healthy diets and overall health

I was just reading an old op-ed, written by a mother who put her child on a gluten free diet bc she felt it helped his arthritis by curbing inflammatory responses. It made me wonder what people think about claims that diets (not just gluten free) can help cure illnesses. While I eat very cleany, I'm always wary about these further claims (high fat for autism and seizures, macrobiotic for cancer, etc.). Are we too focused on the value of perfect eating? Not focused enough? And I don't mean to trigger a debate about whether gluten intolerance is or isn't a real thing. What I'd really love to know is whether anyone has read up on the arguments on both sides bc I really don't know enough of the science.

  • Posted by: ATG117
  • May 28, 2013


dymnyno June 6, 2013
Because of my husband's health issue we have visited many doctors and clinics during the past year (UCSF, Mayo Clinic, Sloan Kettering, Johns Hopkins, MD Anderson, U of Michgan, Cedars of Sinai and more). The overwhelming message from EVERY single one of them is the importance of a plant based diet and the advantages of eating much less meat.
ChefJune June 6, 2013
There is no right answer. The foods that are best for my body may not be the same ones that are best for you. Imho it's important to pay attention to the information your body gives you. Some foods make a person feel great, some make one feel icky, and they're not necessarily the same for you and me.
Linn June 6, 2013
A timely question ... Here is my best take on the evidence. For gluten enteropathy (celiac disease), gluten free is the only cure. Some doctors to this day have a hard time focusing on this disease because they can not treat the condition with medication. Some supporting evidence exists that gluten free diets can be helpful for other autoimmune diseases like juvenile arthritis, lupus, irritable bowel syndrome. That would explain the example cited in your question. No evidence exists that gluten free is a healthier option for the general population. In fact, this approach could be less healthy because some good evidence exists that gluten can promote gut health, cardiovascular health, and immunity. Good evidence also exists for high fat and seizures. And yes, in response to your other question, my observation is that many of us are way too focused on the value of perfect eating and not nearly focused enough on the enjoyment of eating or the creative challenge of cooking.
healthierkitchen May 29, 2013
I wonder if I could get my daughter to do it...
healthierkitchen May 29, 2013
drbabs do you not like almond milk? My daughter has switched to unsweetened vanilla almond milk almost exclusively and loves it. I use so little milk in my life (l just never liked it) that I just stick with skim for the couple of ounces in my tea.
drbabs May 29, 2013
I'm experimenting with it now. My husband bought sweetened almond milk and it was fine on cereal. I don't like sweetener in coffee so I'll have to try unsweetened. I'm thinking of making it according to aj's recipe.
Hilarybee May 29, 2013
I've said it before on the forum and I'm a broken record. All things in moderation and attempt moderate amounts of exercise every day, like walking, bike riding etc. Don't eat out too much. Pizza is a treat I allow myself every once in a while- no more than once a month or once every two months. I've also cut back on beer and booze. I eat meat three meals a week; vegetarian or vegan the rest. I used to have dairy with every meal- yogurt for breakfast, as a snack. Cheese for lunch, cheese on dinner. Now I have it once a day and enjoy it more.

Voted the Best Reply!

ChefOno May 29, 2013

The science of diet and health is in a state of flux and I think it's safe to predict it won't be settled in our lifetimes. Much of what we believe to be true is, at the very least, in question, recent research having debunked many of the theories we've long accepted as fact. But we continue to believe with religious tenacity. Unfortunately much of what we read comes from people trying to sell books and / or promote the latest diet fad. Current thinking is that maintaining a healthful weight and an elevated level of fitness is likely to be far more important than what we eat. Stress is a proven killer so it's reasonable to assume fretting over "the perfect diet" is counterproductive and that enjoying what you eat is at least as important as what you consume (food sensitivities aside of course).

Meanwhile a great deal of misunderstanding results from confusing correlation with causation and forgetting that it is impossible to prove a negative.

Personally I don't believe in magic -- including magic "superfoods" and foods that magically make you gain weight (a calorie is a calorie regardless of political correctness).

SeaJambon May 29, 2013
I do think that everyone is an individual, and that includes how we respond to different dietary inputs. My larger family has/does include just about every food sensitivity and the issues are real -- from my grandmother who was a celiac to my daughter who is dairy intolerant. An interesting note for my daughter (now 15). When she was very young, it became clear that her common stomach upsets and occasional vomiting were linked to dairy/lactose. So, she started using lactaid pills and everything seemed fine. But, at a relatively early age, she developed acne. We went to the dermatologist, tried a raft of different medications, and they all seemed to work a bit but nothing cured the acne. The dermatologist also said "There's one other thing -- kind of radical, but it has helped a number of my clients -- stop eating dairy". She stopped and almost immediately started seeing skin improvements. It took several weeks, but her skin is now beautiful -- but only as long as she avoids dairy. So, very clearly to all of us, her body doesn't process dairy, and it isn't just lactose. Then there is my nephew with the life threatening peanut allergy. So, yes, I do think that just as AJ says "Some people feel better when they don't eat certain things, for whatever reason". Sometimes the result of eating something that doesn't agree with a specific body is radical and obvious (peanuts for my nephew; wheat for my grandmother) and other times it is more subtle (dairy for my daughter), or simply how I feel better and "cleaner" when I eat more plants than not.
AntoniaJames May 28, 2013
Some people feel better when they don't eat certain things, for whatever reason. E.g., I am eating 18 vegan meals a week for a variety of reasons, mostly health related. (It's working. Spectacularly.) Quite by chance I found that my environmental plant/dust-related allergies (not made up, believe me!) are much easier to manage when I don't eat dairy. I'm not focused on perfect eating, but I do know that some food makes me feel great, and other food makes me feel not to great. So I eat the former, and don't miss for a minute the latter. Simple as that. I realize that there is a lot of controversy about cholesterol, largely fueled by the source of funding for much of the "scientific" research. I have yet to see any studies showing that there is NO correlation between high LDL cholesterol and heart attacks in people with other risk factors, e.g., parent with heart attack, age, stress, etc. So I'm not taking any chances. The "I'll eat what I like and if I die, I die" approach strikes me as selfish and irresponsible. And I have no interest in supporting Big Pharma here (and very likely experiencing new adverse health issues) unless I'm convinced otherwise. The effects on my blood work from the change in diet have been amazing -- but then, I'm a sample size of one. I'm interested in others' responses, however. ;o)
drbabs May 29, 2013
AJ, are you following the Essestyn's plan of eating no added oil? Do you eat nuts and avocado? I'm impressed with your results and commitment-- I have been eating about 1/3 vegan but haven't been able to find an acceptable substitute for milk in my coffee-- I know you've been making your own non-dairy milk. Are you able to achieve the thickness and mouthfeel that regular milk provides?
Recommended by Food52