Western vs. Eastern Nutrition: I Had 2 Opposing Experts Analyze My Diet

Amanda Montell

Here at Byrdie HQ, we live our lives neck-deep in diet advice. Part of this is an occupational hazard—it’s our job to report on new nutrition research and trends. Another part of it is just a symptom of living in Los Angeles, the organic and gluten-free capital of the country. “First Food Fridays” at our West Hollywood office cater to every diet preference and restriction imaginable—vegan, alkaline, Paleo, kosher. Everyone has their own specific philosophy when it comes to nutrition, convinced that such-and-such book or documentary changed their lives and that they’ll never eat another way again. (I am no exception—watch Forks Over Knives, if you get the chance.)

Because food is so personal, so culturally and spiritually tied, it makes sense that everyone would have different habits and beliefs. But food is also directly related to physical health—to vitality, to longevity. The stakes are very high. Thus, there’s an enormous amount of debate surrounding what the picture of a “healthy” diet looks like. People almost treat diets like political parties. And just like politics, if you disagree with someone on an issue, there’s going to be trouble.

Sticking with the politics metaphor, there are generally two major schools of thought when it comes to nutrition: traditional, medical science and a holistic, natural approach. In other words, there’s the clinical nutritionist who’d prescribe you a diet plan at the doctor’s office, and there’s the private guru who’d customize an eating regimen according to your mind, body, and spirit. You could ask these two experts the same nutrition question and potentially get two completely different answers. So which one should you trust? Simply put, that’s a personal decision.

Like much of the Byrdie team, I have a very particular diet—it’s plant-based and high-carb. I’m pretty conscious of my nutrition (I try to keep the hyper-processed food to a minimum and pack in the whole foods). But I know there are ways in which I could improve. Curious to compare advice from both sides of the nutritional spectrum, I decided to solicit insight from one traditional nutrition expert and one holistic one. Keep reading to find out how these two radically different experts reacted to the same diet.

What did you think of each expert’s feedback? Sound off in the comments below!

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