I'm a voracious reader. I read a lot of blogs and articles online in addition to books, newspapers, and other printed materials. My favorite posts are those that are written honestly and openly about personal thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, and I have seen a lot of these in recent days.
In that spirit, I'm going to be honest here as well. I'm so happy to have this website and very appreciative of my small but growing readership. I'm absolutely committed to following and promoting a low-carb, whole foods, ancestral lifestyle, but also feeling a bit conflicted these days. As some of you may know, I have a full-time position as an outpatient dietitian and certified diabetes educator at a large veterans hospital. This job is unquestionably the best one I've ever had. The vets I counsel have been through unimaginable horrors to serve our country, and many are now dealing with their own personal hell of chronic disease, mental health issues, and financial uncertainty. The vast majority are kind and appreciative for any advice on eating to improve their blood sugar, weight, cholesterol, and other conditions.
Carbohydrate restriction is clearly the way to manage diabetes, obesity, and hypertriglyceridemia, and that is always my first recommendation. Unprocessed foods are right up there as well. But what about Paleo/Primal eating? Consuming grass-fed beef, organic poultry and dairy, pastured eggs, and organic fruits and vegetables is undeniably healthy, but for people who are barely getting by financially, it's almost impossible to do. This lifestyle is extremely expensive if practiced on a regular basis. In addition to veterans, there are thousands of people who are unemployed or underemployed, have lost their homes, or are otherwise struggling to make ends meet. I've spoken to veterans who have to decide between taking medications and purchasing food, and it's well known that many senior citizens face this dilemma as well. Perhaps even a few people reading have some misgivings about spending so much on food at this time.
By all means, purchase the healthiest foods you can comfortably afford to. I buy organic, grass-fed, and/or pastured almost exclusively. But if doing so was stretching us financially, I'd definitely cut back on the pricier items while continuing to eat low carb. A fast food burger, no bun, and a side salad is a perfectly accceptable meal for someone with limited funds. All eggs supply protein of the highest biological value, along with the B vitamin choline and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine. Poultry and beef raised conventionally are nutritional powerhouses and a pretty good value. Are these foods "optimal" for health? No, but they're still beneficial and far superior to what many are currently eating, such as a large bowl of cereal with nonfat milk and orange juice for breakfast.
Some people may not agree with this, arguing that organic, sustainably raised food should be the number one priority and that other things should be sacrificed instead. I understand this position, since I've devoted my career to showing people just how important good nutrition is. But I haven't walked in the shoes of these veterans, and I can't pretend to know what their day-to-day struggles are like. If they can follow a low-carb diet and keep their blood sugar under decent control, they'll reduce their risk for nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, and heart disease without furthering their financial burden. I'm so grateful to these men for putting their lives on the line for the rest of us. Helping them improve their chances to avoid complications by following a way of eating that works for them is the least I can do in return.
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE