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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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This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (5), Daniel (4), Jacob (2), and Nathan (born March 2013). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children. You can also find her as a contributor at Keeper of the Home.

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24 Comments

  1. What is the purpose of the Weston Price Foundation – the source of many of your links?

    Reply

  2. Weston A. Price was a dentist in the early 1900s who did a large amount of research on traditional diets and their affect on peoples' health. The foundation now promotes this type of traditional diet and continues to fund research, recipes, the movement to make raw milk available to all, etc.

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  3. I resent you saying that feeding a baby formula is a detriment. I adopted my child and can't breast feed. However, the environment in which my child will grow up is a huge benefit compared to the one his birth mother, who would have been able to breast feed, could give him. You need to consider the circumstances of other people and be kinder.

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  4. Rose,

    There are cases — like yours — where formula feeding is necessary. However, if you are interested, the Weston A. Price foundation has some homemade formula recipes that are very good. It's what I would have chosen if I hadn't been able to breastfeed. If you are not interested in actually making your own, there are options for a few simple additions to formula (coconut oil, for one) that can balance the fats to be more beneficial to babies. I hope that helps! I'm not intending to say that formula feeding moms are bad, truly, I'm saying that formula manufacturers are not doing a good job at matching breastmilk appropriately and that they should do better.

    Reply

  5. I'm a college student and consume all of my meals at the same dining hall. I've been going for whole-grain options, fruits, and vegetables over fried, greasy food (of which there is no shortage!) Do you have any suggestions for those of us who do not control the foods we buy and who still want to have a healthy lifestyle? Also, why are today's "experts" so wrong on the issue of nutrition?

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  6. Emma,

    In a situation like that, you're kind of stuck. Go for anything that's fresh, like fruits and vegetables (which you do). Some argue that white bread would actually be better in that case because when the grain is stripped of its outer layer, it doesn't have the phytates (I'll find a link later, but Sally Fallon of WAP said that, I believe). Avoid red meat and stick to chicken, because federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones and such in chickens, but not beef. Avoid packaged, processed foods. Get salad and dress it with olive oil. And every now and then, try to get off campus for a meal or cook for yourself if you can! It's hard when you're busy, I know.

    In the 1950s, several things were going on. The end of the war brought the Baby Boom, a ton of processed food (originally created for the soldiers, later marketed to the American people as "better" and "more convenient"), the lipid hypothesis (the idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease; it's since been disproven over and over but scientists and doctors still cling to it), and the Prudent Diet. The Prudent Diet was replacing bacon and eggs with lower-fat foods like cornflakes and grapefruit. It was to "prevent heart disease" (although the researcher who started it and many of his test subjects died of heart disease while on this diet) and to reduce sex drive (that's why cornflakes were invented, actually). I think the dual motives, plus the idea that packaged foods were better (like the cornflakes) really drove it into our culture. Then, with that bias heavily in mind, all research since that time has not really looked at other options.

    Although, if you read some of the links I put in here, you'll see they're starting to get it. The Washington Post had an article recently that detailed a new study showing no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease, so things are slowly changing. But of course, without that link, there would be no need for Lipitor or other huge cholesterol drugs (and those are some of the most popular, well-selling drugs ever. Some want to give them to children as young as 8 or even put them directly in the water supply!). So we're fighting an uphill battle here.

    Let me know if you have any other questions, I can find more links too!

    Reply

  7. Emma – first of all, nice name! I just came from your situation recently (dining hall, no good food choices, etc.).

    Some of the things that I was able to do in my dining hall that I'd recommend you seeing if you can do:

    1. Have a blender in your room to make your own fruit smoothies. Add peanut butter to smooth it out, use frozen fruit if possible (so you don't have to use ice cubes) or fresh fruit with some ice cubes and juice. Peanut butter (preferably without hydrogenated oils) is good for protein.

    2. Find someone who lives outside of the dorms (even if it's an instructor) who would let you borrow their kitchen, if only on weekends. We used to go over to Pastor's house to cook tehm dinner and eat something home-cooked at least once a weekend (they also let us use their laundry machines…so awesome of them!).

    3. Look for protein sources elsewhere – does the salad bar have hard-boiled egg? Put it on there for a healthy dose of protein. If you can, see if they have hard-boiled eggs that aren't chopped up that you can eat too.

    You can't really eat organically at a dining facility, unfortunately, but pick as smart as you can. Most fried foods at dining facilities (chicken fried steak, etc.) is AWFUL for you – they often contain trans fats (at my school they didn't have to put out info on that) or are fried in unhealthy oils. If given a choice between a baked potato and mashed potatoes, go for baked and dress it yourself. Powdered mashed potatoes have all sorts of nasty stuff in them. If nothing else, get the baked potato, pull out all the flesh, and make your own mashed potatoes out of them.

    There are a lot of ways to make food in your room if you only have an electric skillet or even a hot pot. Heck, I've seen people make grilled cheese on an iron with aluminum foil over it to protect the iron itself. Hot pot heating elements (the metal piece on the bottom) can be used to fry foods – I had a roommate who used to make blueberry pancakes on it. Those, with Vermont maple syrup and dining hall fruit/yogurt/juice smoothies were some of the best Friday night dinners ever.

    If you like oatmeal, don't get the pre-flavored packets. Take a plain packet and add what you want to flavor it. Brown sugar, raisins, nuts, other dried fruits, even a small amount of jelly or apple pieces. If you'd rather not do the sugar, you can buy yourself small jars of spices (like cinnamon and nutmeg) so you can flavor it yourself. You'll find you don't need as much or even any sugar if you have the flavor of spices like those. Honey works as a great sweetener that's more natural too.

    If you can do dairy, cottage cheese is a great food (fats, calcium, etc.), and my school always had kidney beans or black beans available for vegetarians – they make a good healthy addition to tacos, fajitas, etc. If you have a choice between fresh fruit and, say, mixed fruit in syrup, go for the fresh. It's always healthier than syrup for the sake of syrup.

    Hope that helps some – feel free to ask me questions about anything that I wrote that didn't make sense, or ask specific questions about foods.

    Reply

  8. All very well said. Thanks for sharing and spreading the word. I was very lucky to have found all of this info while i was pregnant so i began taking cod liver oil and found a farm locally where i was able to become part of a cow share and drink raw milk ever since…I had been a vegetarian for 7 years prior and i never realized why i was so fatigued all of the time. I just feel so grateful i came across the weston a price and nourishing traditions info when i did. I am not saying i follow it all perfectly (soaking my grains and stuff) all the time, but I do make my own sauerkraut, kimchee, drink the raw milk and always take our cod liver, and limit our sugar intake for sure… We also do organic as much as possible. Yikes, just writing this is making me think about getting more strict again,,, thx!:)

    http://www.misswrangler.blogspot.com

    Reply

  9. I'm just amazed that so many nuritionists and doctors are wrong about what constitutes a healthy diet, especially when what you are suggesting would TASTE so mush better and be more satisfying! Thanks Kate!

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  10. This has been my WOE (way of eating) since October 2008.

    October 24, 2008 in local news
    41 year old non-diabetic woman discovered in walking coma has become type one diabetic.
    PS this was not an actual headline LOL

    The only things I didn't eat:

    ~lots of meat, I tried to avoid red meat. I ate lots of dishes that contained very little meat. You know those famous Meatless Monday dishes. *wink* I especially avoided fried foods. And foods that contained skin of any kind.

    ~ also avoided salt of any kind (you know not good for the old heart)

    ~ any fat at all! none. zero.
    unless it was in the form of homemade ice cream smile that was my only realy weakness and I was ashamed of it
    oh wait, I used olive oil/coconut oils only. I avoided all animal fats…I probably would have died (wait I almost did without it, but anyway) if any lard or tallow entered my kitchen. however I never allowed margarine or any man-made veggie-oils into my kitchen either. I did allow butter because my darling beloved hard working husband enjoyed it on his from scratch, all-natural bread.

    He did enjoy pork rinds and beef jerky…HA! not in my house. well that was the case until Feb. 2009. smile pork rinds are salty, crunchy and require no injected insulin…SOLD! thanks!

    Now, the only fruits and veggies I eat are very very limited. The list can be found at http://www.healingnaturallybybee.com
    BTW, I am not Bee, just a person who is thankful she found that website.

    Anyway, I didn't chose this WOE, it chose me. So far it works for me.

    Have a blessed Tuesday and I will be following closely. I will record my foods and my blood sugars also the amount of insulin I personally inject. I went on Feb 4, 2010 to the doc for them to draw my blood and check my A1c which averages my total blood glucose levels over the coarse of 3 months. However, since I am their most strict diabetic patient I only am seen every 6 months. *smile* I will record my A1c (? waiting for a call from the lab), blood pressure (which was 102/78) and temp (97.7) my weight 94.4 lbs (yeah, I gained!!!).

    For Breakfast this morning I had:
    2 eggs (fried in homemade pure lard)
    very fatty Pork chop (cooked in crock pot over night in lots of lard, no water) with 3 tablespoons melted butter
    and my own electrolyte to drink.

    I will soon eat lunch it will be:
    at least one fried egg
    probably more pork chop with maybe a side dish of a fried in lard 73/27 ground beef patty with lots of butter and melted cheese
    along with my homemade electrolyte.

    Supper will be simiar but I will include a veggie and probably sauted onions and garlic with the cheese-burger. along with homemade electrolyte.
    Sometimes but not always I use a romaine lettuce leaf in place of the bread/bun.

    I look forward to watching and learning from you all.

    Have a Wonder-Filled Day!
    Paula
    http://gracethymecottage.blogspot.com

    Reply

  11. Kate-

    A good friend of mine sent you a comment disagreeing with you about this diet, but I haven't seen it posted. I'm really confused and torn, so I would love to here your point of view about why my friend is right or wrong about finding healthy foods, particularly whole grains, at places like Costco. Could you please post it and respond?

    Thanks- you're SUPER!!!

    Reply

  12. Vonda,

    Honestly, your friend's comment really confused me, which is why I didn't post it. It also seemed a little angry/insulting. But I'll paraphrase the concerns for those who haven't seen it and then address them.

    A commenter wanted to know why there isn't some brand of bread that is adequate to buy that doesn't contain phytates and suggested that there must be alternatives, even at Costco. She also suggested that she generally disagrees with my conclusions and that plenty of people have found healthy food without worrying about all the information I've presented here.

    The part about phytates — that is something ALL grains contain (and legumes, too). The way that modern wheat is processed doesn't remove them. The only ways to remove them are to sprout the grains, or to soak the flour before baking. There are brands of bread that do this (www.foodforlife.com products do this) but they are expensive and difficult to find. Any brand in a normal supermarket will contain non-sprouted, non-soaked grains and will contain phytates. Nearly all will also contain preservatives and other undesirable ingredients (even the ones that say "no preservatives" do…because I bought a loaf of bread that said that and it lasted a few months with no mold. Homemade bread lasts only about a week before it goes moldy, so clearly something had been added to the store bought). Phytates are not required to be on the label, so there's no way to specifically tell if a product contains them. But unless it says "sprouted grain" or "flourless" it does.

    There are many, many different ways to eat. Some people rely heavily on raw milk, cheese, butter, etc. We don't do dairy at all here, primarily because of allergies. Either way is okay. People have different needs.

    What remains constant, though, is that modern processed food is not good for us. There are some healthier options out there, and a lot of people prefer them for sheer convenience. Are you going to drop dead tomorrow if you eat traditional whole grains? No. But there's a reason why so many people are now deficient in B vitamins, anemic, diabetic, etc. and that's largely because of low meat consumption, high grain consumption, and anti-nutrients.

    There is a LOT more information at http://www.westonaprice.org. They've done a lot of this research, so I suggest going there. Also, a lot of other bloggers have discussed this issue, including http://www.kitchenstewarship.com, http://www.gnowfglins.com, http://www.keeperofthehome.net, http://www.passionatehomemaking.com, http://www.cheeseslave.com. Check out these other blogs for similar perspectives but possibly better explanations.

    I hope that helps!

    Reply

  13. Just curious- why would I listen to a dentist fromt the early 1900's about my diet? What special knowledge does a dentist have that a nutritionist or phyiscian doesn't have, particularly one from almost one century ago?

    Reply

  14. Do you only post nice comments?

    Reply

  15. Rose,

    As I said before, "I am not intending to say that formula feeding moms are bad." Not my intention at all. I'm sorry if it came across that way. Yes, I think manufacturers should do a better job but that in no way has anything to do with you. That is THEIR issue. I wish there WERE better options out there for moms who need to use formula! And I am, again, NOT insulting moms who use formula. That's not even what this post was about. I'm very sorry that that's all you took away from it.

    Janice,

    Weston Price noted that his patients who ate traditional diets had very straight, white teeth and strong, wide jaws; while patients who did not had narrow jaws, cavities, etc. So he decided to spend time investigating WHY this was, and devoted the rest of his time to studying diet and its influences on bone structure, development, and other measures of health. So, he started as a dentist but began studying nutrition due to his expectations.

    Vonda,

    I wouldn't say I post only "nice" comments (you can read some above aren't especially nice, people insult me all the time unfortunately), but I try not to post those that are rude to me. People who just come in and tell me I'm mean and callous and judgmental and etc. etc. don't get posted typically. Please feel free to disagree with me — but you don't have to call me names to do it!

    EVERYONE, let's remember. If you're insulted by something I said (especially something I just posted generally and not in a comment response to you or something), I really was NOT intending it to hurt you or upset you. Please think about that when you respond. It's really upsetting to see people take my words out of context and call me mean, rude, etc. all day long. Please read your comments back before you post them and think if that's the way you would want someone who UNINTENTIONALLY upset you to approach you. Seriously. It only takes a minute and it can change everything.

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  16. Aren't wide jaws, straight teeth, and the lack of cavities genetic? How would diet effect these things, especially the width of the jaw?

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  17. Some anthropologists call agriculture the biggest mistake of human history. Skeletal remains were found at the Dickson Mounds in Illinois from both before and after the onset of agriculture. Those that were from the time period after agriculture started were in MUCH worse health than those from before. They had all kinds of problems with their teeth and bones. All of this has manifested itself again and again through the generations and now we've got more disease and decay than we can handle.

    Reply

  18. You can find healthly bread at costco, they carry sprouted breads.
    I think it's called "Squirrelly Bread." (But not made from squirrels.)

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  19. thank you for your blog and this article in particular, found a lot of useful information, will share with others

    Reply

  20. Hi Kate – love this post, and love your explanation about low-fat, grains, and healthy meats! I think this is so easy to understand – especially for those who are new to this information – and hopefully will appeal to people who are open to change for their health and diets, and are tired of being sick, overweight, and fatigued every day of their lives. Thanks for doing the work you do, it is greatly appreciated! :)

    Reply

  21. I’ll be sooo thrilled to are familiar with your details!

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  22. Great To read The content material..Fine post i’ll be Linked to this..Lulling.

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  23. That is certainly very excellent news,you need to give us all your display screen pictures.

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