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Monday, November 16, 2015

Vegan vs. Paleo: The Yin and Yang of Healthy Eating

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Dr. Fred Bischi's raw eating principles are not for the undisciplined. A while back, Dr. Bisci put me on his raw diet when I did the dog-less Iditarod. I ate nothing but raw peanut butter, olive oil and raw carrots... and performed the best I ever have in my life. On the other hand, John Durant believes in a complete paleo diet, which is essentially eating like a caveman would. We ate bone broth together: a recipe that has been around for thousands of years. It wasn't bad, but the idea of drinking bone marrow made me feel sick. I was taught, at a young age, that meat was bad. But if humans have been eating like this for thousands of years, could it really be that terrible? I was conflicted, so I looked into both sides to the story.

The raw side of things: Fred Bisci is 85 years old and has eaten nothing but raw fruits and veggies for 50 years. He can still run a marathon and does Kung-Fu. Dr. Bisci says that step one to eating raw is to omit all processed foods, which is anything that comes in packaging, including cereals and pastas. At first, he suggests eating grass-fed beef and organically grown chickens if you feel you need animal protein. What you really need for endurance, however, is fruit and starches for fast recovery. Dr. Bisci also advises that you "throw out your bread." If you must eat bread, he suggests choosing minimally-processed bread made with sprouts.

Step two is eliminating meat. "You get more protein from eating a plant-based diet," Bisci says. Many people think that strength training requires carbs and animal protein to gain muscle, but this isn't true. Nuts, cheese, avocados and seeds are more efficient.

One of the only downsides to transitioning to a raw food diet is the detox process. "Before you feel good, you're going to feel bad," Dr. Bisci says. In the end, the pain of detox should be worth it. My mother raised me to not eat meat. She would emphasize the "disgust factor" of meat and Dr. Bisci only confirmed my ingrained distaste for eating meat. It would be hard for me to change my opinion on it at this point.

The Paleo side: Author of THE PALEO MANIFESTO, John Durant is also an avid reader, entrepreneur, investor, and a self-described "professional caveman." I asked John if he really thought meat was the way to go. John clarified that paleo does not mean "all meat all the time." He said that to become paleo, step one is to remove wheat, corn and soy from your diet and replace it with fruits and vegetables, fermented foods and eat all parts of the animal.

His argument against eating raw is that it is not "normal" for humans to be vegan. "There is no known indigenous vegan or vegetarian population in the world," he says. John's favorite part of eating paleo is that you can construct your own diet; there were many hunter-gatherer tribes and they all ate differently depending on their habitat. Create a diet that best fits your lifestyle with a range of food items to choose from.

John agrees with Dr. Bisci about eliminating all processed foods, and that is his step two. "Industrial foods came into existence over the last 200 years. Nobody is well adapted to a diet concentrated on them," he says. Step three, one of the most difficult steps, is to remove grain and milk products from your diet.

Explaining why he decided to eat paleo, John said that it had to do with his energy levels. "Throughout the day, my energy would spike and crash ... I would go from optimistic to pessimistic over the course of a meatball sub." Once John started to eat strictly paleo, his energy levels evened out and his mood and sense of self improved. He added that the diet also improved his complexion and immune system.

John has another big tip: Cut the alcohol. "Alcohol is the single most unhealthy thing in my diet. It kills your sleep and your immune system." John also talks about how we are "creatures of habitat" and that we should clear our homes of junk food and alcohol because, if we are around it, it is inevitable that we will consume it. I agree with John on this. Alcohol is terrible for your health and definitely worth eliminating from your diet.

But John doesn't think eating raw is all bad, "A lot of media pits vegan versus paleo, meat versus plant. And it's really like yin and yang. Getting off industrial diets, for most people, is the most important thing."

Dr. Bisci, John Durant and I may not agree on which diet is better, but we all know: eliminating processed foods is the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. Chris Kresser, a globally recognized leader in paleo nutrition and functional and integrative medicine told me that if people want to be healthy, they should follow the three word diet: "eat real food." Chris discusses how what we put into our bodies determines our health and that we can use food as medicine. Eating nutrient-dense foods will not only fill you up, but prevent disease and ensure all of your bodily processes function correctly.

President and CEO of 'wichcraft and the co-host of BravoTv's new competition show, BEST NEW RESTAURANT, Jeff Zurofsky also backs the processed food claims. "Major diseases are coming from toxins in our system." Jeff told me. "Forget about eating more kale, stop eating processed food!"

What we eat fuels the human machine. It is up to you to choose the fuel that will make you run at your best. The single most important thing you can do is eat clean, remove all processed and packaged foods and alcohol from your diet. Protect the asset. You only get one body, don't pollute it.

#BisciVsDurant

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