Laymans Nutrition

Most of us probably believe we eat a healthy diet or at least know what constitutes a healthy diet. It’s out there, the message is pressed left, right and centre. Eat your Five a day, avoid saturated fat, low fat, control calories, eat from the “Eat Well Plate” (I remember when it was a pyramid). This advice has been around for decades yet ill health (eg diabetes, obesity) has increased at an alarming rate during that period. Surely if this advice was truly healthy we wouldn’t see this. Perhaps the majority are not following the advice? I don’t think so. Just try to shop in a supermarket and not follow this low fat high grain advice. I would argue the majority are following this advice.

This alone should be enough to make us question whether the advice we’re been given by government and through the media is really good advice. Over the past few years I’ve read and researched extensively and come to the conclusion that a healthy diet is quite different from that which you find in the popular media sources. In the hope of provoking thought and questioning here’s my laymans logic to diet.

Wild animals don’t have someone giving them health advice (note I say wild, farmed animals often have their diet decide for them and would appear to suffer more disease than wild ones) they eat the food available to them in their environment. This is healthy because it is what they evolved with and are thus adapted to.

It would seem sensible to eat what we’ve evolved to eat ie those food sources that would have been available to our evolutionary history. We talking a LONG TIME – pre agriculture so you need to think of processing in the broadest sense (ditch the past, bread etc..). We would have only been able to eat what we could catch, pick or pull out of the ground. If you apply that to your weekly shop you’ll be well on your way. I try and forget the “advice” that’s at every turn in the media. I remember back to my childhood – meat and two veg was the norm and that is a good start. I once heard it said don’t eat anything your great great grandmother wouldn’t have considered food. That certainly works.

We are told that if we want to lose weight or stay trim (or be healthy in general) we should avoid fat and calorie count. It’s obvious right that fat makes fat? A 3,500 calorie deficit will lose you a pound in fat. Common sense right? Not if you think more closely. It’s oft quoted that the first law of thermodynamics proves this. “Conservation of energy” There are some massive assumptions here – not only that we can accurately measure energy in and energy out but also that our body is some perfect machine that manages eek out every calorie of energy given to it as food. This is clearly nonsense – I’m sure oil is calorie rich but you won’t get fat eating it. Also, if this was true, with so many people trying it surely we’d hear of endless success stories. Even if we could accurately measure the calories in food that are available to us and what we burn would it really answer the question why am I overweight ? An analogy I heard was if someone asked why is that restaurant always full and you said because more people entered than left you wouldn’t think that’s a very good answer. Why do some foods make us want to eat more of them ?

Laymans logic again, and back to evolution. Imagine the availability of carbohydrates (carbs) verse fats and proteins. High carb foods would have been available seasonally, for limited time and would be difficult, if not impossible, to store. Fats and protein would be available year round in the form of meat. It would be an evolutionary advantage if carbs didn’t make us feel satiated (ie we can easily overeat them) and any excess be stored as fat. It would also be good if fats and protein made us feel full as these would be the only foods available in times when food supply was low (Ie winter). Certainly this is my experience and it’s something you could try for yourself. Just two weeks out of your life avoiding carbs.

I hear regularly that our brains need carbs but again does it make sense? If that is true then everyone on a low carb diet would be going out of their minds. They’re not, so either there are enough carbs in a low carb diet (it’s virtually impossible to get no carbs) or we don’t need them. That fact we can live healthily without carbs has been known since the early 1900s when Stefansson subjected himself to a one year experiment in the Bellevue Hospital New York.

If you’re going to count anything count your carbs and limit them I’m convinced you’ll feel healthier for it.

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