(Well not “everything,” but muchos de the conventional wisdom is probably ass-backwards.)
I get bored with political economy at times… largely because convincing people to adopt correct ideas is hard and probably won’t have much benefit for a while. However, with nutrition, determining correct ideas and refuting incorrect ones can have benefits quickly.
So, a brief and simplified overview of the science on human health:
0. Biologically modern humans have been living on Earth for at least 100,000 years. Our larger family of humans have been living on Earth for millions of years. For the vast majority of that time, we lived as hunter-gatherers. Evidence from anthropology, archaeology, and epidemiology strongly indicates that people in hunter-gatherer societies almost never experience:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- tooth decay
- poor vision
and many other health problems associated with metabolic syndrome. Indeed, hunter-gatherers are usually lean, healthy, and have long lifespans without modern medicine.
It was not until the first Agricultural Revolution, when we began to eat a lot of grass seeds (a.k.a. “grains”), that we began to experience these health problems at high rates. And it only got worse from there (until the advent of modern medicine around 100 years ago when it started getting better—on the treatment side).
1. A logical starting point for determining what is healthy, therefore, is to look at what we typically ate as hunter-gatherers vs. what we didn’t typically eat. This logic gives some clear answers which have been further confirmed by biological science and clinical trials.
2. It makes no sense whatsoever to avoid meat for health reasons. (Especially not beef, lamb, game, or fish.) Meat is the most healthy food. Meat, including offal, contains bioavailable amounts of all the nutrients necessary for optimal human life and no significant anti-nutrients. Unlike vegetables, you can live well on meat alone. Our bodies evolved adaptations to eating significant quantities of meat, and significant amounts of saturated fat. Hell, we likely hunted big game almost to extinction on some continents. Being efficient hunters and eating more meat allowedus to grow more powerful brains and thus become the smart modern humans we all are and love.
3. Neither cholesterol nor saturated fat cause heart disease or any other significant health problems. The myth that consuming saturated fat causes heart disease has been thoroughly debunked by the last 50 years of clinical trials, scientific advances in physiology, and epidemiology. It persists only thanks to inertia and politics.
Cholesterol is a bit more complicated, but the evidence is unambiguous that neither dietary cholesterol nor total blood cholesterol cause heart disease or any other significant health problems. Cholesterol is a vital nutrient, necessary in significant quantities for good health. The only potentially “bad cholesterol” is that contained in small, very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). And what increases VLDL? Not fat or cholesterol in the diet, but rather carbs in the diet. Want to reduce this so-called potentially “bad cholesterol” in your blood? Eat more animal products, more saturated fat, more complete protein, less carbs. All that crap (Cheerios, Quaker Oats, Cocoa Puffs, granola, low-fat yoghurt, etc.) government-approved as “heart-healthy” is exactly the opposite.
4. Refined carbs are unhealthy and fattening. That means bread, pasta, cereal, etc.—anything made with flour or sugar. To simplifythings a lot, refined carbs sustain raised blood sugar and, eaten regularly, keep you more hungry and your insulin+ high and thus keep your bodyfat cells full, growing, and reproducing.
5. To understand this, you have to understand that the conventional “it’s all about calories in vs. calories out” approach to bodyfat is backwards. If you get fatter, it’s not because you’re eating too many calories. You eat more calories because you’re getting fatter. And you’re getting fatter due to dysregulation of the bio-chemicals (like insulin) which control your bodyfat tissue, in turn driving bodyfat accumulation, bodyfat retention, and hunger.
6. Fat is not fattening. Eat more fat if you want to be lean and healthy. Okay… so you can get energy from eating either carbs or fat. Your bodyfat is a buffer meant to be continuously consumed for energy when you’re not consuming food. However, if you’re eating carbs rather than fat, and thus have a defect in your fat metabolism, your body will be burning carbs for energy and not fat—including bodyfat. To lose bodyfat, you need to get your body burning fat for energy instead of snacking on refined carbs all day. There are two ways to do this:
- semi-starve yourself (calorie restriction) or
- eat fat and protein instead of carbs
The latter is healthier… and it is the only method consistently demonstrated in clinical trials that actually works for statistically significant weight loss. If you want to lose body fat, eat more saturated fat.
7. Wheat is especially unhealthy and fattening. Not only are wheat products made up of mostly fattening refined carbs, but they also contain the dangerous protein gluten and other anti-nutrients that inflame and penetrate your gut. An inflamed gut can’t absorb other nutrients properly, and allows toxic substances to leak into your system. Furthermore, there are molecules in wheat that bind to minerals in other foods and prevent them from being absorbed. Finally, certain wheat proteins can stimulate the immune system in a bad way, so that it begins attacking your own tissues (“autoimmune disorders”), making you sick not just in your gut but everywhere (like people with celiac disease but subclinical). And there is nothing good in wheat that you can’t get more efficiently from animal products, vegetables, or tubers. If there is one thing you should completely avoid eating, it is wheat.
8. Sugar is especially unhealthy and fattening. Fructose, found largely in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (and fruit juice), is seriously bad shit when consumed anywhere near the levels of the standard American diet. Fructose is very likely a trigger that causes the bodyfat tissue defect mentioned in point #5. If you want to lose weight or improve your health, and you’re drinking a lot of soda pop, that’s the first thing you should cut out. Now, thanks to government subsidies, high-fructose corn syrup is currently found in virtually all processed and sweetened food… including those “heart-healthy” cereals and “low-fat” yoghurts and all that other nasty stuff.
9. Vegetable oils are unhealthy due to high levels of omega-6 fats, which block omega-3; so use heart-healthy butter instead (or coconut oil or ghee). Also, for similar reasons, avoid nuts and legumes. Especially soy.
10. So for optimal health and weight management, based on good science and quality clinical studies, what should people avoid eating? What should people eat?
Eat to satisfaction:
- coconut products
- heavy cream
- hard cheeses
- herbs, spices
In moderation (can eat more of these if you’re not trying to lose bodyfat):
- good nuts (almond, macadamia, cashew)
- whole milk
- soft cheeses
- full-fat greek yoghurt
- legumes, especially soy
- vegetable oils
- “low-fat” dairy