Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In the Jungle of Diets, Part 1

Central to all natural processes is the law of balance. It operates in the greatest as in the smallest. It ensures that stars and planets stay their course in exact orbits, by keeping their forces in balance, and on the atomic level it brings about equilibrium of forces of protons and electrons.

The law underscores the balance that occurs everywhere between giving and taking. The amount of air we breathe out corresponds to what we inhale. Blood pumped by the heart into the arteries cannot exceed the volume flowing back in the veins. The activity during the day must be compensated by a suitable period of rest, and in walking we keep our balance by compensating the movement of one leg with the other.

The law of balance also covers the nourishment of the body. Here it is necessary that a balance exists between what the body consumes, in the way of foodstuffs, the activity demanded of it, and what it eliminates as waste.

Our health depends on this balance, which has to be achieved over and over again, because we occasionally consume more food than we use or vice versa. The balance is ordinarily restored from one day to the next. But there are people in chronic imbalance, either out of a habit of eating too much, more than what the body would need, or eating too little.

In the case of overeating, illness follows from accumulation of waste products in the body. In the reverse situation malnutrition is caused by a deficiency of nutrients. In both cases the therapy must begin with the eating habits of the individuals affected to restore the lost balance.

How do diets work?

Diets are restrictive regimens where one or several foods are renounced. How severe the restriction is depends on the goal in mind. If the aim is to relieve the body it may be enough to consume less amounts of food than usual. For a profound correction the food intake needs to be less than the demand. Only by depriving the body of what is necessary for it does it commence to draw on the surplus resources stored in the deep tissues. This way the strain is relieved and finally disappears.

The most austere diet is fasting. Nothing but water is permitted. Burning up reserves and waste is at its utmost because the body receives no nourishment. But such fasting should never be done on a whim.

Monodiets are slightly less restrictive, because – as the name implies – only one food item is permitted. This can be consumed at every meal. Among the best known monodiets are grape diet, vegetable juice, macrobiotic rice, lemon juice, and maple syrup diet.

In addition to fasting and the monodiets there are a number of other restrictive but less austere diets, since various foods are permitted. As long as they are a step back from the usual eating habits they can also be effective. The possibilities are countless. Some diets rely on the number of calories, for example 2,000, 1,500 or 1,000 calories per day. Others cut down on fat, carbohydrate or protein, some have minimal salt intake, a balanced fare and so on.

The Hay diet belongs to this group. Here all foods are allowed, but may not be consumed together. Protein and carbohydrate foods are eaten at different meals. Lunch for example could be a fare of raw and cooked vegetables and a starchy food like potato, cereal or pasta. Dinner on the other hand might be raw and cooked vegetables with a protein of choice (cheese, meat, fish or egg). Separating foods simplifies and shortens the alimentary passage and digestive period considerably, which in turn shortens the absorption of nutrients from the partially digested food. The diminished assimilation is able to stimulate the body to break down surplus deposits.

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