Have you read the Top 11 Lies of Mainstream Nutrition? When I saw the title, I hoped that I found a kindred spirit; someone writing about how real nutrition should include saturated fats, eggs, and cod liver oil. I clicked over to verify what the author had “right” from a real food perspective. I smiled at first, and then I found myself furrowing my brow and starting to smirk.
The author is obviously a big fan of the latest dietary craze, generally summed up as “meat-is-good-grains-are-bad”. There are different takes on this approach to eating, from low carb, to paleo, to primal. I do not have a problem with these dietary approaches per se, especially if you feel better in the long term while eating no grains and a lot of steaks. But as nutritionally minded people, we are prone to getting stuck in the latest, most Perfect Diet of them All. (But it doesn’t exist.)
I am not willing to say that there are rules as far-reaching as “sugar is bad”, “meat is good”, or “grains are bad”. Sugar is sugar, meat is meat, and grains are grains. From a traditional foods perspective, I prefer natural sugars with minerals in tact, grass-fed and pastured meats, and soaked, sprouted, freshly ground, or sourdoughed grains.
But even from my real food perspective, I break some rules. I eat white sugar and white flour when I am out. I buy the occasional loaf of commercial sourdough, even though it’s got refined flour in it. This is not only a healthy way to approach a diet, it is the most realistic. You should eat the best food you can find for the least amount of stress you can expend.
But back to the article.
The author posits that these are the Top 11 Lies of Mainstream Nutrition. I agree with most of them, and have highlighted those ones in green. I take issue with the remaining four “lies” and have highlighted them in red.
- Eggs Are Unhealthy: I agree! This is a lie! Eggs are often maligned as being cholesterol-laden death bombs. But remember that eating cholesterol doesn’t raise your cholesterol. In fact, you need cholesterol in your diet! It’s good for your brain. And pastured eggs pack a nutritional punch. Click here to find a local WAPF chapter that can help you find local and pastured eggs.
- Saturated Fat is Bad For You: I agree! This is a lie! Saturated fat is still feared far and wide, even though the correlation between saturated fat and heart disease has long since been disproven. See why saturated fat will NOT give you heart disease here.
- Everybody Should be Eating Grains. Hmmm. I’m not sure this is a lie. Properly prepared grains are not evil. If you are truly allergic to gluten, then avoid high-gluten grains like wheat and eat rice or gluten-free grains instead. Otherwise, you are missing the point of having a healthy metabolism that can digest grains no problem.
- Eating a Lot of Protein is Bad for Your Bones and Kidneys: I agree! This is a lie! Grass-fed and pastured meats, meaning that the animals were free to eat bugs and grass as they roam in the sunshine, are not bad for your bones or kidneys. We evolved to eat meat. How often is up to you. Listen to your body. Click here to find pastured meats.
- Low Fat Foods Are Good For You: I agree! This is a lie! The whole WAPF way of approaching nutrition is to debunk the fat fear. This was the biggest “a-ha moment” I had while reading Nourishing Traditions. Not only is fat good for you, but saturated fat is essential to good health. Eat grass-fed butter and cream, use coconut oil, and don’t be afraid of the fat in pastured meats and the yolks in pastured eggs! Click here to see what healthy fats look like.
- You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day: I agree! This is a lie! We seem to think that because blood sugar is a problem for some people: 1. we should do what they do, even if we don’t have a blood sugar problem, and 2. the way to solve the blood sugar issue is to eat several small meals. Well, that’s not the solution. Read more about diabetes and blood sugar solutions here. And if you are eating several small meals throughout the day, I hope it’s because you feel better that way, not because you are using it as another “diet”. Stop dieting. Seriously.
- Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories. I know, I know! The Food Guide Pyramid is ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean that having a lot of carbs is bad. Especially in this day and age when low carb, primal, and paleo are a bit hard on carbs. We have vilified carbohydrates just like protein (militant vegetarianism) and fat (low-fat craze) before them. On the contrary, carbs are not evil.
- High Omega-6 Seed and Vegetable Oils are Good For You: I agree! This is a lie! Eating a ton of seeds and nuts in lieu of other foods, especially properly prepared grains and starches, isn’t necessarily healthy. This default position that veggies are always better does a real disservice to you as you read ingredient lists on packaged foods. Avoid sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and other high omega-6 veggie oils. Instead use butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and other foods lower in omega 6s. Click here for a list of high and low omega-6 foods.
- Low Carb Diets are Dangerous. This one is a little iffy. Low carb diets can be dangerous, especially if you find yourself in the catecholamine honeymoon and you start regaining weight you previously lost, your temperature drops, and you gain other symptoms of poor metabolic function. Click here to see how to improve metabolism.
- Sugar is Unhealthy Because it Contains “Empty” Calories. Oh boy, where do I go with this one? This needs to be a whole new post! The short answer is this: sugar is not inherently unhealthy. And sugar is certainly not extra unhealthy because “it’s not only empty calories, but so so damaging!” The author of the original link really gets this one wrong. Sugar gives you energy. And wholesome sweeteners are even better.
Use raw honey, coconut sugar, and other whole cane sugars. Eat them in the morning, or before 3pm or so. And don’t feel guilty. In conjunction with a healthy, balanced diet, you can eat sugar happily and without regret.
- High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat: I agree! This is a lie! Similar to the false idea that eating cholesterol raises cholesterol, high fat foods will not make you fat. They are simply another nutrient that you can absorb for energy. There are more calories per gram of fat than carbohydrates or protein, but they also keep you fuller longer, and contribute to a healthy body. So skip the skim milk and drink the whole milk! Click here to find raw milk in your area.
So now let’s take those red numbers and ponder a bit. In fact, go reread them one more time. Did you do it? I trust you! These are what the author calls “lies”, but I think they deserve more critical thinking. I have changed them to reflect the REALlies that mainstream nutrition tells us. Want to know? Keep reading!
SO WHAT IS THE REALLY REAL LIST?
Drumroll please! (My changes are bolded.)
- Eggs Are Unhealthy: False! Pastured eggs are healthy.
- Saturated Fat is Bad For You: False! Traditionally sourced saturated fat is good for you.
- Everybody Should be Avoiding Grains: False! Grains are healthy. Avoid them if you are truly allergic (but please still eat carbs and starches!)
- Eating a Lot of Protein is Bad for Your Bones and Kidneys: False! Your body is perfectly capable of digesting it without hurting your bones or kidneys.
- Low Fat Foods Are Good For You: False! Foods with unnaturally lowered fat content are NOT good for you. Eat whole milk cheese, full fat butter, and drink whole milk.
- You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day: False! Eat three square meals a day.
- [Fill-in-the-Nutrient] Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories: False! Stop worrying about your biggest source of calories. Eat a mix of macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) and see which combination you prefer.
- High Omega-6 Seed and Vegetable Oils are Good For You: False! Opt for lower omega 6 foods, instead of eating more omega 3 foods.
- Diets are Good For You: False! Diets are bad for you. Eat the food.
- Sugar is Unhealthy: False! Sugar is just another food you ingest. Eat it or don’t eat it. Listen to your body. It’s not “bad”. Use wholesome sweeteners whenever possible.
- High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat: False! High fat foods are simply a different macronutrient ratio than low fat foods. Eat them or don’t eat them, but fats are not “bad”, nor will they make you fat.
So there you have it. My pristine, truly vetted list of 11 biggest lies that mainstream nutrition tells us. Don’t swallow the lies of conventional health wisdom. Listen to your body. Challenge your opinions and check them against the facts. But most of all: find vibrant health in eating wholesome real food!