A craving for salty foods isn't necessarily unwholesome. Such a compulsion could be the body's dietary plea in times of stress.
Medford nutrition counselor Kellie Hill recently answered that call — in defiance of mainstream dietary recommendations — based on the concept of body types.
Not all nutritionists accept the theory that different body types have different nutritional needs.
For all the dietary and metabolic theories bandied about, there is little to no scientific evidence for genetics playing a significant role in nutrition, says registered dietitian Julie Kokinakes Anderson.
Peer-reviewed surveys of the world's longest-lived populations are the best script for humanity's ideal diet — a mix of plant- and animal-derived foods that provide essential macro and micronutrients — despite genetic variations within the community, she says.
Losing weight and maintaining health, says Anderson, essentially is a matter of balancing physical activity and calorie consumption within the framework of one's body composition — lean muscle versus fat. It complicates matters, says Anderson, to explain nutrition in the context of bioindividuality, a term she dismisses as marketing.
"The same stuff keeps coming up over and over and over again," she says. "You can call it ayurveda; you can call it Buddhism philosophy ... but there's a common thread through all of them.
Indeed, other recurring themes in longevity, says Anderson, are primarily the product of culture: social interaction, exposure to stress, even the role of religion.
"There are other components besides diet that need to be addressed," she says. "We are a whole person, and we're based on systems, and when one system starts to fail, the rest start to fail."
“I was curious as to why weight would fluctuate for myself,” says Hill. “I couldn't figure out what I was doing differently.”
She found an explanation several years ago in the best-selling “Dr. Elliot Abravenel's Body Type Diet and Lifetime Nutrition Plan.” With its focus on the thyroid, adrenal, pituitary and gonad glands as the governing factors in weight gain, the 1999 book is one tool Hill uses to serve clients of The Right Plan Nutrition Counseling. The book's emphasis on eating real foods — not packaged products — dovetails with her whole-foods approach to health, says Hill.
“A lot of foods overlap.”
The text lays out a checklist for each type based on body shape, energy, food cravings and areas of weight gain. As described at www.bodytypes.com, each type has its own diet plan, with specific quantities of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and fats and the time of day they should be consumed for maximum benefit and weight loss.
“Adrenal (type) people need a lighter breakfast,” says Hill.
Although Hill says she is a thyroid type, which should start the day with a large breakfast that includes some protein, her adrenal glands needed more support in recent months amid some physical ailments. In addition to seasoning with sea salt, Hill ate raw dairy products and more whole grains than usual, mostly steamed quinoa and brown rice. It didn't take long, she says, to feel more energetic.
“We all have a second (gland), too,” she says. “And you can change ... depending on what's going on in your life.”
One woman's dietary changes, which Hill based partly on body type, propelled the client from spending much of her time in bed to competing two years later in triathlons. To alleviate the client's severe adrenal fatigue, Hill advocated plenty of good-quality proteins and vegetables, a moderate amount of whole grains, minimal fruit and almost no caffeine. It's a common menu plan, as nearly all her clients are thyroid or adrenal types, says Hill.
The topic has enough appeal that Hill has lectured on it several times, even for local city employees. Yet she acknowledges that correlating diet to the body's organs and physical characteristics did not originate with Abravenel's book. It's a method applied in several forms by ancient cultures for millennia.
“A lot of the Eastern medicines use something similar to glands,” she says.
India's 5,000-year-old traditional medical system, ayurveda, revolves around humors or energetics, known as doshas, which are based on the elements.
The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha, each with its own physical characteristics, dominant organ and auspicious times of day for eating and exercising.
“Ayurveda changes things seasonally ... or the time of life,” says Noah Volz, an Ashland-based clinical ayurveda specialist. “Not everybody has the same capacities, the same strengths.”
Also taking into account social influences and stress, ayurveda delves deeper into the energy of food, one's state of mind while eating and human emotions at work, says Volz.
Ayurveda, he says, is all about optimizing digestion according to a person's inherent traits and individual requirements. Promoting bioindividuality only adds to a nutrition plan's appeal, he says.
“I think people really identify with that idea that they're individuals, their tastes are unique,” he says.