Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts. Henry Rosovsky
Fallacies are not just crazy ideas and usually have at least some element of plausibility, most of the dogma parroted on topics of healthy food by the media, self-serving advertising and common gossip are fallacies. But if the consequences are a global epidemic of obesity, diabetes and human suffering that threatens to overwhelm our health services and our ability to pay for them; it’s about time to clear up some of the deep rooted fallacies of the “healthy eating conundrum”.
Here follows the first of my fallacy rants (not necessarily in order of importance)
Vitamins and probiotics for children, or anyone else? The question itself implies a belief that there may be antidotes for harmful food habits that we don’t want to change and instead a vitamin or probiotic can fix the problem. The simple answer is that there is no antidote to harmful foods and vitamins are just as likely to be damaging as helpful to children’s’ health and “probiotics” are a seriously flawed concept anyway: to cut to the chase, save your money and don’t bother with vitamins and probiotics. However, no-one is likely to change unless they believe strongly enough that it is necessary to do so. But there is no magic or medicine that can undo damage better than prevention in the first place, therefore, it is vitally important to avoid harmful foods-This is almost impossible if you fall in line doing what everyone else does but we are killing our kids with “kindness”, sweet treats, ice cream, sodas, juices, etc. and doing what everyone else does will get you the result that the majority already have; overweight, inactivity and worse, the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, the list goes on.
All things necessary to life are toxic, the key is the dose
All biologically active substances are toxic outside of their homeostatic range: that includes water, oxygen, salt, glucose, protein, everything inside our cells and circulation is just as toxic above as below its normal range, “the Goldilocks Phenomenon” applies to all of these things. Vitamins have been known for 80 years or so, numerous studies have been carried out on possible health benefits of vitamin supplements none have been helpful but more important several studies on vitamins and antioxidants have shown deterioration instead and it is scientifically plausible that this should be so. Foods contain thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of necessary nutrients including vitamins and minerals and it is the interaction of multiple ingredients in highly variable food patterns such as the “Mediterranean Diet” that have been found most beneficial. However, the food we eat is also food for the trillions of micro-organisms that exist in our digestive system (the microbiome) and the importance of this relationship is only just beginning to be discovered.
Prebiotics more useful than Probiotics?
What are probiotics and how do they help us? The Probiotic concept is that some bacteria have a beneficial effect on gut function and overall health. To accomplish this they may thrive and replace harmful bacteria and produce beneficial “fermentation products”. There is no doubt that our health benefits from a symbiotic relationship with gut microbes, however, the gut has trillions of micro-organisms, at least 1,500 and some estimate over 30,000 different species with a combined mass of 1-2 kg and like an algal bloom in the Gulf of Mexico, gut microbes can proliferate in favorable nutrient conditions but the seeds for growth are already present and ubiquitous. The reasons claims for health benefits for probiotics have been repeatedly denied by US and EU authorities are that eating a food containing 1 or 2 species of bacteria has never been shown to have an effect on the hugely complex pattern of organisms further down the digestive system and at any rate sufficient substrate is required for significant numbers of bacteria and fermentation products to have an effect. On the other hand different diets have been shown to have profound effects on the microbiome and the quantity of beneficial fermentation products that they produce this is the basis of the prebiotic concept where resistant starches and fibers provide substrate for proliferation of bacteria that produce beneficial fermentation products such as short chain fatty acids.
What to eat and avoid?
Harmful Foods-Minimize these
Unfortunately over 70% of calories consumed by children and adults alike are quickly digested carbohydrates resulting in large increases in blood glucose that prompts insulin secretion resulting in fat deposition, stops energy production from fat and increases food consumption and hunger. Long term effects of frequent spikes of high blood sugar are cell damage and inflammation, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, all things that can lead to serious problems later in life such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer and dementia.
- Sugar, High Fructose Corn syrup, all caloric sweeteners including honey and agave syrup, sweets & candies. Use low calorie sugar substitutes if necessary
- All Juices, even orange juice, eat the fruit instead, sodas, energy drinks, gatorade, powerade, grape juice, cranberry juice, etc. Also avoid cocktail drink mixes like margarita and sweet and sour mix.
- White flour, bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, biscuits, etc.
- Potatoes, white rice, corn flour products, chips, etc.
Beneficial Foods-Instead Choose to Eat High Fiber, Low Glycemic Foods
Carbohydrates can be roughly categorized by the speed of their digestion into simple sugars; the faster the worse for health and slower the better, with fiber on the most beneficial end of the spectrum, which also minimize the amount of simple sugars obtained from your diet. Low glycemic food choices, vast, varied and enjoyable include many foods that were previously stigmatized like eggs, dairy and meat. Calorie counting is unnecessary if high fiber plant foods are the bulk of your diet as they are satiating and suppress hunger due to slow digestion and low insulin response, in addition they contain thousands of phytonutrients which protect against stress, inflammation and cell damage.
- Unlimited consumption of salads, leafy green vegetables, whole fruits, and nuts.
- Moderation but not overindulgence in all sorts of interesting foods, including meat, fish, cheese, butter, eggs, olive oil, rape seed/canola oil, herbs and spices. These are what make foods enjoyable and they are mostly nonfattening and nutritionally beneficial
- Peas, lentils, legumes and beans are high in protein and fiber good in moderation as they still contain digestible carbohydrates.
- Whole grains, while much better than refined flour are still high glycemic carbohydrates and counteract ketogenesis if you are trying to lose weight or reverse hypertension and metabolic syndrome. Oat bran and oat germ are an inexpensive alternative, as are wheat bran and wheat germ.
- Drink: water or tea (green tea), coffee, diet drinks if necessary. Again avoid drinks with any sugar, HFCS, or any other calorie containing syrup.
- Alcohol: Fine in moderation: red wine may have particular benefits.
- Supplements most are unnecessary and could even be harmful other than a source of omega3 and vitamin D such as in fish liver oils.