Food & Attitude

The influence of food on our mood, mind and body does not only depend on the constituents of the particular food but also on our attitude towards food. This attitude is often shown by our choice of food and/or the composition of our diet. Differences to the common attitude in an area are expressed in the selection of alternative diets.


 

“Alternative diets” describe various diets that differ from “conventional” diets in the particular regions. All concepts of these alternative diets are based on the preference or avoidance of certain foods. The decision to change the attitude towards food and consequently follow an alternative diet can have diverse reasons: some are based on religious motives, some on ethical-moral considerations and others on health grounds or on ecological motivation. In many cases it is part of an extensive life philosophy, so that it is not only an alternative attitude to food but also to life. Veganism could be considered as good example for this kind of situation. Vegans often not only renounce foods of animal origin, but waive all animal products like wool and leather. By doing this, the followers of veganism are protesting against the exploitation of animals.

 

People who deliberately choose an alternative diet will most likely nourish themselves that way over a long period of time, if not their whole life long. That is the difference between an alternative diet and a short-term dietary regimen with a sole specific goal, like weight reduction.

 

In principle there are two kinds of alternative diets:

  • those with a primarily scientific background, where the choice of food depends on the desired health effects (wholefood diet, for example)
  • those on philosophical foundations that take also the effects on the spirit, mind and psyche into account (such as an ayurvedic diet)

Both kinds are often combined (e.g. vegetarians who don’t eat meat because of both health and ethical reasons).

 

Although alternative diets differ from each other, regarding their chronological, spatial or ideological background, they also show many commonalities in real life: Vegetable and natural foods are preferred. Many diets are even strictly vegetarian or vegan. Many alternative diets express a disregard of processed food and a so-called “over-mechanization” of the food industry altogether, which is why followers of these kinds of diets often refuse eating heavily processed food or foods containing additives. Instead they favour regional and ecological produced foods.  

 

Click here if you want to know more about specific alternative diets.

 

One of the most burning questions is: Are these alternatives diets safe and any good? Unfortunately, there is no general evaluation of these diets. You have to evaluate each diet individually to see if the particular one is healthy and suitable specifically for you. Some rigorous forms of alternative diets are unbalanced and can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin or mineral deficiencies. By waiving animal products you may risk your iron and vitamin B12 supply, which can lead to fatigue, hair loss and pale skin, as well as a decreased ability to concentrate, a decreasing energy level & productivity and a weakened immune system.  So you must find alternative vegetable sources for those nutrients. But if the diet consists of diverse and manifold foods then it is most likely that a sufficient nutrient supply is maintained. If babies or infants are fed a vegan diet you should exert extreme caution: Several studies showed that children, who grew up without any animal products in their diet, lagged behind in their physical and mental development. A deficiency in calcium, due to the waiver of milk and dairy products can lead to a disorder in the development of the bone structure and to osteoporosis. A calcium deficiency during childhood cannot be remediated later. Many alternative diets claim to prevent or even cure diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, autoimmune diseases etc., but for most alternative diets there is not enough scientific research or only insufficient evidence available to prove these claims.

 

Here are some practical tips if you plan to change to an alternative diet:

  1. You have to be convinced of the benefits of your new diet, may it be a better health or a cleaner conscience, and also the way how your new diet will help you reach these benefits. If you are not fully convinced, you will most likely stop following the diet after a short time.
  2. You don’t have to follow most diets 100% if you do not want to, otherwise you will end up in some kind of deprivation. In order to be a long-term solution, it is more about establishing a set of personal rules to live by rather than following an external dictate, because that way it will be easier for you to use self-control and develop a “can-do” attitude.
  3. Ask yourself if your diet is practicable on a daily basis. Questions in order to determine that would be (for example): Can I buy every ingredient in a supermarket near to me? Do I have the time and resources to prepare the meals every day? What about communal meals with friends, family, colleagues etc.? 
  4. Don’t change everything in your diet at once. Your body, especially your intestinal flora, and your mind will need some time to adapt. So you should ease into your new diet.
  5. A rigorous change in diet should always be accompanied or at least checked first by a medical professional or a certified dietician, especially if you’re not familiar with your nutrient requirements and the principles of nutrition, as well as if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, if you are still in your growing phase or if you suffer from chronic illnesses or food allergies.
  6. The more you practice thinking positively about following a healthy diet and the more you learn about the mechanisms, possibilities and opportunities of your diet and the connections between nutrition and health, the sooner you will adopt a more positive attitude towards food and become a more conscious eater.   

 

Click here if you want to know more about specific alternative diets.

 

Further helpful links:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/tc/alternative-diet-programs-topic-overview

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism

http://www.foodgalaxy.org/food-and-religion