This is going to be a series of posts about what I've been reading about, rethinking and reevaluating and feeling like I've been asleep for many years and have just been shaken awake.
I hope you stay with me through this. I feel it necessary to start at the beginning to give you a better idea on why I could change just about every thought I had about what has healthy.
I don't have a story of gripping disability, or a struggle with my weight. That's not to say that those stories don't fascinate me. I went to school for nutrition to help those people, but felt dismayed and too broke to be of any help. I felt like I would just be forever destined to a life of Jenny Craig employment and frankly Starbucks had way better benefits - hence I dropped out.
So that's my beginning disclaimer - I do not have a degree in nutrition. I have a lot of studying on the subject, passion for the subject, but I am not qualified to consult YOU. I am however qualified to write my rantings on the internet. Yes, a keyboard, an ethernet cable, basic knowledge of the english language, and a blogger account qualifies me to write.
Please do your own research, but when you do, check everything. Check the pros and the cons. Check what the people with real degrees and real studies say. I'm simply here to share my checking, not to tell you to change, not to tell you you are wrong. I'm saying I was wrong. I want more people to know this information and then go find more. Please don't tell your doctor some wacky girl with a blog was giving you advice, this is just a moment of sharing.
Let's share then, from the beginning.
The Food Guide Pyramid
The Food Guide Pyramid is a tool used by the United States Department of Agriculture to help educate Americans on the best foods to eat.
It's history is long, challenging and ever changing. In 1902 there was a Farmer's Bulletin that was published. The recommendations were fairly simple, basically formulated for the American male and emphasized variety and proportion stating that one should eat proteins, beans, vegetables, and limit their fat, sugar and starches. Sounds good.
Then in 1917 our US government was super excited about these new things known as minerals, and the first USDA Food Guide Appeared. Then 5 food groups were formed. From 1917 to the late 60's the guide pretty much jumped around from 5 to 7 to finally 4 food groups.
I've even seen a poster during the depression where the government's recommendation was a glass of milk and a cookie. Now I know times were rough, but everyone with a grandmother knew that did not make a meal.
Around the late 60's there was a fear that our low income groups were very hungry and malnourished. Food assistance programs were given more priority and that lead to the government "looking into" more nutrition areas.
They looked to Ancel Keys who was proposing that fat and cholesterol were bad for your heart, but there wasn't any studies done yet to prove his theory. ***In fact, if you do a Google search on the history of homogenized milk and the correlation between heart disease, you will learn some disturbing stuff. I'm thinking that Ancel should have geared at least a couple of studies on that rather than badgering meat, and eggs.
It was during this time that McGovern had formed a staff and decided that low fat was the way to go. They pretty much based all of their info on unsupported information and the first pyramid was made.
We've based our pyramid on loose science, industries (the cattle, dairy and egg industries where ticked when it was announced Americans should avoid those, the government quickly augmented the servings to keep them happy), and even other countries (we looked to Sweden for their graphic - they have a VERY high rate of heart disease).
When I was in school it was this pyramid that set the tone for EVERYTHING:
It had a lovely paragraph at the bottom and a nice equation you could do if you were a female and this age or that age. Thanks America for thinking of us women.
Today it's now known as MyPlate:
This graphic is a step up. I will defend that. At least the vegetables have more of a space, and people can easily see what the heck a serving may actually be. I still have way too many issues, but I'll get in to it.
I drank the Kool-aide
Now it's 1997 or so, and I'm sitting in my nutrition class, thinking I would save the world one meal at a time.
I signed up for all the required classes and I was doing my best. I was a little dismayed to know I had to take a ton of science classes, but this wasn't an issue - I like science. It's everywhere.
I went to chemistry and studied my heart out. I was in chemistry for pre-professionals. That's people who are are predisposed to liking and doing the work that it takes to finish this class. That means it's for people who stand over a scale until it's perfect to the last .0000001. That's not me. But I did it, and I got it. I understood it, and moreover I realized that nutrition is science, and physiology. I had that too!
I was on top of the world. Then, during a lecture about something or other - macro or micro nutrients, vitamins something like that, I thought "why aren't vegetables at the bottom of the Food Guide Pyramid?" It made way more sense to me. I was learning how packed these things were with all these good things our body needed. I mean it wasn't rocket science, I was in the class.
I asked why vegetables weren't the base. I got, a very unsatisfying response. It went something like "because the USDA has determined that grains are the healthiest." Another smartypants girl got sassy and said "Why, vegetables are easily more nutrient dense." Then the usual answer of "our bodies prefer complex carbohydrates, our brains function on glucose, these are the preferred fuel for the human body." Complex carbs are the preferred fuel for our body was the answer to everything in my classes - regardless of science.
I became the spokes person and typical nutrition lady. When people know you are a nutrition major they bring up and ask you about every wacky diet in the book. During this time Dr. Atkins was selling books like a champ.
I had countless Starbucks customers coming in and ordering lattes with suger free this and oh yeah, mostly heavy cream. It was an abomination to my schooling. I warned everyone I knew that they were playing with fire when they went on his diet and others like his.
Sure, I was taught in a sort of nutrition pharmacology type class, that Dr. Atkins ways are used for a very short term, when the person is very high risk obese, and only in clinical inpatient settings. But there were results. I could not escape that.
From then on I based how I talked to people to how I fed my family based on the theory of Complex carbs are the preferred fuel for our body. I never had any issues, why change?
I'd done vegetarian and felt pretty good, I had even started eating meat again and functioned great. Why tinker, why even go into an area so dark and unnatural to me?
Despite best efforts to gluten free things for my husband, and to dabble in high veg (something I just knew was better), I felt like I could do more for my husband, my family.
My mom has cancer, it leads you all over the internet if you are me. I like to know what she is facing, what methods they are using on her. What the Gerson Institute has done for people.
I was told that an uncle of a friend had cancer, cut out sugar, changed his diet and refused chemo. Wow, I should look in to that sugar thing, if not just for fun. So I did, interesting stuff. More. I landed on his site. Poked around read more that he wrote. Uh, Dr. Atkins right? What is that feeling? The Kool-aide told me not to believe.
Then wouldn't you know it, I landed here just because she won an award for taking pretty pictures on her blog. Is this fate? Is this weird? I was reading about how my way of life may be totally skewed, then there's this family that is living this way, and with good freakin reason.
Like reason by means of thinking and studying and science. Hey, I took science. I wasn't taught this.
So I went to the library. I checked out Paleo books, I tried to check out my old nutrition books, but they aren't there. I went to the net. I retaught myself how carbs are broken down, and sure enough the Paleo people explain it right. Most of them are scientists - like real ones who graduated college and everything.
The Final Revelation
So after a few solid weeks of reviewing and rethinking and research. I came to a simpler way to put it. I was wrong. They were wrong. The Kool-aide is tainted.
I will break more down tomorrow, and a lot of those links up there will bring you to far better explanations, but here goes the one that is easy, researched and very heartfelt.
Let's compare some things amongst meat, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. If you had the same amount of each in your sample, of course the veg and the carbs are going to have the least amount of calories. But which one also has the least amount of viable vitamins and nutrients? That would be the carbs. It's pretty weak even compared to meat when it comes to really packing in what your body needs.
Based on that information alone, why is America so hung up on grains?
Because they are cheap? Because agriculture institutions run USDA and that is the same division that tells us what to eat?
It isn't science.
In fact, why hadn't all that science I was supposed to be learning used in the answer to my question about vegetables as the base? Why did she just give me some response that isn't actually based on any good physiology? Is it because it's easy to fill a human with things they crave regardless of what their system needs or has to go through to digest these "complex carbs"?
Tomorrow I will explain more about why I was wrong. I don't rely so much on anthropology of the human (the whole cave man idea), but that is also science and proven. But simply because these aren't what I know the body to need.
Simply put, the old answer of Complex carbs are the preferred fuel for our body is, and always has been wrong!