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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Choosing the Best Diet

Jan 31, 2017 07:58AM
by Dr. Isabel Sharkar
Diets such as low-carb, low-fat, ketogenic, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, 80-10-10, Zone diet, South Beach diet, Atkins diet and Mediterranean, to name a few, are constantly popping up, making it difficult to choose which is best for each person. A diet that is free from processed foods and rich in wholesome organic vegetables, fruits and high quality protein will never go out of style. Narrowing down your choices doesn’t have to be so hard when you are aware of a few important facts.

Contrary to popular belief, calories-in does not equal calories-out. This false theory has led many to take up diets that severely restrict calories. Surely you’ve tried eating fewer calories only to be left feeling more hungry and cranky because calorie restrictions aren’t an effective weight loss strategy. If you are not consuming enough calories, the brain increases hunger and decreases metabolic weight, causing you to burn less calories. In the long run, calorie restriction causes weight gain because it is not sustainable. Research shows that 95 percent of people who diet regain all the weight in two years and in three years, 41 percent gain more weight than when they began the diet.

The most important choice you have to make is choosing high-quality organic food to put into your body. All food is information and poor-quality processed food impacts your hormones. Many processed foods are specifically manufactured to highly stimulate the pleasure center in your brain in an unnaturally intense way. This causes you to crave and consume the food more, increasing the reward threshold of your brain.

Over time, more of this craved food is required to feel the same amount of pleasure. This reward system in your brain influences the appetite regulation center that causes you to want more of the food you crave. As a result, you increase your calorie intake and put on more body fat. Highly rewarding food is a major culprit to the obesity epidemic.

An enormously high percentage of people in the Western world, who eat Westernized diets tend, to be deficient in micronutrients—vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. In addition to getting calories from the macronutrients—proteins, carbs and fats—the body also needs calories from the micronutrients. When you have a micronutrient deficiency, the brain does the same thing as if you are on a high-calorie, restrictive diet.

It’s not about the calories you consume but the micronutrient density of the food. When your body feels like it’s in starvation mode, it will drive you to consume more calories. Increasing your intake of food that is micronutrient-deficient will cause even more weight gain and calorie consumption.

The best diet is one that is sustainable. Avoid suffering from extreme starvation and calorie-restrictive diets. Instead, make lifestyle changes that leave you feeling good and develop new habits that you love.

Isabel Sharkar, ND, is a licensed naturopathic physician and co-owner of Indigo Integrative Health Clinic, in Georgetown. For more information, call 202-298-9131 or visit


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