Okay so has the news media and all the advice of what to eat gotten to you yet?
We are constantly bombarded with advice on eating this and eating that, but very seldom are we told of why we should. In fact most of the time that we are told the “why”, it almost never includes the whole story. So today much of the nutritional information, is unfortunately given to us in half-truths. They are not quite lying, but they are not quite telling you the whole truth either.
Well in my passion for dissecting popular media myths when it comes to nutrition and getting the truth – the complete truth out there, in this article I want to share with you a behind the scenes look at a few popular items that we are told to eat or drink and examine the rationale for each one.
We Are Told To Eat Salmon
Perhaps fish in general, but the focus always seems to be the most on the salmon. So do you know why? Ah yes, of course for the important healthy fatty acid called omega-3.
What is true today, is that the average person’s diet is way too high in omega-6 (linoleic acid) and way too low in omega-3 (alpha-linoleic acid) and these two need to be in a special ratio for optimal health. Most doctors recommend anywhere from a 1:1 (omega-6 to omega-3), which is believed to be how our ancestors ate, to at most a 10:1 ratio. However most people today eat as high as a 20:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. The culprit for this is our high fatty diets and huge reliance on processed and oily food.
Diets high in omega-6 and low in omega-3 are inflammatory diets, and most of us know that inflammatory diseases, including heart disease run rampant in our society today.
So back to the fish. Ocean fish today contain high levels of various toxins, but especially heavy metals, like mercury, not to mention the fact that they are being over fished from our oceans and collapsing ecosystems as we speak. Farm fish are given antibiotics, pesticides and they are even fed a synthetic pigment to turn their flesh from gray to pink.
Hence with these grim facts, why not just get the omega-3 from where the fish get theirs – plants!
The best plant sources of omega-3 include Salba seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. In fact a handful of walnuts each day, supplies us with all the omega-3 one would typically need per day.
Check out the following information table from World’s Healthiest Foods for comparison:
We Are Told To Drink Red Wine
One cannot escape the frequent blurbs here and there about how good red wine is for your health and how much you are encouraged to drink it. So why are we told this? For the main reason that red wine contains a polyphenol compound in it called resveratrol.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant like pigment found in the skins of red grapes. It has been found to drastically improve heart health and decrease the risk of a stroke, by decreasing the tendency of blood to clot, as well it can decrease LDL cholesterol from sticking in the arteries, and is being studied currently in the reversal of aging of the human body. One can be sure that this is indeed one powerful little antioxidant.
However, never mind that alcohol is alcohol and has no room in an optimally healthy person’s diet or lifestyle, but do you know how much red wine you need to drink for that resveratrol to actually make the difference? 1000 bottles per day! Well naturally no one in their right mind is going to do that.
But again as with the fish and omega-3, why not go to the source of the action, and that is the red grapes themselves. Red grapes contain more than double the amount of resveratrol than red wine when compared unit for unit.
So is it possible that we can get all the benefits of a healthy heart, plus some delicious and natural tastes and others vitamins and minerals, while avoiding putting a toxic substance into our system? You bet!
And as one final note, if you want a healthy heart, how about eating a diet that is low in fat in general, full of only good fats and exercising regularly? By no means, should you ever think though, that you are missing out on some health benefit if you do not consume alcohol.
We Are Told To Eat Dairy
North Americans are constantly told that they do not eat enough dairy and to eat more dairy. Why is that? Well for the main reason of dairy being coined as the ultimate calcium provider for strong bones.
While it is true that the bone thinning disease – osteoporosis is on the rise and cases of it are increasing in men, not just women, drinking all the milk in the world is not going to help you prevent it. In fact, some of the highest dairy consuming countries like Canada and the United States, have some of the highest levels of osteoporosis. So clearly something is not right there, when it comes to correlating dairy with strong bones.
For starters, we need to start focusing on what not to put into our bodies, rather than what to put into them when it comes to strong bones. The North American diet is highly, highly acidic, while the human body is slightly basic. So day in and day out, most people’s bodies are fighting to neutralize the acids and keep the body at slightly alkaline levels. And how do they do that? By taking alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium from your bones into your blood to maintain that sacred alkaline balance.
So what foods are acid forming? Sugar, alcohol, refined grains, meat, coffee and sodas are the biggest culprits. Hmmm, does not describe the Western diet at all, does it? And here is the kicker, dairy is also acid forming, so no surprise that the biggest dairy consumers on the planet are not helping themselves avoid osteoporosis. On top of that, dairy does not even include a highly absorbable form of calcium for us, not to mention is high in saturated fat and comes from animals that are injected all sorts of substances that should not be in our bodies.
So what is the alternative? For starters cutting down or avoiding some of the above mentioned products. Secondly, exercise – something that builds strong bones and most people do not get nearly enough of in the Western world. And last but not least, go to the source again! Minerals like calcium and magnesium are originally found in the soil. Well clearly we cannot eat soil, but what we can eat is all the wonderful alkalizing, green plants that absorb them from the soil and synthesize them into highly usable minerals for us. Sources of these include, kale, swiss chard and broccoli just to name a few.
We Are Told To Eat Whole Grains
The craze for whole grains started about 10 years ago, when most companies were adding in whole grain options to most of their lines. The time had come and we as consumers demanded healthier products. So why are we told to eat whole grains? For the main reasons that they are not refined, that should speak for itself and thus they contain the original, high amounts of healthy and natural fats, complex carbs, vitamins and minerals. Their bleached and stripped white counterparts do not come close and in fact by law have to be fortified synthetically because they are so nutrient deficient.
So what is the problem here? The problem is what typically happens when everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Some people today look for whole grain (most commonly wheat) products in the bread, pasta and cereal sections. However, let us take a step back for a second, the last time I looked at a box of say Cheerios, I know I did not see any whole grains. And here is the culprit.
While it is a step in the right direction to use whole grain flours and like products, let us look and read those words again “whole grain“. The healthiest products and ones that are really worthy of that title are ones where you can actually SEE the whole grains. When simply whole grain flours are used, too much processing is still involved and a reduction in nutritional content occurs, not to mention that your body treats them still more like simple sugars, rather than complex carbohydrates.
So what is the solution? For breakfast, ditch the boxes and look for products that come in bags where you can actually see the whole grains you are eating, without the need too for all the added sugars, colors and flavors. For lunches and dinners, focus more on whole grain options like brown rice, barley, quinoa and teff and less on pastas. And in breads, the first ingredient should be a whole flour and many whole grains should be included and seen in the bread.
We Are Told To Eat Chocolate
How many studies have come out and how many times have we heard to eat chocolate and that it is good for us? I am sure you can think of many. Why chocolate? For the main reason of it having an abundantly high supply of antioxidants.
Specifically, these compounds called phenolic phytochemicals, or flavonoids, have been linked to being preventative in warding off cancer, heart disease and some other ailments.
The truth? While the cocoa bean itself is extremely rich in these antioxidants, most commercial chocolate is not, being nothing more than a lot of saturated fat and sugar.
If you want the benefits of the cocoa bean, then you have to consider products like pure cocoa powder to make hot cocoa or chocolate desserts with, like Organic, Raw Cacao Powder, not Nesquick processed chocolate mix or other heat-treated coco powders. As for chocolate, why not make your own at home in minutes, again using the raw cacao powder, along with pure cacao butter or coconut butter, and an optimally healthy sweetener! All commercial chocolate, even the dark variety has its own issues. If you want to purchase a pre-made chocolate product, look at options in your local health food store that are sure to have a higher quality set of ingredients.
We have to remember however that many other whole, natural plant foods are naturally rich in antioxidants. So if you are not a fan of chocolate, or source a high quality raw cacao product where you live, simply focus on other foods for the same benefit. A diet high in fruits and vegetables is naturally high in antioxidants, plus there are many more ways to get antioxidants into your body like cinnamon and numerous other spices. This way you get all the benefits of pure antioxidants, without any of the disadvantages.
While I am sure there are still many other food products or ingredients that we can dissect, these are the most common ones that one cannot miss while listening to the news media or even doctors.
Remember, no matter what the food item is, we should always, always look deeper into a supposed fact before we run with it. It is no surprise that today we get a lot of half-truths as there is a lot of money at stake for many companies and corporations. But unfortunately, that cannot come at the sake of our health. Till next time, be healthy by being conscious of where your information comes from and what you put into your body!