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Diet and Food

Naturopathy encourages us to take responsibility for our own health by encouraging sensible diet and lifestyle management. This is a principle with which few conventional medical practitioners now argue. Diet is becoming rapidly and widely accepted as much of the basis of good health.

In naturopathic terms a good diet is a wholefood one comprising "live" foods - that is, foods that have not been processed or refined and are mostly organic. Such foods, believe naturopaths, fuel vitality and stimulate the vital force. Diets must also provide the necessary materials or "nutrients" on which the body relies for good health.

Many practitioners base their dietary recommendations on those devised by Lindlahr. He recommended the 60/20/20 diet, in which 60 percent of the diet was to be made up of raw foods, 20 percent was protein (preferably plant), and 20 percent complex carbohydrates. Tea, coffee, and alcohol, refined, processed, fatty, or salted foods should be avoided.

Naturopaths frequently also advise against drinking too much water, believing that the liquids best suited to the body are those that we ingest as part of fresh foods, supplemented by juice extracted from fresh fruit and vegetables.

But though practitioners of most traditions now agree that a balanced diet is essential, opinions differ about what exactly a balanced diet is. Some practitioners believe a vegetarian diet ( one that excludes all meat) is necessary to be healthy, while others insist on cutting out all animal produce, including milk and eggs ( veganism).

Macrobiotics, food combining, and nutritional supplementation can also form part of a naturopath's dietary recommendations, as do elimination diets and those tailored to specific needs. The prescribing of special diets and food supplements such as vitamins and minerals, which began in the United States in the 1950s, has now spawned its own therapy: nutritional therapy or nutritional medicine.

Elimination Diets

Such diets are often used in diagnosing food allergies or intolerances. All suspect substances, which often include wheat and dairy produce, are eliminated from the diet to see how a person fares without them. They are then reintroduced, one at a time, to determine which particular substance ( s) cause a reaction.


Macrobiotics, developed by the Japanese Michio Kushi, is based on the principle that ideally we should eat locally grown wholegrains, seeds, and plant foods.

Foods are divided into two groups, according to the Oriental principles of yin and yang. Yin foods are those that grow above ground, usually in hot countries, have a high water content, are soft, juicy, and cooling. Warming yang foods grow in a cold wet environment and tend to be made up of roots, stems, and seeds.

The object is to eat according to your individual needs and environment in order to maintain balance in the body. For example, when it is hot we should eat more cooling (yin) foods.

The Hay Diet

This food-combining regime was devised by the American Dr. William Hay from principles laid down by various experts including Lindlahr and Shelton. There are now several other versions of food combining, which all follow more or less the same principles: not to mix foods that clash and to avoid refined or processed foods.

Hay classified foods into three main groups:

  • alkaline-forming foods
  • concentrated proteins
  • concentrated carbohydrates.

Proteins and carbohydrates are both acid­forming, but each requires a different digestive environment and should never be eaten at the same meal. You can eat alkaline-forming foods with either proteins or carbohydrates, in a ratio of four times alka­line foods to one acid in order to maintain the balance of alkaline and acid mineral salts in the body.

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