Food is Medicine: Choosing the Right Dietary Guidelines

Between diet fads, juice cleanses and “clean eating” claims left, right and centre, it can be difficult to decipher what “healthy” really means these days. Does it mean eating only homegrown produce and meat? Or does it simply mean cutting out processed foods? What about sugar? Dairy? Fats? Protein sources?

Even as the vegan-raised daughter of a nutritionist, all the buzz has had me confused in the past. Since we cannot have Danielle (our holistic nutritionist) follow us everywhere, I have decided to break down the great diet debate and why this has become so controversial. After all, every body is different, but knowing the different benefits of certain food groups will help you make the right choices.

If you want to optimize your energy, digestion, weight and fitness you must listen to your own body’s reactions. The golden rule: food is medicine! Realistically, if a food has a commercial, you shouldn’t be eating it! Every food commercial I have seen is an advertisement for a swamp of processed and genetically modified ingredients (yes, including orange juice), not to mention packed with sugar. Fun fact: sugar is said to be as addictive as drugs like nicotine or cocaine; you feel great during a sugar feast because sugar triggers the release of dopamine (the same “feel good” neurotransmitter as other drugs), with sugar being the only food that does not allow your dopamine levels to naturally balance over time. Consequently, your brain cannot tell you when you’ve had enough and ends up forming an addiction in more serious cases.

To keep things simple: no matter which diet you choose, there is always going to be the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the case of nutrition you could call that the vegetables, the refined sugar, and the genetically modified organisms (GMOs). So to clarify, vegetables are great. Eat an unlimited variation to get a wide range of nutrients from potassium, iron, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid) to A, B and C Vitamins.  Refined sugar - found in essentially anything packaged these days from juices, granola bars, crackers, yogurts and so on - is the monster under the bed. This is what you should be afraid of and avoiding at all cost! I mean, we’re not perfect… a treat is harmless here and there, but try to make that a weekly or even monthly thing. And by all means, not with every meal! Now for the ugly, literally cell-morphing and cancer causing genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). If you haven’t been paying attention to every piece of health news over the last couple years, the rudimental reason we’ve been warned against these are their reputation for causing free radicals in our body that lead to cancer.

NOW… moving on. After researching the most popular diets explored in the 21st century, I have found the most evidence supporting a plant-based diet. With that being said, those who do not want or need to give up properly raised and naturally fed animal products are leaning towards a paleo-style diet.

Here are the common features amongst vegan/plant-based and paleo diets that our nutritionist, Danielle, and I agree that every diet should follow:
  1. Very low glycemic load: low in sugar, flour, and refined carbohydrates of all kinds.
  2. High in fruits and even higher in vegetables. The deeper the colours and variety, the better the phytonutrient content that protects against most diseases.
  3. Low in pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, and low or no GMO foods.
  4. No chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG, artificial sweeteners.
  5. Higher in good-quality fats such as those from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados (rather than conventional animal products and vegetable oils).
  6. Adequate protein for appetite control and muscle synthesis.
  7. Organic, local and fresh foods.
  8. Little to no dairy. (For most it contributes to inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and may increase - not decrease - the risk of osteoporosis).

The main differences between these diets are the beliefs surrounding grains and animal products. If you have been tested and are indeed gluten intolerant, you may want to test your reaction to the paleo diet, which removes grains, legumes and starches from the vegan/plant-based alternative. The idea behind this is that the 3 aforementioned food groups are part of the FODMAP family (acronym, deriving from "Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols, which are all “short chain carbohydrates (oligosaccharides), disaccharides, monosaccharides and related alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine”) which cause inflammation, indigestion and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID).

On the other hand, vegans (excluding moral reasons) believe that consuming animal products (including fish and eggs) should be avoided altogether, given that the ingestion of additional hormones, toxins, fat and cholesterol are linked to cancers of all sorts, hormonal imbalance, cardiovascular diseases, infertility, autoimmunity diseases, metabolic dysfunction and more.

My belief? “Pegan” (following the combined guidelines of both paleo and vegan) is probably best, unless you are eating a very minimal amount of animal products that you raised yourself. The main reason being that you just can’t trust anyone these days! Which brings me to my main point - don’t trust me, trust science and your body. My honest practice: mainly vegan, with indulgences in cheese, chocolate and fish. I am not recommending you strictly adhere and never enjoy your favorite treat again, but merely pointing out that every time you eat something you are either feeding disease or fighting it. If you are curious about cutting down (or out!) on certain foods, speak to Danielle about your goals, symptoms, and options to learn how beneficial the incorporation of a personalized nutrition plan will have on your body.

Email or call us to book an in-person OR virtual appointment with our renowned Holistic Nutritionist and Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Danielle Bossin-Hardy!

Gracee Shorter
Client Relations Manager



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