Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Flawed Logic

Gluten-free. Sugar-free. Trans fat-free. We are all familiar with these phrases and even if you don't understand the science, there's a general acknowledgment that gluten, sugar, and trans fat are unhealthy (amongst other things). People like knowing what is GOOD for them vs. what is BAD for them. In general, people like STRUCTURE and categorizing things into black or white, good or evil, healthy or unhealthy, hot or not. However, having this "either/or" mentality can be dangerous. 

The omission of an unhealthy element does not automatically make a food healthy. 

Just because a food advertises itself as gluten-free does not make it good for you. It just means it is gluten-free. Check out the ingredients for Gluten-Free Brownie Mix from Betty Crocker: Rice flour, semi-sweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla), brown sugar, sugar, potato starch, potato flour, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate), salt.

If someone has a gluten allergy, could they eat this? Sure. Does it make it healthy for them? I doubt it. This is why I cringe when people tell me they want to eat gluten-free and head to the "gluten-free" aisle in Whole Foods to pick up gluten-free cookies, and gluten-free cake, and gluten-free bagels. Are you kidding me? If gas stations marketed their gasoline as "gluten-free" would you drink it? Some of the chemicals in gluten-free food can be just as sketchy (ok, maybe not as crazy as gasoline, but you get my point)

The means do not always justify the ends.

People focus TOO MUCH on the end goal of being gluten-free/sugar-free/no trans fat and NOT ENOUGH on the means of getting there. Focusing on eating REAL, naturally occurring food is a better means to get to the same end. A steak, sweet potato, and avocado can be a great dinner that meets the same goals as gluten-free pasta, plus the former meal will leave you feeling full for longer and provide nutrients not found in the pasta. Would you rather eat food that has stood the test of time or food that has stood the test of an assembly line?

All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. 

Remember this phrase from geometry? The nerd in me uses this analogy to further my point. If you replace "squares" with "real food" and "rectangles" with "gluten-free" or "trans fat-free," you get my point. All real food is gluten-free, but not all gluten-free food is real. This is where the rubber hits the road. How do you actually know what to eat and what not to eat? There are no black and white answers for everyone, but there are guidelines from me and a shopping list from Robb Wolf. I'm not going to advise a 400lb. man and a 90lb. girl to eat the same exact way, but the one thing they will have in common is food QUALITY.

At the other end of this flawed logic, there is another issue of food advertising itself using bad science. Food that is "cholesterol-free" or "fat-free" clearly is a marketing ploy and nothing more. There are no legitimate scientific studies to back up claims that fat and cholesterol are totally BAD for you. None. If you find one, please send it over. I've tried drilling this into your psyche, but if you still need to read up on it, start with Mark Sisson's take on saturated fat. Or look up "Ancel Keys" and find out exactly who he is and what he did. (Hint: He started the whole notion that "fat is bad" with VERY biased data)

At the end of the day, use your noggin. THINK about what your goals are and the best means to get there. Google, read, and absorb information from good sources. (aka the links on the right side of this blog) ASK questions and TALK about your food evolution with others. And at the very least, don't drink the gasoline. 

Are there other examples of flawed logic when it comes to nutrition? 
What are your thoughts on marketing tactics?
Other thoughts/comments/questions welcome

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Archevore's 12 Step Program: Dr. Kurt Harris' Dietary Recommendations

A metabolically advantageous meal of kale, sweet potato, and steak
I've been following Dr. Harris' blog for some time now, which was originally called PaNu (for Paleolithic Nutrition), but has since changed names to Archevore. Says Harris, "I've taken the greek word Arche, which refers to the underlying or essential, and combined it with the latin -vore to create a word that means "one who eats of the essentials". Archevory refers both to a dietary approach which strives to focus on essentials without superfluity, but also to the yearning to consume or learn about essential principles in general."

Dr. Harris does not believe (nor do I) in paleo reenactment. That is, just because a food is from the paleolithic era does not deem it healthy, and conversely, just because a food is neolithic does not deem it unhealthy. Yes, yes, I know you think that just because a "caveman ate it" it's right for you. Well, not necessarily. Rather, we agree on the fact that one should look at the metabolic advantages/disadvantages and implications for disease instead of the era in which is comes from. An example of this is grass-fed butter. Clearly a neolithic agent, however, a great source of fat. (I probably have Kerry Gold butter five times a week, spread over a delicious sweet potato.)

I wanted to share with you Dr. Harris' 12 steps to getting started on a "clean" diet. This is not a crash diet, it is the way you should be eating to avoid disease. When I hear people going on diets to lose weight, I shake my head at the nonsense they are being told. Did you know there are doctors who are prescribing 1000 calorie diets made up of more processed materials than real food? (look up Medifast diet) I'm not denying that eating 1000 calories a day will allow a person to lose weight, however, I'm strongly against diets that are not sustainable nor healthy for a person. Just because you may lose weight does not put you in a healthier state. Also, paying $300/month for a shake or powdered food diet might work for a few months or even a year, but what happens after that?

These 12 steps are sustainable, allow the freedom to eat without neuroticism (NOT counting calories or macronutrients), and will move you away from a life of disease.

For the full post, check it out at Archevore.

1. Eliminate sugar (including fruit juices and sports drinks that contain HFCS) and all foods that contain flour.
2. Start eating proper fats - Use healthy animal fats  to substitute fat calories for calories that formerly came from sugar and flour. 
3. Eliminate gluten grains. Limit grains like corn and rice, which are nutritionally poor.
4. Eliminate grain and seed derived oils (cooking oils) Cook with Ghee, butter, animal fats, or coconut oil. Use no temperate plant oils like corn, soy, canola, flax, walnut, etc.
5. Favor ruminants like beef, lamb and bison for your red meat. Eat eggs and fish.
6. Make sure you are Vitamin D replete. Get daily midday sun or consider supplementation.
7. 2 or 3 meals a day is best. Don't graze like a herbivore.
8. Attend to your 6s and 3s. Pastured (grass fed) dairy and grass fed beef or bison has a more optimal 6:3 ratio, more vitamins and CLA. If you can't eat enough pastured products, eat plenty of fish.
9. Get proper exercise - emphasizing resistance and interval training over long aerobic sessions.
10. Most modern fruit is just a candy bar from a tree. Go easy on bags of sugar like apples. Stick with berries and avoid watermelon which is pure fructose. Eat in moderation. If you are not trying to lose fat, a few pieces of fruit a day are fine.
11. Eliminate legumes
12. If you are allergic to milk protein or concerned about theoretical risks of casein, you can stick to butter and cream and avoid milk and soft cheeses.

What do you think of these steps? Are you already at a certain step? Which ones are easy for you or hard to execute?

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