There are hundreds of diet products on grocery store shelves. Some of them you have tried, thinking that they sounded reasonably sane or “Judy at the office did well on it,” but you still have questions about how useful they are. You will find some important guidance below.
Historical human diets?
For thousands of years, humans have been eating meat, fruits and plant matter, and grains. Our bodies are well suited to this type of diet. Unfortunately, because of social pressures, religion or the occasional “wild hare” of an idea, modern diets are not always good for the people who choose them. Rob Dunn, of North Carolina State University, gives this gentle caveat:
Paleolithic diets, caveman diets, primal diets and the like, urge us to remember the good ole days. Taken too literally, such diets are ridiculous.
There are people still walking around who will swear to you that a beef steak will kill you. Others are certain that their soup diet gives them a match made in heaven. Some declare they will eat nothing that once had a face, and they give up eggs, dairy, seafood and common sense.
You may choose what you will and will not eat. You may even be assisted in this at your next dinner party. You should not, however, willingly subject yourself to avoidable nutritional deficiencies.
It had a nice smile
Those things that make people think of house pets have been human food for a long time. In the case of cows, humans have a pretty good deal going, since meat is one of the foods that supplies essential nutrients either not found in plants or found at levels too low to be helpful to humans. Giving up meat, as vegetarians are wont to do, can complicate your life if you care to avoid potential nutrient shortages in your diet.
“I know this will sound awful to vegetarians, but meat made us human,” said researcher Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, an archaeologist at Complutense University in Madrid.
Most people are familiar with the concept of vitamins and their usefulness in the human diet. Are enough of them present in the vegetarian or vegan diet, without supplementation, to keep you healthy? In a word: No.
Normally, adults should consume about 5,000 IU (International Units) of vitamin A each day. Ideally, that compound should come from cod liver oil, liver, butter, egg yolks, cream or whole milk.
How about vitamin D? By now, most know that, in order to maintain healthy calcium ingestion, people need to get more vitamin D than anyone ever knew before about 2007. Nutritionists and doctors now call for an increase from the old standard of about 400 mg (milligrams) each day to as much as 1,000 mg per day. How do you do this?
A little extra on the plate
Unless your doctor tells you to avoid the sunshine, you should go out in the sunshine for ten to fifteen minutes at least twice a week. This exposure needs to be without sunscreen, which will defeat the purpose. By the way, since your skin manufactures vitamin D using dietary fat (cholesterol), vegetarians and those on low-fat diets may need to supplement their food intake.
“The bottom line is, it is certainly possible to survive on an exclusively raw diet in our modern day, but it was most likely impossible to survive on an exclusively raw diet when our species appeared,” Herculano-Houzel told LiveScience.
Vegetarians may also find that their diet has short-changed them of copper, which is an important tool in the body’s regulation of cholesterol, sugar and uric acid levels.
Finally, vegetarians and vegans should be aware that eggs and dairy products, not egg substitutes and margarines, supply essential amino acids such as lysine, thyromine and methionine. These help you to deal with stress; if your diet does not have them or contains too little, you may need amino acid supplements to set you right.
It’s your body, your health
The discussion above does not exhaustively cover the deficiencies likely with vegetarian and vegan dietary practices. If you or someone you care for follows this lifestyle, you should investigate nutritional sources for their own safety and longevity.
Since dietary choices can sometimes be used to define persons, ensure that you educate yourself and take charge of this very important activity. Eating is for life, not simply for fun, and it is your health to protect. Do well at it, and you can be happy for a long time, knowing that you have done what few others could or would: You have taken proper care of you.