For general health and vitality, I'm recommending what I'm calling The Basic Diet. It's called "basic" because it is the basic diet of the healthiest people in the world.
It's secret is that it's so basic. It makes unrefined, unprocessed starch the center of every meal. That basic starch can be a baked potato, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, hot oatmeal, and so on. Such a dish is then combined with either fresh vegetables or fresh fruits to make a meal. Often, but not always, beans or other legumes are added.
For instance, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico have corn and beans at every meal, plus either vegetables or fresh fruit. That's it. This diet provides about 10% protein by calories (twice the recommendation of the World Health Organization), about 10% fat, and about 80% complex carbohydrates.
On this kind of diet the Tarahumaras can and do run 500 miles in 5 days, and can and do carry a 100-pound pack 110 miles in 70 hours. It is a diet that, in general, will supply tremendous energy and vitality.
It supplies adequate good-quality protein but not too much, which can be very deleterious. It supplies a little natural high-quality fat, but not too much. It supplies lots of fiber, lots of potassium, lots of vitamins and minerals and thousands of phytochemicals.
It doesn't matter if we have corn and beans, brown rice and tofu, or split-pea soup with whole-wheat bread—the idea is to let the centerpiece be a complex, unrefined starch. Then add freshly steamed vegetables, especially leafy greens.
Or for breakfast have something like oatmeal or millet and fresh fruit.
Simple. Basic. Perhaps just as important is what the Basic Diet doesn't have: It doesn't have a lot of fat, protein (the real danger is too much), cholesterol, refined sugar, additives, hormones and antibiotics given to livestock, etc. It does have a tremendous amount of phytochemicals and fiber.
Animal foods, including dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry, all have no fiber but lots of cholesterol. And they have lots of toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, industrial pollutants and so forth because they are high on the food chain.
And in general, animal foods have a lot of fat. Even chicken white-meat, for instance, which is supposedly a low-fat food, is over 25% fat measured by calories. Turkey is 35%. Fish range from 25% to 75%. Beef, pork, etc. range from 50% to 75%. Eggs and cheese are 70%. These are high-fat foods.
Additionally, the Basic Diet is low in sodium, refined sugar and flour, and other refined and concentrated foods. It does not supply food made in factories and sold in packages. It's just basic. That's its strength.
I call it the basic diet because it's basic to the healthiest peoples in the world—including the Hunzas of northern Pakistan, the Vilcabambans of Equador, the Abkasians of Georgian Russia and others. (This was true when they were studied half a century ago; it's less true now as western influences have crept in to these societies.)
With the variety of great vegan cookbooks available now, it's possible to tremendously enjoy the basic diet.
You'll probably find, as have others, that in a few months your taste buds will change and you won't desire animal flesh, dairy, sodium, fat and so forth. On the contrary, you'll enjoy feasting on this diet.
The body is so miraculous. It's always striving for greater health and vitality. Often, when we just take care of the basics, the body is magical in what it can accomplish.
—jim sloman, 7/21/01 for Jul 21