Pursuing the Healthiest Diet: Vegetarian, Vegan, and Frugivorous Diets
There are many diets to choose from these days and plant based diets are becoming more popular than ever. This is in part due to anecdotal evidence of friends, family members, and acquaintances and also from the research of medical doctors and the data gathered from multiple year clinical studies. The knowledge that animal products can harm health is being discussed by medical doctors and mainstream media outlets.
All these diets share three principles. The first principle is that it is ideal to consume "whole foods". Consuming whole foods means eating foods with the least amount of processing. Eating an apple is better than drinking apple juice and brown rice is better than white rice. The second principle is that fruits and vegetables are the original health food and should make up the bulk of your diet. Harvard Medical School recommends up to 13 servings of them every single day (1). The third principle is that the total percentage of calories coming from fat are best kept below 20%. Every cell in the human body runs on carbohydrates in the form of glucose while the brain runs on glucose almost exclusively (2). This is why it is extremely important to limit fat and consume enough carbohydrates.
Vegetarianism is often the first step in adopting a healthy diet. This diet excludes the flesh of animals such as cow, pig, deer, chicken, turkey, duck, fish, shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams, crawfish, crab, snails, frog, turtle, alligator, etc. Vegetarians do consume milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, eggs, and honey as well as fruits, vegetables, greens, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Many people see health improvements on this diet and it can serve as a great transition to a vegan diet.
Veganism is the progression from vegetarianism to a diet that excludes all animal flesh as well as all dairy products, eggs, and honey. Veganism also excludes the use of all animal products for goods such as shoes and clothing. This means no wearing fur, leather, or wool. The diet includes fruits, vegetables, greens, grains, beans, and nuts and seeds. The scientific and medical communities have embraced veganism after decades of clinical studies and the American Dietetic Association says that a vegan diet is "appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle (3)." The studies show that a vegan diet can prevent and reverse both heart disease and type II diabetes as well as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome among many other dis-eases. The following medical doctors have written books on the wonders of a vegan diet: Dean Ornish, MD, Neal Barnard, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, John McDougall, MD, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Michael Greger, MD, Joel Fuhrman, MD.
The frugivorous diet excludes all animal products as well as all cooked foods including grains, beans, squashes, and root vegetables. It includes whole, fresh, ripe, raw, fruits, vegetables, greens, and nuts and seeds. Very little has been written about the diet and there is even less medical/scientific data on the subject. It is interesting to note that based on the study of comparative anatomy humans, along with bonobos, chimpanzees, and gorillas, are anatomically and physiologically classified as frugivorous anthropoid apes. These animals obtain almost all of their calories from fruits, vegetables, and greens. Although there is currently only anecdotal evidence, a frugivorous diet has been reported to heal certain cancers, heart disease, type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, digestive tract disorders, chronic fatigue, depression, and migraines, amongst others. In recent history there are several authors that have written on this subject such as Arnold Ehret, T.C. Fry, David Klein, Dr. Edward Bach, Dr. Doug Graham, Don Bennett, and Anne Osborne. Harley Johnstone, aka Durianrider, Freelee, and Dan McDonald are the three people who are most responsible for bringing this diet to the mainstream using YouTube. Two other notable YouTube personalities that teach about the frugivorous lifestyle are Megan Elizabeth and Kristina Carillo Bucaram.
Wherever you are along the path of healthy eating there is always room for improvement. Strive for progress, not perfection, and try not to stress yourself out. If you slip up and backpedal do not beat yourself down over the experience. Pick yourself up and always try your best. Know that if you want a healthy diet changes must be made. You will not change if you will not change. It is not necessarily the speed at which you make changes but the direction in which you are heading. Love yourself as you are right now and know that you are doing the best you can.