Looking to traditional diets, there’s a common theme among them. In Diet & Nutrition, A Holistic Approach by Rudolph Ballentine, MD, a comparison is made from diets in India, China, Japan, France, Mexico, and Middle East. Although Dr. Ballentine goes into great detail on each of these diets, for the consideration of your time, I’m going to jump straight to his final conclusion.
In general, the traditional diets of these countries consist of:
- Whole grains (breads)
- Cooked vegetables
- Leafy greens
- Dairy, meat, fish, eggs, fowl, or fermented bean foods (tofu, miso)
- Raw fruit or vegetables
Majority of the diets take from numbers 1-4 on the list, with 5 and 6 being added in every few days.
This look at traditional diets is very different from the typical diet in the Western world. But I don’t eat a traditional diet of the Western world myself. Placing breads at the top of this list, although music to some ears, struck me as completely wrong. I spent a lot of time mulling it over but couldn’t make it right in my head.
The problem is my personal experience is contradictory to this research. If I were to eat whole grains at the top of my list, my sugars would be off, my carb addiction (which is under control) would rage again, I’d be tired all the time and the list goes on. I just couldn’t wrap my head around planning my meals around breads, legumes and cooked vegetables first. I’ve studied a raw vegan lifestyle for many years. So putting raw fruit and vegetables at the bottom of the list makes zero sense.
By off chance yesterday, I pulled Body into Balance by Maria Noel Groves off my shelf and flipped through it. It’s a new book to my shelf and I haven’t spent much time with it yet. However, I flipped by a section on blood sugar control, and since I’m diabetic, I read that section. And therein was the answer to my confusion:
“Exercise may be the least sexy answer to blood sugar balance, but it may exceed any other “remedy” in effectiveness. It’s why Asians can eat all that white rice, and French can munch on their baguettes and Italians can pack in the pasta and still remain trim and healthy. They move! Constantly! These cultures thrive on farming and manual labor and biking or walking everywhere they need to go. Forget a few hours of exercise — they often perform physically demanding tasks 20 hours or more a week. Here in the United States, on the other hand, we tend to sit most of the day, walking only to and from the car.”
Although this passage is referring to a processed or ‘white’ rice, bread and pasta, it still spoke to me in that she was referring to a processed carbohydrate heavy diet, mentioning the same countries that Dr. Ballentine based his research on. This passage put my mind at great ease. My positive experiences with lowering carbs in my diet were justified. Having whole grains at the top of my food chain doesn’t work for me. I don’t put in 20 hours of heavy manual labour each week, so I’m justified in adjusting my diet accordingly.
Now, I feel good about standing behind my low-carb guideline. Being diabetic, if I wanted to eat a higher carb diet, I’d have to spend an insane amount of time at gym. Which would be fine, if I was willing to put the work in, but, seriously, no thanks. I have enough trouble sticking to that routine as it is!
Lesson learned. Even when reading something reliable, if an idea doesn’t sit right, keep digging until you’re satisfied that you’ve got a bigger picture.