Are we making informed decisions about what we're eating?

Popular diets today include the Paleo, Ketogenic, Vegan, Vegetarian, and Mediterranean diets, and we are inundated with reports, news, and recent “proof” from sources we have come to trust, that each one is unquestionably the absolute best.  As with any subject we study, the more we learn, the more insight we have.  When it comes to learning about which diet is the healthiest however, I think the public is more confused than ever.

“My friend’s husbands cousins wife says that she’s feeling great on the new cupcake diet, so that’s who I’ve started following.”  I know this is a little far-fetched but honestly, I hear similar statements quite often.  People just love hearing good news about their bad habits and will jump on the latest “trend” wagon believing that they can have their cupcake and eat it too.   We tend to want instant results, but we all know that there is no magic pill or quick fix solution to better health.  The scary part is that the implications of long-term compliance of fad diets are not known, yet the masses are willing to try just about anything.

What we believe to be a healthy diet is, in large part, grounded in our culture, upbringing, education, and own personal health experiences. Today, our opinions about food are further influenced by biased reports, marketing and popularity.  “If everyone’s doing it, it must be good for me.”  When it comes to our health, informed decision making is key, and in today’s society, it is greatly lacking.  

Additionally, powerful marketing ploys get in the way of the truth, so it's even more important for us to dig a little deeper and find out exactly what we're allowing into our bodies.  I’m pleased to know that the new guidelines from Health Canada include information on how marketing can influence our food choices, and this section is definitely worth reading. 

Unlike fad diets, there is one diet showing long-term evidence of improved health.  In fact, recent reports show that one of the most powerful steps we can take towards improving our health is to move toward a plant-based diet.  Whole, plant-based foods contain the highest amount of life-giving and disease fighting nutrients.  Processed foods and supplements can not take the place of real food.

Global statistics continue to show that many of us have already made dietary changes in this direction, and Vegan and Vegetarian Population Statistics around the world reflect that the popularity of more plant-based diets is soaring.  Some of the health authorities supporting this claim included Health Canada, Diabetes Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

When looking at the vegan population statistics in the United States, the research firm Globaldata found that “In 2014, only 1% of the American population labeled themselves as vegan, and that in 2017, the “figure spiked to 6%.”  In Canada veganism was the most search trend in 2017.  According to the Google Trends Report “plant-based diet” topped the search list.  

Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke, Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases, and Diabetes are the leading diseases in Canada, and Canada’s food guide reflects research for the best dietary choices to help reduce the risk of developing these conditions.  It recommends that “protein foods should make up a quarter of your plate” and “when choosing your protein foods, choose plant-based more often.”  The new guide also recommends we eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein plant foods, and healthy fats instead of saturated fats. 

Countries such as Great Britain, Australia, Portugal, Germany, and China are seeing an increase in plant-based food choices as well, and Euromonitor International reports that Italy had the fastest growing vegetarian population; a 94% increase from 2011 to 2016. 

Surprising to me is recent arrival of plant-based options at restaurants and fast-food chains.  While still processed food, the sudden increase of veggie burgers and breakfast “sausages” confirms that today’s consumers have spoken and that these companies have not only listened, but calculated the potential profit.  We know that companies of this size only make changes if strong evidence points to increased sales.  

While transitioning to this way of eating raises red flags and plenty of questions, with the first often being how to get enough protein, I feel the concern should be how to eat for optimal health and disease prevention.  

Over time, and as the implementation of whole food plant-based diets continues to increase, health statistics will reflect lower rates of illnesses and disease. Less sickness and suffering, fewer childhood illnesses, less Cancer and early deaths, fewer people suffering from mental instability, and a society that is thriving the way nature intended.  What a different world that will be from the one we have come to know.

As a Holistic Nutritional Consultant and Holistic Cancer Coach I provide information that is intended, not to criticize any particular diet, but to share evidence-based, unbiased research, that connects common eating patterns with improved health.  

I compare it to buying a new house.  We check out all the little details of the property ourselves first, imagine each room with our belongings in it, and imagine ourselves living there. Generally, though, if considering a purchase, we don’t sign on the dotted line before having the property professionally inspected.  When making a large investment, we want more than the sellers’ word that the structure of the house is sound and that the electrical plumbing systems are good for the next several years.  We put our trust in a proven expert to assess the property with an unbiased eye and outline exactly what we are getting ourselves into.   

The same thing goes when a sales associate is helping us buy a smart phone, laptop or car.  We listen to their sales pitch and then go to Google for unbiased product feedback and supporting evidence.  We make informed decisions before putting our money down.  If only we took this much care in what we put into our bodies.

This is Janice, inspiring change