Nutrition and Exercise #4

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Nutrition & Exercise, Personal Whining

I’ve been holding off on continuing this thread of posts till I finished reading the book.  I’m almost done now.

Last weekend I went to visit a friend who had also purchased a nutrition book recently and who was enthusiastically trying the diet.  It seemed, at first glance, exactly the opposite, being a “raw food” diet.  As suggested by the title, this diet involves eating only raw and live foods, so there are a lot of veggie and fruit smoothies (with rice milk). The book was pretty “thick”, but I have to admit that I didn’t have a chance to investigate it to any depth.

When comparing the “Raw Food” diet with the Taubes suggestions, though, there are fewer differences than you might think.  Both start off saying that fresh veggies are a preferred food.  Taubes states clearly that several cups of fresh or cooked vegetables are essential to a proper diet.  He also says, however, that fruit needs to be eaten in moderation as it contains a lot of fructose, regardless of whatever other nutrients it may have.  (Commercial fruit juices, it seems, contain more sugar calories than does Coke or Pepsi!)  Where the two diets diverge is in other foods.  Taubes strongly advocated eating protein and fat based foods before eating carbohydrates.  He states that it is unrealistic to expect dieters to subsist on fresh vegetables, as, biochemically, they are just setting themselves up for increased hunger cravings.  This is why he says that so many diets fail.  If you have to provide more nourishment to your body than can be provided by subsistence veggies, he states that it is proteins and fats that are better than carbs, as these don’t trigger the insulin reaction which leads to storing fat.  The Raw Food diet simply says that you don’t go beyond those subsistence veggies!!  Whether this is realistic or not is a separate question.  If someone can pull it off, then they are automatically reducing their carbs and so are going to achieve the same thing as Taubes’ diet.  Taubes says that this is unnecessary, as the proteins and fats don’t really add to the fat accumulating process.

I mentioned that the Raw Food book was thick.  That wasn’t totally sarcastic.  One of the things that appeal to me about Taubes’ book is the thorough explanation of the scientific principles behind nutrition and fat accumulation.  His detailed description of insulin production and tolerance, fatty acids and triglycerides is very valuable in understanding the overall picture and providing confidence in his theories.  In a previous issue, when discussing how to evaluate and verify this mess of information, I mentioned that “consider the source” was a valuable criteria.  Another is scientific evidence, and Taubes has done an excellent job of providing both biochemical evidence and a survey of countless studies looking at success and failure in the diet world.  Any nutritional or diet theory is obligated to provide the same level of scientific evidence in order to be considered a reasonable competition.  If they fall short, they don’t deserve to be considered equal or better than Taubes theories.  As I said, I didn’t have a chance to investigate the book in too much detail, so I can’t comment on this.  Perhaps my friend will read this and comment.

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