Do you know that feeling the more you study something the more complex it becomes. I often feel this way when I read about diets. I don't mean weight loss diets diets such as South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers and such. I’m referring to diet philosophies such as paleo, ayurveda, Mediterranean diet, macrobiotic, vegan, vegetarian and such – wait, another one worth mentioning is the breathtarian “diet”, these are the folks who don’t eat at all! Dieting is often connected to religion or what’s in right now, what comes to mind is kosher practices, Hindu and yoga-based vegetarianism and raw juice cleansing to supplement a diet seem to be hot right now. A few stars like Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ann Hathaway and even Britney Spears swear by raw juices. In order for a diet to work it’s best to believe in the food and practices otherwise it will be mentally and physically unsatisfying.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the more natural diets. I used to believe that eating is like filling up a car with gas - just fill’ her up and you’re good to go. It’s not that simple actually. People feel and act very differently depending on the food they consume. For instance food such as refined sugars can bring along sugar highs and then energy crashes can occur. Whatever you believe about nutrition it’s a given that lots of raw food in your diet adds tremendous value and I speak from recent experience.
I went through a three-day juicing diet. I wanted to know how it affects me when I drink raw fruit and vegetable juices without any refined additives - it was quite a revelation. I was flying up the four flights of stairs from the subway station on the way to work everyday. Something else worth mentioning is that I experienced mental clarity like an early morning jog on a beautiful beach. I was able to focus and concentrate in a very clear way which is sometimes difficult in our multitasking professional lives. I’m sure I would consume juices only on a continuous basis but supplementing my regular diet with such beverages is definitely a bonus.
Here is a closer look at some of those healthy diets I mentioned earlier:
Lots of people in my circle have been talking about the paleo diet lately. It consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts. It excludes legumes, grains, and products of any kind and excludes salt, and any refined sugars and processed oils. It is rooted in the pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer time – meaning it takes its basics from about 1.8 million years ago. In essence the paleo diet includes food that used to be hunted, fished or gathered and not cultivated including eggs, insects, fruits, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, herbs and spices, game meats and/or pasture raised animals. Free grazing animals are higher in omega-3 fats compared to grain feed animals so they’ll promote better health. Most importantly the Paleolithic diet consists of unrefined food and takes a traditional approach. The ratio between carbs, protein and fats is not that important when compared to other diets. Raw consumption is preferred but not necessary in the paleo diet. People who follow this diet don’t seem to have high cholesterol problems. A recent European health study conducted over a 30-day period shows an average waist circumference loss of ½-inch on all 20 volunteers and a reduction in blood pressure, which may translate into a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
The Ayurvedic diet has been around about 5000 years and is rooted in South Asian culture. The philosophy is that food is medicine and it focuses on the energy in the body. Ayurveda takes a person’s age, gender, constitution and the season into account. You can fill out a test or visit an ayurvedic consultant to find out your “dosha”. Dosha is translated to a physical/mental type. There are three different types of doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. The idea is to re-establish balance in the body through diet, lifestyle and body cleansing, which is supposed to heal the individual. Yoga, foods prepared with grains, ginger and spice, oil rubs, warm water with a squeeze of lemon can be “treatments” to a particular dosha type.
Macrobiotic food goes back to the late 1700s. The diet leans towards locally grown whole grain cereals, wild plants and greens, seaweeds, and fermented products with a certain “yingness” or “yangness” meaning food must be balanced. Dietary guidelines help in developing sensitivity and an intuitive sense for the body’s well being. Nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, spinach, avocados etc., are not recommended as they may be bitter and toxic and can cause inflammation in the body (solanine).
Another focus in the macrobiotic diet is chewing foods well which helps to mentally and physically absorb vitamins and nutrient rich foods.
Depending on the season, fish, naturally fermented vegetables, nut butters, fresh raw and lightly cooked vegetables, rice, beans and quinoa are the main source of protein. Many standard seasonings in Asian cuisine such as soy and miso are commonly used in macrobiotic cooking. Macrobiotics are comparable to vegetarians although many macrobiotics are not opposed to eating naturally raised lean meat, fish and poultry on occasion. A macrobiotic diet is believed to have many essential nutrients without excess fat.
I count myself among the “flexitarians” meaning my diet is mainly plant-based and I occasionally get great satisfaction from sinking my teeth into a big hunk of steak and can be mesmerized by a beautiful fish fillet.
(macrobiotic salad local and seasonal)
The following recipe encompasses something for several diets including raw foodists, paleos (grass-feed meat), macrobiotics (naturally fermented kimchee), French people (cheese - also an ancient preserving method), as well as herbs, spices and the healthiest of all vinegars – brown rice based vinegar.
Beef Carpaccio a la Flexitarian
(recipe yields four portions)
1 lb grass feed beef fillet
Small jar of naturally fermented kimchee
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar apple cider vinegar may be substituted
Himalayan sea salt
1. Slice the beef filet into four equally sized pieces. The meat should be cut against the grain.
2. Cover the kitchen counter with a 12”x12” square of plastic wrap. Place one piece of beef filet in the middle of the plastic and cover with a second layer of plastic wrap. With an heavy object such as a meat hammer or a small sauce-pot flatten the meat gently by pounding it to 1/8” thickness approximately 8” in diameter. Remove the first layer of plastic wrap and flip the flattened meat onto a large plate.
3. Drizzle oil, vinegar over the meat and season with salt and fresh pepper. Sprinkle the cheese over the meat and serve.
Chef’s Note: Serve sprouted whole grain bread with the carpaccio.