Today, most people believe a healthy diet is what mainstream America (and many doctors) say that it is: lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low- fat dairy, lean meat, and generally low fat, low cholesterol choices.
However, this is NOT a healthy diet. At all. It’s true that fruits and vegetables are very healthy and should absolutely be included in your diet — in fact, up to 50% of your daily intake can come from fruit and vegetables (some say even more). But eating a lot of grains (even whole grains), a lot of sugar (which is what replaces fat in most products) and too little fat and cholesterol is extremely unhealthy!
I wrote a previous post about Why We Eat Fat, but now I’m going to break it down for you, discussing each area that mainstream America considers healthy and necessary for your diet, why it’s NOT healthy, and what to replace it with. Get ready! All your knowledge about healthy diets is about to change….
First point. Every food is measured in major nutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Usually a food is high in one or two and low in another. We derive our energy either from carbs or from fat. We cannot survive on a diet that is low in both; we will get sick and weak. This is why the South Beach Diet is the worst possible diet you can adopt. The optimal fuel is fat. Most people, however, get a large amount of carbs, and mainly from sugar (juice, fruit, sweetened foods). This is why diabetes (type II) is so rampant in this country now.
A quick side note: Although we are not exercising formally at this point (just chasing children), we have continued to lose weight since my post in October. Ben’s lost about another 5 lbs., and I’ve lost 7 – 8 lbs., putting my weight at the lowest it has ever been since I reached my full adult height (around 12o). This is eating a very high fat diet. I aim for 4 tbsp. of saturated fat per day whenever possible.
Now, for the list of foods that are “healthy” and why they’re not.
Whole Grains — Everyone wants you to believe that whole grain foods are good for you (and in some cases, they are). However, there are several problems with this. The first is that normal, whole grain foods are filled with phytates (which are anti-nutrients; they pull nutrients from you and/or prevent absorption). This is because the way grain is grown and processed has changed a lot over the last 50 or 60 years. Grain needs to be either sprouted or soaked to release its nutrients and enzymes to make it digestible and absorbable, but almost no one does this. Instead, manufacturers fortify the grain with various vitamins and minerals, but only synthetic ones (which really doesn’t increase absorption at all). Much grain is also extruded to be processed into cereal, and a lot of it is mixed with high amounts of sugar (think cereal again, and breads, cakes, cookies…). Even worse, some grains (corn, and sometimes rice) are grown genetically modified, which are also bad for you. Grains should be organic, sprouted or soaked, and consumed minimally (no more than 25% of your daily food intake). This is hard because most snack foods, breakfast foods, and side dishes are filled with grains.
Low-fat dairy products — There are LOTS of problems with this! First, there’s the issue of actually being low-fat. Low fat is bad, since that’s where you should be getting your energy. Then, there is the fact that making dairy low-fat requires it to be heavily processed. Water is added, nutrients are removed, fat is removed, and in some cases, skim milk powder is added to give the milk body. Skim milk powder contains oxidized cholesterol, which is NOT naturally occurring and is bad for you. The dairy products then have fake nutrients added back to it (fortification). These are NOT healthy. Instead, you should consume full-fat dairy products that are either raw or which have been pasteurized at the lowest legal temperature and are not homogenized. The milk should be from grass-fed cows. And you should eat plenty of butter, raw cheese, raw milk and cream, etc. It is extremely nutrient-dense.
Lean meat products — Some meat is naturally lean and that is okay. But you shouldn’t strive for only lean meats, or limit your meat consumption due to fat content. Beef (grass fed) is good for you! Most people say that red meat is bad, but that’s only because factory farmed meat is bad. Factory meat has a low vitamin and mineral content, potential contamination, and often is full of hormones and antibiotics. However, naturally raised, grass-fed meat is not the same, and you should consume plenty of that. Natural sausages (containing fatback), lard, beef tallow, etc. are also very good for you. Saturated animal fats are also nutrient-dense. I personally can’t wait to get my beef tallow to fry food in!
Cholesterol — Cholesterol is actually absolutely key to brain development and function. Modern baby formula doesn’t have any cholesterol in it, while breastmilk contains large amounts. This is a huge detriment (formula)! Cholesterol helps protect us from many problems and has never been proven to cause heart disease. Only natural sources of cholesterol are good, however; oxidized cholesterol (as in processed milk products) is not good. But don’t worry about the cholesterol in butter or healthy meat. Your body needs it.
Unsaturated fats — Experts recommend eating primarily or entirely unsaturated fats. However, they are not as healthy as they seem. Olive oil should not be used for cooking, because heating it can create trans fats. In fact, most liquid oils can go rancid easily when exposed to heat, light, and air (which they are on grocery store shelves). Also, corn and soybean oils (“vegetable oil”) are often made from genetically modified plants. Finally, unfortunately, canola oil, which is engineered, is bad for you as well (click the link for more). Saturated fats, like butter, grass-fed beef tallow, organic lard, and coconut oil are the best fats to eat and cook with.
Artificial sugar — In attempt to eat less sugar (and yes, sugar is bad), a lot of people have turned to artificial sugars, like Splenda (which is mostly made from chlorine) and aspartame. Both have been shown over and over again to be harmful. The body doesn’t recognize them as food, and so they can create several long-term health problems. In fact, real sugar is better but should still be eaten in moderation. Evaporated cane juice, raw honey, and real maple syrup are all “good” sugars, but in general, our country eats far too much sugar. Limit your consumption to rare occasions. A spoonful of honey in your tea or an occasional (not daily!) dessert are okay.
Soy — For quite awhile, soy has been considered the ultimate health food. However, soy is bad. It contains phytoestrogens, which have been claimed to cause cancer in women, and puberty issues in kids. The jury is still out on these claims, but soy is not a food you should turn to. It’s also frequently genetically modified, which is not safe. If you do consume soy, it should be organic and fermented, and in moderation.
Yes, this is pretty weird stuff! But the new Baby Steps series will help you to make changes in your diet, if you’re so inclined.
Also, starting on March 1st, I am launching a “30-Day Eat More Fat Challenge!” The details of this challenge will be announced on February 15th, so look for that post. Starting on March 1st (which is also the launch date of our NEW SITE!), I will post a daily tip or idea on eating fat. We’ll have a weekly “check in” for those participating, and the winner will have a choice between a copy of my cookbook or a jar of my skin cream. Coming up soon!! Tell your friends!
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