to 5 pounds of food a day (1095 to 1825 pounds a year or at least half a ton!) and that if you eat more vegtables and fruits you can crowd out less nutritious and more calorie dense foods, making weight control and blood sugar control easier while adding more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more soluble fiber, a less irritating form of fiber found predominantly in vegetables and fruits.
Interestingly Penn State researchers found that “People consumed the same weight of food regardless of the amount of pureed vegetables the dish contained. So on days when the vegetables were tripled, the participants ate 200 fewer calories. And on days when the vegetables were multiplied by 4 1/2, they ate 360 fewer calories. But hunger and fullness ratings stayed the same.” That means you can eat more food for fewer calories when vegetables or vegetables and fruits, which have a low calorie density, make a large portion of what you eat.
Thank you Penn State researchers and Nutrition Action editors for another piece of work supporting paleo and primal diets and what my co-author Don and I have been teaching for years. It also supports other research showing that portion control, simply eating smaller portions of highly stimulating and calorie dense foods, rarely works for long term weight control.
They key to long term weight control consists in eating a diet that allows you to eat your fill of nutritious foods at meals (or meals and snacks), so you can feel satisfied without having to play tricks on your mind, such as eating from smaller plates. Studies have repeatedly shown that being able to eat a large volume of food increases feelings of satisfaction at meals. The diet I have found most effective in allowing me and others I know to lose weight and keep it off without feeling deprived is a Paleo or Primal Diet. If you haven’t read much about it, I encourage you to order a copy of Don’s and my book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbok. You'll find the best price online here plus you'll get a sample shopping list that goes with the sample month of menus in the book.
Other good reads on paleo and primal diet include The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf, The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy by Mark Sisson, The Paleo Diet: Lose weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat and The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain, PhD, and The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet.
If you enjoyed this article, I encourage you to tell your friends about it and about my blog and my books. You can subscribe to this blog at the top of this page (left side) to receive email updates when I make new posts. I plan to review more paleo diet books soon. I will also be doing some book giveaways!