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Traditional ways of eating is best - A look at a controversial diet.

Sometimes the best way to learn is to look to the past and re-discover history. Yesterday, I saw an interesting documentary on CBC Newsworld entitled "My Big, Fat Diet". As soon as I saw this diet, it reminded me of the Atkins diet (ie. high protein, low carbs) and sure enough, comparisons were made later on in the show.

The premise behind this diet was to turn back the clock and return the First Nations people back to their old ways of eating. It should be noted that many aboriginals suffer from diabetes and obesity related conditions. A goal of the diet was to see how an ancestral diet would impact their health. This ancestral diet included eating lots and lots of fish and cutting out carbohydrates from packaged & processed foods (ie. cookies), as well as high starch vegetables like potatoes. There were some experts who objected to this, but I for one thought that it was a good idea for this group of people. Why? Because evolutionarily, the physiology of the First Nations were not meant to eat the way people in Western societies eat. As a matter of fact, none of us are adapted to eat highly processed, sugary foods. The points of contention in this diet were the high amounts of fats consumed and the high protein intake.

Now, I certainly wouldn't recommend this diet for the majority of the population, but for the First Nations people, who have eaten this way for centuries, I think there are benefits to be had. Although this diet is high in fats, most of the fats consumed come from fish oil. Fish oil has numerous benefits and it's been shown that First Nations people who consume large quantities of this omega 3 fatty acid suffer the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease. Most people would benefit by eating more fish or supplementing with a good quality fish oil as this will optimize their omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. However, please check with your naturopathic doctor to ensure a safe dose as certain complications or interactions can arise from supplementation.

The second point of contention is the high protein intake which can adversely affect the kidneys and cause other complications. I am definitely not in favour of a high protein diet. Although, results seem to favour this particular subset of the population, I still feel that most people's food intake should be from fruits and veggies, although there certain caveats with diabetics. I often recommend that a dinner plate consist of 1/4 meats, 1/2 veggies & 1/4 grains. However, I do believe that you can cut out the grains altogether and increase the veggie portion to 3/4. My ideal diet is a blend of the Mediterranean & Asian diet, with lots of fruits & vegetables, small meat portions, more fish consumption and healthy fats like olive oil.

Another airing of "My Big, Fat Diet" is scheduled for Sat March 15/08 at 10pm.

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