Blog Post #6: Four Foods Myths Sabotaging Your Diet
Greetings WHOLE beings!
I’ve been thinking…
Something interesting about humans is we are almost always trying to “game the system.” Always looking for a better, more efficient way to do something. This has basically lead to the rise of our species, industry, and every other human accomplishment. We are very creative indeed.
Some things, however, are natural, immovable truths. We can make warmer clothes, but it’s still cold outside. We can build studier buildings, but the earthquake is still coming. Food and nutrition is nature (although we have been trying to make it anything but), so try as you might, you’re not going to “game the system.” Sure, there is some wiggle room, different needs for different people, evolution in farming (or de-evolution some would say), a deeper understanding of the body and food from a scientific perspective. But food is still food and we are still human animals and the more counter-intuitive, unnatural crap we pull trying to lose weight or build muscle, the further we dig ourselves into hole. There- I said it.
MYTH: Animal protein is the “highest quality” protein.
It is a commonly held notion that animal protein is the “best assimilated” protein. Whey, casein (both dairy), meat and egg protein are often touted as most easily digested and best at building muscle. We associate building muscle mass with a lean body composition, healthy body weight and, in turn, good health. It is a myth that animal protein is needed to do this. Long term studies have been conducted on large populations to access global effects of nutrition on our health; particularly body weight, the occurrence of heart disease, diabetes and many forms or cancer. The China-Cornell-Oxford Project was touted as “the Grand Prix of epidemiology” by the New York Times. It is a foundation of nutritional recommendations for longevity and disease prevention at places like the Cleveland Clinic and Pritikin Longevity Centers to name a few.
This 20 year study revealed that the consumption of animal protein dramatically INCREASED the occurrence of obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, breast, prostate and bowel cancer. The results of this study were overwhelmingly in favor of a plant based diet for optimal health. It is a totally fallacy that plant food does not contain meaningful amounts of protein. Pumpkin seeds, for instance, have 20 grams of protein per 100 grams as well as being a great source of iron. Broccoli has 11 grams of protein per 100 calories. Top sirloin steak has 6.4 grams protein per 100 calories. Acknowledging that all bodies are unique, some may still feel better including small amounts of animal protein while others truly do best with none. Recommendations if including meat in your diet:
#1. It should not be a staple of nutrition. Not an everyday, every meal food.
#2. What animal protein you do consume, should be of the highest quality available to you. Factory farmed meat is some of the most unhealthy food products one can consume. Not to mention the horrific animal suffering.
MYTH: Low Carb/High-Protein for optimal health.
The last myth may lead you to the next one. “How am I to get a sufficient amount of protein without consuming animal food?” It seems current “common knowledge” that a low carb, high protein diet is the healthiest. The truth is that humans are not designed to eat low carbohydrate diets. You crave carbs when you restrict them because you NEED them for proper muscle, hormone and brain function. High (animal) protein diets actually INCREASE the occurrence of disease according to the same study.
Carbohydrates in the form or fruits, vegetables (including potatoes), grains, beans and legumes are the foundation of any healthy diet. At least 80% of your food should ideally be a colorful variety of WHOLE plants (meaning not processed, rather, in its original form). Those plants will provide not just carbohydrates but protein, fats, fiber and all important MICRONUTRIENTS. Carbohydrates in the form of flours, sugars, pastas, pastries etc., are the “carbs” that can lead to trouble with health and body weight and should be chosen wisely and eaten sparingly.
MYTH: Canola oil is a heart healthy oil.
Canola oil is listed as a “heart healthy” oil by many respected organizations. This is because it has low erucic acid (unlike its predecessor rapeseed oil) and is low in saturated fat. Judging food quality by these kinds of metrics alone is similar to saying that a doughnut is as nutritious as 2 bananas and a handful of almonds because they have the same amount of sugar and fat. It matters very much how a food is grown, processed, and what else is in it (chemicals or micronutrients, etc.).
Canola oil was developed after the FDA determined rapeseed oil unsafe for human and animal consumption because of high levels of erucic acid. A new plant was GENETICALLY MODIFIED to produce LEAR (low-erucic-acid rapeseed oil). This is what we now call canola oil. It is not a naturally occurring plant to begin with, so labeling it “organic” seems like a bogus loophole in the definition itself. Non-organic canola oil seed is further genetically modified to withstand heavy doses of glysophate (aka Monsanto’s “Round-Up” weed killer). Many people have allergies and sensitivities to canola oil for these reasons. The moral of the story is that canola oil (as well as corn and vegetable oils) should be avoided in favor of coconut, avocado and olive oils.
MYTH: Coconut and olive oil are superfoods and we need high levels of fat for best health.
Fat is all the rage today. Ketogenic diet has put a spin on the Atkin’s of old; low carb, animal protein focused diet with a new emphasis on consuming high levels of fat. There is also the “Bulletproof Diet” and other similar fat loving fads. Leaving fads behind, what does unbiased scientific research say? Better yet, what does common sense tell you? Well if your common sense has been stumped by decades of conflicting information, don’t feel bad. Although once I mention the science, it may be one of those “duhh” moments… I know it was for me.
Coconut, olive and avocado oils are the healthier choices for cooking and dressings if you are not choosing an oil free diet. This does not make them superfoods. Why? Well, for starters, we do not benefit from massively high fat consumption. The fact that fat occurs at relatively low levels in nature (most plant food is void of fat) and that the foods that contain the fats are fibrous and hard to eat a lot of (nuts, seeds, avocado), is very telling.
The other, more important reason why oils should not be considered superfoods is because they are extracted from the WHOLE. The fiber, water, nutrients and other goodies accompanying the fats in avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, interact with the body totally differently than when fat is extracted from the plant and is consumed separately. Same as when we extract sugar from an apple! It’s not as healthy… in fact it’s a bit UNhealthy. So it’s not that you shouldn’t eat them, but you shouldn’t treat added fats as health foods, going out of your way to consume more of them
Fat, like protein and carbohydrates, are essential to good health. Added fats (similar to added sugars) are less nutritious and should generally be consumed judiciously, for enjoyment. Consuming a majority of your fats through whole food is ideal, as you will receive the full benefits the plant has to offer.
WHOLE plants?! Bet you could have guessed this would be the message from me. The good news is there is nothing to count or memorize. The approach is quite simple. Healthy food looks close to its original form in nature. The rest is something we should consume knowingly, because we enjoy the taste
Peace, love and sweet potatoes,