When I learned I had lymphoma one of the first things I did was try to figure out what to eat in order to help fight it.
I spent some time as a vegetarian back in my college days. And while I eventually abandoned that diet regime for something more “meat ‘n’ taters”, the experience left me with an innate sense of the important part that food plays in our health.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think I needed to drop a few pounds so over the years I’ve spent plenty of time looking for an answer to the question, “What should I eat?”
The answer I’ve come up with after seemingly endless hours of research? “I don’t know.”
As far as I can tell, neither does anyone else. Show me a purported expert and I’ll show you a diet guru who asserts just the opposite. For example:
- The still-popular Atkins diet promotes low carbohydrate consumption and LOTS of protein (read: red meat, cheese, eggs). The USDA “Food Pyramid” recommends LOTS of carbs (whole grains, fruits, veggies) with protein being almost an afterthought.
- Compare that USDA “Food Pyramid” with the currently fashionable “Paleo” diet. Like Atkins, Paleo espouses copious amounts of animal protein and veggies, some fruit, but restricts grains (the Pyramid’s foundation), legumes and most dairy products.
- Then there are those who champion the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Meat? Forget about it! Vegetarians allow themselves eggs and dairy products. Vegans, however, eschew ALL animal products. (Veganism is often as much a philosophical statement as it is a way of eating.)
I concluded that I would not trust my physical well-being to any of the “experts” because it became obvious to me that none of them actually were.
Rather, I would use my own knowledge, intuition and a whole lot of common sense to fashion a diet that I felt was best for me. As I often do when faced with confusion, I turned to Nature for help and asked,
“What do apes eat?”
Why apes? We share over 98% of the same DNA. Our digestive tracts are similar-much longer intestinal tract than carnivores, as meat is far easier to digest than plants. Our teeth are similar-lots of molars for grinding plant-based foods, but still a few vestigial incisors for ripping and tearing animal flesh. (Compare your teeth to that cute little carnivorous kitty cat lounging on the top of the couch. You won’t see him eating any broccoli!)
Gorillas and chimps eat according to natural law; their diet is not influenced by glitzy TV or magazine ads. They consume primarily plants-and just a little bit of animal protein.
Natural law, genetic similarity and intuition have become the bases for defining my cancer fighting diet. Here are the rules I decided to follow:
- Eat primarily plant-based foods. Fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and a few grains.
- Eat a little animal protein from eggs, chicken or fish; pork and beef have to go.
- Consume limited dairy. Milk in the morning coffee and a bit of cheese for my vegetarian tacos.
- Avoid processed food.
- Buy organic when possible; chicken and fish from sustainable and humane sources.
But what about pizza, burritos, pancakes and bacon for Sunday morning breakfast?
Despite the critical nature of my dietary discipline, I’m not above allowing myself the occasional cheat. As the ancient Greeks used to say, “Everything in moderation; nothing in excess.”