Recently, the New England of Medicine published an article showing that “low carb” diets help people lose more weight than both the Mediterranean and the “low fat” diets. Sure enough, before the ink dried on this study we started seeing the general public react in predictable ways, like wolfing down sausages, red meat, and all kinds of high fat and animal based foods.
While more studies are welcome in the “alternative” field of nutrition (yes, the National Institute of Health considers nutrition an alternative,) most studies are done by researchers who view this burgeoning field through their training-induced reductionist lenses. In other words, many studies seem oddly detached from significant variables, like economic, political and behavioral issues. They also tend to ignore the fact that weight is not the most important variable when we talk about nutrition. Often, these studies also neglect to consider that the kind of food we eat is one thing, while the way we process it in our intestines is another. Then, the new recognition that food itself influences the hormonal connections between our gut and the “thermostat” we have in our brain (hippothalamus) is often ignored. In other words, what kinds of food tend to mess up our thermostats and thus perpetuate our deranged metabolisms is not accounted for in these studies.
Last of all, the issue of addiction, yes addiction to certain foods is seldom addressed.
In my opinion, all these factors may be simply summarized in one short sentence: people become addicted to PROCESSED FOODS, such as refined carbs, which are laden with high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, preservatives, food colorings, artificial sweeteners and many other questionable molecules that alter our metabolism, or the way our thermostat works.
I know that many will disagree with this statement. No doubt they will drag out the worn-our refrain “calories in = calories out.” But, as stated above, many factors influence how we handle the calories we consume. Some will also argue that no one diet is OK for all of us. I agree with this statement, but with reservations. Some people do better as vegetarians, while others do best avoiding grains. But, on the whole, WE ALL NEED TO GET OFF PROCESSED FOOD.
This is the main issue with our nutritional problems. Focusing on slight differences, like “low carb” vs. “low fat” is like choking on a gnat and swallowing a camel. In my opinion, these studies are little more than “paying attention to the man behind the curtain.” Yes, Big Food stands to benefit by diverting attention away from their processed garbage with studies like this. In the meantime, Big Food continues to produce processed foods that have repeatedly been shown to be toxic and addictive. Since they are cheaper than natural foods, people tend to eat them, forced by a deteriorating economy. The “bottom line” is that our bottom line and Big Food’s get bigger….
Still, the proof of the pudding is in the eating: have these “low carb, low fat” studies, and the “calories in = calories out” studies born good results? Have we been getting any thinner? The answer is a resounding NO.
Here is what I feel the problem is, practically stated: we need carbs in the form of complex carbs, such as what we find in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. We need fats such as the ones contained in fish nuts, olives and several other vegetable-based fats. If we wish to eat animal fats, they would be best to come from lean, organic poultry. To continue to demonize all fats and all carbs is not only unscientific but harmful.
So, you wish to eat the right diet for you?
Start with the ABCs and lick your sugar addiction. Once you do that, focus on filling up with veggies, fruits and nuts. If you need more food, add the grains and legumes. If you wish to eat animal protein, reach for poultry and fish. After that, you could experiment with more “advanced” concepts. But, first things first.
The fields of Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics may help you determine whether you, like most people, may eat all types of GOD GIVEN FOODS (as opposed to processed foods.) Or, you may need to refrain from all animal meat (book “The China Study,”) or refrain from grains (book “The Paleo Diet.”) But, it is more practical to try both extremes for a while, rather than checking out your genetic information.
But, again, those two extremes are not the norm, but the exceptions. Besides, nobody does well eliminating whole groups of food.
And refined foods are not “food groups,” like Big Food would like you to believe.