My Top 10 Damaging Nutrition Myths
I have listed the worst offenders here, but sadly this is only the beginning of a never ending list that only stands to benefit the so called 'food' manufacturers and a multi-billion diet industry worldwide that both consistently fail people.
Beware of anyone who tells you that the solution is to eat less and exercise more if they tell you to eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet with strict portion control. It probably means that they don’t know what they are doing.
Here are my top 10 biggest myths and misconceptions within mainstream nutrition advice, together with the truth - and links to resources that will enable you to verify this yourself.
Myth Number 1: Saturated Fat is Bad for You
FACT: Saturated fat is good for you - but do NOT consume with sugar, grains, starchy carbohydrates or processed foods.
A few decades ago it was decided that the heart disease epidemic was caused by eating too much fat, and in particular saturated fat. This was based on highly flawed studies and political decisions that have now been proven to be wrong. The 'evidence' that changed official dietary policy was anything but.
Studies have NEVER shown a direct link between eating saturated fat and heart disease. Yet the burden of proof required to refute this claim seems to be many times higher than what was required to change dietary policy in the first place!
Numerous modern scientific studies, published continually, see no cause and effect between saturated fat and heart disease. The original idea that saturated fat caused heart disease is most directly attributable to Ancel Keys. Correlation doesn’t prove cause, but somehow this theory became part of conventional wisdom. Could it have been pressure from the large corporations such as Proctor and Gamble (who were already making mega bucks from industrial seed oils) or did Keys just get it wrong? We will never know.
Meat, butter, coconut oil, cheese... there is no reason for most people to avoid these foods - but take care and do not consume them with sugar, starchy carbohydrates or grain based food such as pasta or bread, or processed foods.
Myth Number 2: Eating Grains is Essential
FACT: Grains are relatively low in nutrients compared to other real foods like vegetables. The gluten in grains does lead to a range of health problems.
The idea that humans should be basing their diets on grains has never worked from a health perspective, blood marker perspective or from a fat loss perspective in my 24 years experience in the field. The rise in obesity related illnesses, diabetes and other diseases associated with metabolic syndrome is evidence of this. In fact, even though I did all the official Nutrition Certifications during the 90s and 'toed the party line' that eating a low fat diet and lots of carbs was good for you, it never once worked for anyone who wanted to lose weight long term or improve their heath markers - unless they accompanied it with 20 plus hours of exercise per week (and even then they still struggled with weight as soon as this level of exercise dropped).
The agricultural revolution happened fairly recently in human evolutionary history and our genes haven’t changed that much, so grain is a very recent addition to the human diet. For most people it is not suitable as a mainstay food. So forget the food pyramid or any of its newer variations - grains for most of us just don’t work.
Grains are fairly low in nutrients compared to other real foods like vegetables. They are also rich in substances called phytates which bind essential minerals in the intestine and prevent them from being absorbed into the bloodstream - and that’s not healthy.
Modern wheat contains a large amount of a protein called gluten, and a significant portion of the population may be sensitive to it. Many people are gluten intolerant and celiac disease is a serious medical problem. Eating gluten can also damage the intestinal lining, cause pain, bloating, stool inconsistency and tiredness.
Myth Number 3: Eggs Are Unhealthy
FACT: Eggs are a highly nutritious food - they don’t cause heart disease or high cholesterol and they can satisfy your appetite. Essentially they are a superfood that can assist greatly in fat loss.
One of the myths peddled by misguided dieticians and nutritionists alike is that eggs are bad for you because they contain cholesterol, and that cholesterol in turn is bad for us and is causing heart disease. In fact eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet and the cholesterol in our diet only makes up 15% of the total cholesterol in our bloodstream. The 'Cholesterol Heart Disease' hypothesis is much more complicated than the simplistic unscientific myth doing the rounds that says that cholesterol in food is detrimental to our health.
On a nutrient level, eggs are an excellent source of protein, providing 5.5 grams per 68 calorie serving and all 9 essential amino acids - all for less than 0.5 grams of carbs! Replacing sugary foods such as breakfast cereals or muesli with eggs can help with weight loss by preventing blood sugar spikes and a state of lipogenesis occurring - the creation of an environment where fat is made from digested carbohydrate and stored as fat on our bodies, with the body also going into fat storage mode rather than using our fat stores as readily available energy. Eggs satisfy appetite due to the macronutrient content of protein and fat.
Myth Number 4: Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You
FACT: Low-fat foods are usually highly processed products loaded with sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. They are extremely unhealthy, will keep you hungry and make you fat.
Eating low fat foods has been heralded as a life-saver for the past 30 plus years but this has been a disaster for health. Food manufacturers are making a fortune out of processed foods and the health implications of replacing fat with sugar are disastrous.
When you take the fat out of food it tastes horrible, so to make it taste better sugar or sweeteners are added in copious amounts, none of which have any nutrients or vitamins. This is just energy dense garbage that the body does not need, so it just converts to fat on your hips or your waistline and hastens heart disease. People who eat these highly processed low fat foods struggle to lose weight and keep it off long term, whilst also feeling permanently hungry.
The food manufacturers control conventional dietary advice and, using the fat phobia we have as cover, they market these products as healthy - when in fact they are the exact opposite. Although artificial sweeteners don’t have calories, evidence doesn’t suggest that they are good for you or better for you than sugar. In fact, many observational studies show a consistent, highly significant association with various diseases like obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, premature delivery and depression .
Myth Number 5: Eating Protein is bad for you and causes Cancer
FACT: Eating a high protein diet is associated with improved bone health and a lower risk of fracture. High protein also lowers blood pressure and improves diabetes symptoms, which should lower the risk of kidney failure.
A high protein diet has been claimed to cause osteoporosis, kidney disease and cancer. It's true that eating protein only for most people is a really bad idea. Without vegetables, particularly the leafy sort, you will be deficient in a whole range of minerals and vitamins. This was the experience of the original mountain men in the United States until the natives taught them to chew pine needles to gain vital vitamin C and also taught them what to pick and eat in the wild to ward off illness caused by vitamin and mineral deficiency.
It is a fact that eating protein increases calcium excretion from the bones in the short term, but longer term studies actually show the opposite effect as protein has a strong association with improved bone health and a lower risk of fracture. Additionally, studies don't show any association of high protein with kidney disease in otherwise healthy people. In fact, two of the main risk factors for kidney failure are diabetes and high blood pressure, and eating a high protein diet reduces the risk of both of these. If anything, a high protein diet should be protective against osteoporosis and kidney failure! We recommend that you eat protein with fat and non-starchy vegetables.
Myth Number 6: Carbohydrates Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories
FACT: The low-fat, high-carb diet has been an unforgiveable failure that has blighted the lives of millions worldwide and still continues to do so. The only winners are the food manufacturers and the drug companies.
Conventional wisdom's view is that everyone should eat a low-fat diet, with carbohydrates making up around 50-60% of total calories. This sort of diet is normally crammed with lots of grains, starchy carbohydrates, sugars, with very small amounts of fat and protein from food like meat and eggs. It may work well for those who are genetically inclined to this ration of macro-nutrients, especially those who are naturally lean - but this represents a very small percentage of people.
The reason why a small percentage of people do well on starchy, high carb diets may be to do with the presence (or lack of) the enzyme Amylase. The more you have, the easier it is for you to process these foods without gaining weight. This may be why, when two people eat the same diet, one may become lean and the other may become fat. That is why a blanket, 'one size fits all' approach to diet simply does not work.
It does seem however that most people who have done poorly with a high carbohydrate diet always do better cutting down or getting rid of sugar, grain, processed foods and starchy carbs such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips. The Ancestral Diet / Blood Group Diet / Paleo Diet / Primal Diet / Whole Food Diet / Dale Cornish Diet / Plant Based Diet are all capable of producing great improvements in health markers - and fat loss. What they all have in common is that they all dramatically reduce (or completely get rid of) intake of sugar, grain, starchy carbohydrates and processed foods. They may differ slightly in attitudes to fat and protein but they all exclude inflammatory foods which means a much healthier outcome than that produced by the standard Western diet which most people try - and fail to lose body fat on - before they switch to these new diets.
For those who are overweight, have metabolic syndrome or diabetes, eating a standard Western diet is deadly and will eventually kill them. This has actually been studied extensively and when you compare the results of low fat, high carb diets with low carb, high fat diets, the type latter always wins hands down for all health markers and also for fat loss.
Myth Number 7: Vegetable Oils Are Good For You
FACT: Humans need to get Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats in a certain ratio. Eating excess Omega-6 from seed oils raises your risk of disease.
Polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy because some studies show that they lower your risk of heart disease. But there are many types of polyunsaturated fats and they are not all the same. We have both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and lower your risk of many diseases related to inflammation and heart disease.
However, humans actually need to get Omega-6s and Omega-3s in a certain ratio; if the ratio is too high in favour of Omega-6, it can cause problems. For the majority of our 3.5 million years of existence we have been eating a 1 to 1 ratio of these fats. In the modern Western diet this ratio is now 20 to 1 in favour of Omega-6, which correlates with the raise of so many modern illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and cancer.
Do not eat industrial processed vegetable oils with the exception of olive oils; the other vegetable oils such as soy bean, sunflower, corn etc are not good for you under any circumstances!
Throughout evolution, humans never had access to such an abundance of Omega-6 fats, and this is unnatural for the human body. Research that looks at Omega-6 fatty acids (instead of polyunsaturated fats in general) shows that they actually increase the risk of heart disease.
Add to this the fact that most of our meat comes from factory fed animals that have no choice but to eat grains (instead of grass) which means that the meat they produce is also super high in Omega-6 oils.
Your best bet here is to try to find grass fed organic meat - and it is safe to eat the fat from grass fed, organic animals - but to cut the fat off non-organic, corn-fed animals. Eat your Omega-3s, and consider supplementing with cod fish liver oil, but avoid industrial seed and vegetable oils.
Myth Number 8: Low Carb Diets Are Dangerous
FACT: Low-carbohydrate eating is the healthiest, easiest and most effective way to lose weight and reverse metabolic disease - and this is a scientific fact.
Everyone whom I have ever worked with has lost fat and improved blood health markers (cholesterol, blood sugar, inflammation) after joining and then sticking with our health programme. They look great, feel great and perform great, and this is my observational experience. Not everyone ends up eating the same way but there is one universal theme - they all reduce dramatically (or get rid of) sugar, grains, starchy carbohydrates and processed foods. Depending on activity levels safe starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes etc may only be reduced.
Every randomised controlled trial done on a low-carb diet shows that they:
- reduce body fat more than calorie-restricted low-fat diets, even though the low-carb dieters are allowed to eat as much as they want;
- lower blood pressure significantly;
- lower blood sugar and improve symptoms of diabetes much more than low-fat diets;
- increase HDL (beneficial) cholesterol;
- lower triglycerides (which make us fat) much more than low-fat diets;
- change the pattern of LDL (potentially harmful) cholesterol from small & dense (very bad) to large LDL (which is benign).
Low carb diets are also easier to stick to because they don’t require you to restrict calories and be hungry all the time. More people in the low-carb groups make it to the end of the studies!
Many of the health professionals that are supposed to have our best interests in mind have the audacity to claim that these diets are dangerous and then continue to peddle their failed low-fat mantra that hurts more people than it helps.
Myth Number 9: Soy Is a Health Food
FACT: You should keep away from most soy so-called 'health' foods - they are NOT healthy.
The rise of soy as a 'health food' is a perfect example of how a great marketing strategy, coupled with our desire to be healthy, can cause great damage and make millions for the food giants.
Unfermented soy products are not healthy additions to your diet. Properly fermented (and preferably organic) soy such as tempeh or miso can offer great health benefits because of the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) the fermentation process produces. However this is not what most people are eating.
The real problem seems to be for a committed vegetarian who for ethical reasons wants to make a difference to the welfare of animals and the planet. Sadly the eating of soy and the destruction of land that the worldwide production of soy is causing the planet is wreaking greater damage than they could ever imagine.
Thousands of studies have linked unfermented soy to a number of health problems. More than 90 percent of American soy crops are also genetically engineered, which only compound health risks. The following is a number of the damaging health effects science has linked to unfermented soy: breast cancer, digestive problems, heart disease, thyroid disorders, kidney stones, food allergies, abnormalities in infants and even malnutrition.
Myth Number 10: Foods high in Saturated Fat will Make You Fat
FACT: Despite saturated fat having more calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein, high-fat diets do not make people fat. A diet that is high in fat AND high in carbs will make you fat, but it’s NOT because of the fat.
Funnily enough, eating fat does not make you fat. This may seem totally counter-intuitive to those of us brought up on the unproven 'saturated fat causes heart disease' hypothesis - but it is in a scientific fact.
Anyone who has ever followed an 'Atkins-type' diet made up of protein and fat will always lose weight, but may not be healthy because of the absence of vegetables and fruit which means an absence of minerals, vitamins and fibre.
Eating saturated fat or any fat with sugar, grains, processed foods or starchy carbohydrate will make you fat, but only because of the presence of the other foods - NOT not because of the presence of fat. Saturated fat doesn’t have the same ability as carbohydrate to elevate blood sugar thereby promoting an increase in insulin release and an opportunity to store fat in the cells.
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