Thursday, January 31, 2013

eating healthy for the new year? 5 foods you absolutely must avoid.

"everyone knows that to be healthy you have to avoid eating _____"

how many different foods could you fill in the blank with?  how about meat (especially bacon), white sugar, butter and salt?

'bacon' photo (c) 2006, Mandy Jouan - license:

the more i study nutrition, the more i realize how complex the subject is.  there have been two different times in my life where i have changed the way that i cook and eat pretty dramatically.  the first was when i began to believe the typical low fat/low calorie standard american "healthy" diet.  about three years ago i changed to a traditional diet with emphasis on whole foods, clean meats, and full-fat dairy.

i continue to read and learn.  and the more i read, honestly, the more confused i get.  everyone is trying to figure out what the "bad guys" are in the world of food, but no one has figured out who they are yet. everyone is trying to point the blame on some particular food or food group, and everyone has a story of how their health dramatically improved after they stopped eating ____.

overall i still place a heavy emphasis on nutrient-dense traditional foods (especially bone broth, leafy greens, meat [especially organ meat], coconut oil and grass-fed butter).  and overall, i stick to the 80/20 rule, where i aim for us to eat well 80% of the time (usually when we are at home) and don't worry about the other 20% (usually when we are at a party or out somewhere).  i definitely think that stress is worse for you than the worst food, and being super strict about what you eat is going to cause more stress and harm than good, and can even lead to social isolation when people/places associated with "bad" food are avoided.

another reason that i stick to the 80/20 rule is that the more i learn, the more i realize that there are problems with every type of food.  there is stuff that can be bad for you in vegetables (for example, oxalates and goitrogens), whole grains (phytic acid and arsenic), fish (mercury), fruit (arsenic and citric acid), pork (arachidonic acid) and nuts (phytic acid, linoleic acid).  even water is bad for you if you have too much, which actually may be more common in our country than previously thought.

our country tends to go through fads with nutritional thought.  at different times its been popular to eat low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, everything raw, and gluten free.  i am wary of nutritional fads.  yes, you hear lots of really great sounding testimonials of how people's health has dramatically improved by X diet, but are the health improvement strictly because of the diet change?  do the health improvements last, and are the diets sustainable?  also, super-strict diets can lead to social isolation (since many social gatherings are based around food) which can lead to stress and broken relationships.  having a low-stress life and healthy relationships are definitely an important part of your health, along with healthy food.

so, here are five foods that "conventional wisdom" tells you to avoid in order to be healthy, but some alternative health experts are now promoting as healthy.

meat - this article purports that meat is vital for healthy thyroid functioning.  thyroid issues are becoming rampant among women in the US.  incidentally, women are far more likely than men to avoid meat (thinking that they are making a wise, healthy choice).  could there be a connection?

what we do: yes, we definitely eat meat.  not only is it tasty, but its one of the best ways to get vitamin B-12 and vitamin d, two important nutrients (vitamin d deficiency is especially high in the US right now), as well as saturated fat, which is important in hormone production.

bacon -  did you know that the fat in bacon is primarily monounsaturated? this is the same type of fat that people look for in olive oil.  read on in this article to see why bacon is actually considered a very healthy food by some.

what we do: we eat bacon but only a couple times a year since quality bacon is so expensive and difficult to find.

white sugar - white sugar might actually be helpful in having a high metabolism when used correctly.  when your body has a high metabolism, it has strong immunity, strong bones, low stress hormones and strong circulation, leading to much improved over-all health.

what we do: we have organic cane sugar in our baking cabinet (pretty much the same as white sugar, but non-GMO with slightly more minerals).  i used to avoid this stuff like the plague, but i am less wary than i used to be.  but i still only bake with it once or twice a month.

butter - grass-fed butter is high in vitamin a, d and k, conjugated linolaic acid, and may help promote fertility in women.

what we do: we eat lots of butter.  :)

salt - heart disease has only gone up as people have cut out salt from their diet.  salt may also play an important role in mitigating adrenal fatigue (which is becoming quite common in our stressful, busy society).  sea salt is especially important as it provides the body with tons of trace minerals, minerals that our bodies are often depleted of in this industrialized food world.

what we do: i use a normal amount of salt in our cooking, and always use sea salt (for the trace minerals).  in fact, since i have been breast feeding, my salt craving has skyrocketed for some reason, and i almost always add salt to my food at the table.  and i have a super low blood pressure.

not trying to pick on anyone with this list.  i'm not even saying i believe everything from every article i linked to.  i'm just saying to rethink what you believe about nutrition (its far from being a "hard" science  at this point) and definitely question everything that you hear from mainstream media (they only report what big corporations want them to report).

what do you think?  what do you eat from this list and what do you try to avoid?


  1. Hi - This is unrelated to your blog post today: I am writing about a post you wrote a while ago (I think it was you), but now can't seem to find it -- it was about life being hard and that we should expect it to be mostly hard with a few easy breaks in it, verses expecting it to be generally easy with a few hard times....I think you wrote about that -- did you? It was really good and I wanted to share it with a friend, but now I can't find it.... Thank you for your blog and sharing your insights! If you have it would you be able to send an email to me with the link? Or reply to this post with the link, but I am not sure if this allows me to follow comments.... my email is: loree.galpin @ gmail dot com. Love from the NorthEast Coast.

    1. p/s We do eat from this list!! Lots of raw grass-fed butter or we use Kerry Gold if we buy it from the store. I use a lot of gray sea salt and we have a little bit of pastured bacon (soy free) with eggs most mornings and cook eggs in lard from pastured pigs. If we have a busy day and don’t get in a solid breakfast, meltdowns are always on the horizon or snacking before lunch happens and the whole day is thrown off with snacking all day, no proper meals, and lots of whining. I really loved reading: Why French Kids Eat Everything and how it brings to light the terrible American snacking habit (which I think is because we over-schedule our days and end up eating in the car too much as we drive during lunch hours).

      We try and consume bone broth most days in order to decrease our meat consumption (expensive) but do try and have red meat a few times a week. And liver. I currently take raw frozen liver every morning to increase my B-12 levels.

      The one thing we do try and stay away from is sugar (non organic sugar is a GMO food) even organic sugar and other natural sweeteners, but have a tough time! We mostly just eat apples if we need something sweet, but on weekends or for play dates we often have treats with raw honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar. My daughter really likes cinnamon apples when the weather is cold: chopped apples, sautéed med low in lots of butter till almost soft and sprinkled with cinnamon. When we lived in Europe we served it always with cream. But it is nearly impossible to find a good quality grass fed low temp pasteurized unhomoginized or raw cream in the United States. So we do without. Sometimes we use coconut cream, But it isn't the same.

    2. here is the post you are looking for:

      do you have a trader joe's near you? we are able to get cream there that is 85% grass-fed (i only know this number because i emailed to ask, its not on the package) and low temp pasteurized, and to top it actually less expensive than conventional cream from most regular grocery stores! :)

  2. The only meat we should consume is the clean meats God created for us. Organ meats shouldn't be eaten, even from "clean" animals. Organs are used to filter all that is bad from the diet and, for this reason, possess a concentrated level of chemicals and such.