I was raised in a family who eats a mixture of both vegetables and meat. My parents didn’t come from affluent roots, so we learned to live within the means of their salaries and savings. Back then, so many of the diseases and disorders that we currently know of did not exist.
Kids were taught about GO, GROW and GLOW foods. It was textbook knowledge that calcium comes from dairy (milk) and that protein comes from meat. At least, that was the only truth back then.
In the family, I’m the only one who is lactose intolerant. Unfortunately for me, my mother loves milk. She would advise that milk is taken first thing in the morning and before bed. She would buy the best milk that our budget can buy; and would be excited to pour me that cold fresh milk. I always loved its texture and taste, but I didn’t know that it was the cause of my suffering.
From what I recall, I was never adverse to eating meat, but I always did prefer the white meat, especially seafood dishes. However, because we came from an Ilocano root (Northern Philippine provinces), we do love serving vegetable dishes. I would always prefer greens to anything that’s on the table. This, however, wasn’t how my sisters would prefer their meal. They are true carnivores! To me, it was a benefit. I get bigger servings of the greens I love. They can both fight over that meat for all they want! 😅
On a side note, having been raised in a family of Ilocanos, we love our food to be on the salty side. My mother would always use soy sauce, fish sauce and salt to season any and every dish. Spices were not a thing for us. And, on mornings that are lazy and cold, coffee and bread is always a go-to because my mother’s staple food is bread. Needless to say, both my parents are hypertensive.
Fast forward to the current century, so many different diets were born for different reasons. Let’s tackle some that I think are important considerations for picking a diet.
1. Lifestyle related changes. Sometimes, moving to a new location would present some challenges in procuring the staples that you love or have gotten used to. Highlands in the Philippines have more fresh produce compared to the cities; and they cost less too. Importing the vegetables to the cities add more cost.
2. Economical. For obvious reasons, vegetables are a lot cheaper than meat sources. You can find vegetables in wet markets for as low as Php 20 ($.25) and you can already have a meal (given that you need only one ingredient).
3. Sustainability. Sometimes, you’d rather change your diet for global sustainability reasons. Vegans choose to patronize goods that aren’t animal (and animal by-products) sourced. In the long run, this is the most sustainable way of eating.
4. Health. When people usually change diets, this is the biggest reason for their switch. There are huge benefits to changing a diet, as it can propel you towards good health; however, this is not a bullet proof solution to disease cure. One diet cannot solve all problems of the human body.
I classify myself under this diet group. I eat 99% vegetables and I prefer them in their raw form. I like to see the leaves and their skins and their real colors and shapes.
In 2015, I suffered one scary mild stroke. That same day, I called myself a vegetarian and simply stopped eating meat. Prior to that date, I was already diagnosed with hypertension and was already taking anti hypertensive medications on a daily basis. However, becoming a vegetarian didn’t solve my problems. What I gained though from this switch is a major weight loss and an obvious spike in my energy levels. I was fuller, longer; hence, I ate less but was always happy when I ate vegetables. That was my major win.
Here in the Philippines, I find it difficult for one to become vegan. Almost every other product in the commercial market is an animal by-product. Leather belt, wallet, clothing, dusters, etc. Your favorite milk tea has milk! and milk came from animals! 🐮
One can say that vegetarianism is a sub class of veganism. Vegetarians can still eat eggs or milk if they prefer. I myself am an ovo-vegetarian since I still eat eggs.
Nowadays, more food in the market are becoming vegan-friendly. They cook without the aid of animal by-products and some even go to the extent of preparing veganized versions of the normally meat-filled dishes. Think Beyond Meat, etc.
One major win, vegans and vegetarians are probably eating more proteins than the meat lovers'!
This is seriously a new diet that’s still emerging. A flexitarian would sometimes eat pure vegan / vegetarian meals and sometimes switch back to eating meat. It all depends on the season, their intentions and/or maybe their locations. Their schedule of change is entirely their own choosing.
My partner is a pescatarian. His diet is mostly comprised of eating seafood and a little bit of vegetables. If you eat only white meat, then maybe you could be pescatarian too. This includes crustaceans, fishes, etc.
I met someone who claims he doesn’t eat anything that isn’t a fruit! 🍇 I was surprised to hear this. He said, he eats only purely fruits everyday and he prefers them in their original form. Skin and all. So, he packs his fruits wherever he goes because he can’t always find places to eat where there are fruits.
Well, meat-eaters. Meat lovers. Think, chicken, beef, pork, seafood. And everything in between.
Allergies and Intolerances
In the early 2000s, there was a rise of people suffering from autoimmune diseases. These diseases vary and create cells that attack healthy cells within the body simply because they don’t recognize it to be part of a body’s fuel or one that is called food (regardless of whether it was indeed edible or not).
Let's define terms first.
An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders. – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000816.htm
Allergy: an abnormal reaction of the body to a previously encountered allergen introduced by inhalation, ingestion, injection, or skin contact, often manifested by itchy eyes, runny nose, wheezing, skin rash, or diarrhea. – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/allergy
Surely, if you have an allergy, you’ll know how it feels. Each one of us experiences different reactions to different food sources. Some would have swelling, or itching, and some won’t even be able to breath. This is a danger to our health and sometimes, can be fatal. Make sure to ask your parents if you had known allergies when you were younger. Every 5-10 years, our bodies would adapt to our lifestyle and diet. What you were allergic to before might not affect you anymore, and vice versa.
Do not forget, that the human body is a big piece of artificial intelligence. If you eat something too often, you develop some form of immunity or allergy in the end. You need to vary your food intake and make it beneficial for your body in the end.
When I was younger, I loved green peas. I ate it in several different forms of preparation (in soups, in vegetable dishes, as a snack, dried, fried, baked). Fast forward to today, I have developed some form of allergy to it. Same with peanuts. However, milk is a different story for me.
I would always know how to right down my allergies in medical forms. But intolerances is a different ball game altogether. Nobody even asks for that in forms!
Food intolerances: A food intolerance, or a food sensitivity occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food. This can lead to symptoms such as intestinal gas, abdominal pain or diarrhea. – https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/food-intolerance
Simply put, intolerances mean, your body cannot tolerate something. If it can’t, it will make up different excuses for you to remember that your body doesn’t like it. These could be in the form of a mild headache, dizziness, stomach pain, itching skin, diarrhea, etc.
In 2017, I was still battling several illnesses. One of them was hyperthyroidism. This is another form of disease that affects the central nervous system and the circulatory system. I had different medications and I wanted to up my game to become healthier. I took my blood to have it tested for food intolerances. It was an expensive laboratory test, but I was determined to have all my questions answered. I was a migraine-girl and I hated living like that. Every other thing hurts.
Until I got my results, everything was difficult for me to understand. I couldn’t find a nutritionist in the Philippines (nobody was responding to my queries for consultation). So, I started learning on my own. I learned that I was intolerant to a lot of my favorite foods and had to learn how to swap them around. I also learned not to eat the same kind of food in three straight days and would rotate my meals every 2 weeks.
If you have frequent symptoms of headache, migraine, dizziness, bloating, etc, and is otherwise healthy without any illness, your diet could be the culprit. Learn what your intolerances are and move from thereon. I have not had that much migraine attacks anymore. From a daily migraine attack, I was able to reduce it to 2-3x per year.
Intolerances go beyond these petty symptoms though. Prolonged ignorance of these foods might cause you to acquire an autoimmune disease. Your body will think you are feeding it an enemy and attack your own cells. In the long run, you might become allergic to these foods, or that your symptoms could end up in mild cognitive impairment. So, take it seriously. You don’t have to completely eliminate them from your diet, just keep them to a very low minimum—like once a week is fine.
These diets are not a bullet proof cure for any disease
Why? That was also my question before.
When I turned vegetarian, I still had hypertension. I didn’t want to depend on medication alone because it was a sorry excuse for living. The medications also slowed my metabolism and made me fat. The last straw for me was when a same-floor neighbor told me I was getting fat, and my sorry reply was that I’m under medication that can increase my weight. It sounded like an excuse to me, so I tried to change things! 🙈
I learned about several things that helped me later on and helped others too.
1. Intermittent fasting. This practice amps your metabolism and burns your stored fat. Be careful though, this won't work for those with thyroid diseases and/or diabetes.
2. High intensity exercises in a fasted state. It burned more calories and helped me become stronger down the road.
3. Blood type eating: eat best foods for your blood type and limit those that are bad for you.
4. Spices and minerals and vitamins are king. An imbalance of minerals and vitamins affect our central nervous system and circulatory system.
Vegans and vegetarians are prone to fatigue and anemia from the lessened intake of vitamin B12. Vegans probably consume more soy than those who eat more of unprocessed foods—so be careful if you’re a vegan choosing fake meats over eating vegetables in their real form. Processed foods still contain more of the unwanted chemicals produced during processing.
Pescatarians are prone to suffering hyperthyroidism because seafood contain more iodine than other food sources. Moreover, crustaceans have high purine which may lead to gout and/or arthritis. Crabs and shrimps also have higher cholesterol sources, so watch out for hypertension again.
Fruitarians should be wary about their blood sugar. Fructose is still a sugar that is produced by fruits and may not be as bad as man-made sugar, but it is still sugar. The body does not need sugar. Read that again. Rice and other starchy vegetables like potatoes already produce the sugar that the body might need, so anything extra is bad—they all go straight to your blood.
Carnivores should also worry about gout/arthritis as meat is a high source of purine. On the side, meat production is not globally sustainable because it creates heat and consumes more water. There’s also the risk of animal diseases, parasites and the consumption of antibiotics injected into the meat for preserving them.
What’s your choice?
The flexitarian may be a laughing stock amongst all the diet groups. Some might feel like what’s the point? They probably cannot commit to anything that’s why they choose this. 🤷♀️ However, I’d say, they probably make the most sense out of every other diet.
The Buddhist principle advocates this. When you are on your own, prepare your meals the way you want to. They way your body prefers. If you are sick (say, lacking in B12), supplement or eat other food sources as your doctor would advice. If you are in another home, eat what your host serves you (as long as you don’t puke) 🤢 I for one, I tell my host, they can serve me anything but I prefer vegetables over white meat and could no longer eat meat from animals who walk. It makes me upset. If they can’t serve any of these, I would prefer to bring my own food or buy outside.
Personally, every two weeks, I try to buy from packed meal deliveries for variation and to let my body try other food, as long as I avoid my allergens and keep my intolerances to a minimum.
There's no easy way to hack the body. It's a combination of common sense and listening to how your body responds to what you eat. Remember, eating is a complicated process. The taste isn't everything. We become what we eat.
Stay healthy everyone!