Healthful Dieting


The Atkins diet so popular today has helped many people lose weight.  A major reason it is able to do this is because it gets people to shift from consuming so many pastries and bread-type foods made with refined sugar and refined flour to more protein-rich foods.


However, this diet has been misunderstood in several ways.  As the Atkins people say, this does not mean one should eat a lot of meat and cut out vegetables, fruits and other wholesome foods.  Meats, cheeses, butter, eggs and animal fat-based cooking contribute to weight gain, while vegetable oils are not stored as body fat, but can actually help the body eliminate fatty deposits stored in body cells.


There is a big difference between refined and unrefined carbohydrates.  Refined carbohydrates like white flour and white sugar are high-glycemic index foods.  This means they can contribute to weight gain.  Unrefined carbohydrates, like whole, unpolished grains, cereals and breads made from whole-grains, vegetables and beans, even though they contain carbohydrates, are considered low-glycemic index foods.  They do not contribute to weight gain; in fact they can help regulate body weight due to their high-fiber content.


Nutritional research has long known that high-fiber foods help regulate blood cholesterol, provide bulk for normal intestinal activity, contribute to maintenance of healthy intestinal flora, and keep undigested food moving through the digestive tract so it is not absorbed to build body weight unnecessarily.  Food fiber also absorbs fat from fatty foods like a sponge to keep it from being absorbed into the body.  Excess fat is then eliminated from the body through regular bowel activity.


If enough high-fiber foods are not included in the daily diet, fatty food can actually deposit in pockets of the intestinal lining, creating diverticuli.  Over time, these undigested food accumulations not only can block absorption of food nutrients, but can irritate the intestinal wall and result in diverticulitis, chronic enlargement and inflammation of pockets in the intestinal lining.  Complications of intestinal irritation can include IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) colitis, Chrone’s disease and other digestive tract disorders.


The best way to protect yourself from these complications is to insure your diet includes high-fiber foods like whole grain cereals, breads made from whole-wheat flour products, and avoid foods containing refined carbohydrates, like sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, and even fructose and maltose, since these can also be refined carbohydrates.  


Most traditional diets around the world were based around some form of whole cereal grains, such as whole wheat, oats, barley and rye in European areas, unpolished rice, barley and wheat in Asiatic areas, corn among indigenous populations of North and South America.  Whole grain cereals provide the highest amount of fiber per unit of energy-producing carbohydrate of any natural whole foods. 


Milling grains and separating the bran produced the first refined grain products.  This alteration of the “staff of life” dramatically changed what was a wholesome diet into one that lacked many vitamins, minerals, oils, and fiber so essential to health of the digestive system, as well as health generally.


Beans contain both carbohydrates and proteins.  The Atkins diet recognizes beans as a healthy part of a weight-reducing diet, even though they contain carbohydrates.  Again, this is because beans also contain a lot of fiber and no fat. 


The diets of many indigenous peoples, including native peoples of North and South America were based on corn, beans and squash.  These foods are all high in fiber, carbohydrate and protein, making them ideal for weight control.  The only ingredients that should be deleted are pig fat (manteca), high amounts of dairy products and refined sugar.  Unrefined vegetable oils and natural sweeteners like honey or agave syrup are good substitutions to add sweetness.  Soy products like soy butter, soy milk and soy cheese instead of dairy can make this diet both nourishing and healthful.  Using these healthful alternatives also provides isoflavones so important for female hormone balances.


If meat, chicken and/or dairy products are desired, using them sparingly as was done typically in most traditional recipes and still is in many areas helps keep fat and blood cholesterol levels low, averting digestive disorders, cancers and other modern ailments. 


The traditional Oriental diet has contributed many high-protein and healthful alternatives, such as miso, an aged soy-based puree that can be used as a soup base or sauce ingredient; tempeh, a soy-based, myceliated cake that can be fried and tastes like cheese; tofu, which does not taste like much until it is seasoned and prepared in various ways; and wheat gluten cutlets, which can be made to taste like chicken, duck, meat or even jerky, depending on which seasonings and preparation methods are used.


With the advent of animal diseases such as avian flu that affects poultry, mad cow disease, pesticide, antibiotics and growth hormone residues, parasites and other concerns, there is a good reason to build one’s diet more around grain and legume-based recipes. 


Obesity in the US as well as most other “developed” areas has become a major health concern.  Reducing or eliminating fatty meats, dairy products and refined carbohydrates can help one lose weight naturally, healthfully and permanently.  It can also insure that you do not become a victim of heart disorders which are also a major health concern and cause of death for both men and women in the USA.


Fred Pulver