The REAL Top 11 Biggest Lies of Mainstream Nutrition

lies!

Have you read the Top 11 Lies of Mainstream Nutrition?  When I saw the title, I hoped that I found a kindred spirit; someone writing about how real nutrition should include saturated fats, eggs, and cod liver oil.  I clicked over to verify what the author had “right” from a real food perspective.  I smiled at first, and then I found myself furrowing my brow and starting to smirk.

The author is obviously a big fan of the latest dietary craze, generally summed up as “meat-is-good-grains-are-bad”.  There are different takes on this approach to eating, from low carb, to paleo, to primal.  I do not have a problem with these dietary approaches per se, especially if you feel better in the long term while eating no grains and a lot of steaks.  But as nutritionally minded people, we are prone to getting stuck in the latest, most Perfect Diet of them All.  (But it doesn’t exist.)

I am not willing to say that there are rules as far-reaching as “sugar is bad”, “meat is good”, or “grains are bad”.  Sugar is sugar, meat is meat, and grains are grains.  From a traditional foods perspective, I prefer natural sugars with minerals in tact, grass-fed and pastured meats, and soaked, sprouted, freshly ground, or sourdoughed grains.

But even from my real food perspective, I break some rules.  I eat white sugar and white flour when I am out.  I buy the occasional loaf of commercial sourdough, even though it’s got refined flour in it.  This is not only a healthy way to approach a diet, it is the most realistic.  You should eat the best food you can find for the least amount of stress you can expend.

But back to the article.

The author posits that these are the Top 11 Lies of Mainstream Nutrition.  I agree with most of them, and have highlighted those ones in green.  I take issue with the remaining four “lies” and have highlighted them in red.

  1. Eggs Are Unhealthy: I agree! This is a lie!  Eggs are often maligned as being cholesterol-laden death bombs.  But remember that eating cholesterol doesn’t raise your cholesterol.  In fact, you need cholesterol in your diet!  It’s good for your brain.  And pastured eggs pack a nutritional punch.  Click here to find a local WAPF chapter that can help you find local and pastured eggs.
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  2. Saturated Fat is Bad For You: I agree! This is a lie!  Saturated fat is still feared far and wide, even though the correlation between saturated fat and heart disease has long since been disproven.  See why saturated fat will NOT give you heart disease here.
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  3. Everybody Should be Eating Grains.  Hmmm.  I’m not sure this is a lie.  Properly prepared grains are not evil.  If you are truly allergic to gluten, then avoid high-gluten grains like wheat and eat rice or gluten-free grains instead.  Otherwise, you are missing the point of having a healthy metabolism that can digest grains no problem.
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  4. Eating a Lot of Protein is Bad for Your Bones and Kidneys: I agree! This is a lie!  Grass-fed and pastured meats, meaning that the animals were free to eat bugs and grass as they roam in the sunshine, are not bad for your bones or kidneys.  We evolved to eat meat.  How often is up to you.  Listen to your body.  Click here to find pastured meats.
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  5. Low Fat Foods Are Good For You: I agree! This is a lie!  The whole WAPF way of approaching nutrition is to debunk the fat fear.  This was the biggest “a-ha moment” I had while reading Nourishing Traditions.  Not only is fat good for you, but saturated fat is essential to good health.  Eat grass-fed butter and cream, use coconut oil, and don’t be afraid of the fat in pastured meats and the yolks in pastured eggs!  Click here to see what healthy fats look like.
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  6. You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day: I agree! This is a lie!  We seem to think that because blood sugar is a problem for some people: 1. we should do what they do, even if we don’t have a blood sugar problem, and 2. the way to solve the blood sugar issue is to eat several small meals.  Well, that’s not the solution.  Read more about diabetes and blood sugar solutions here.  And if you are eating several small meals throughout the day, I hope it’s because you feel better that way, not because you are using it as another “diet”.  Stop dieting. Seriously.
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  7. Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories.  I know, I know!  The Food Guide Pyramid is ridiculous.  But that doesn’t mean that having a lot of carbs is bad.  Especially in this day and age when low carb, primal, and paleo are a bit hard on carbs.  We have vilified carbohydrates just like protein (militant vegetarianism) and fat (low-fat craze) before them.  On the contrary, carbs are not evil.
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  8. High Omega-6 Seed and Vegetable Oils are Good For You: I agree! This is a lie!  Eating a ton of seeds and nuts in lieu of other foods, especially properly prepared grains and starches, isn’t necessarily healthy.  This default position that veggies are always better does a real disservice to you as you read ingredient lists on packaged foods.  Avoid sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and other high omega-6 veggie oils.  Instead use butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and other foods lower in omega 6s.  Click here for a list of high and low omega-6 foods.
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  9. Low Carb Diets are Dangerous.  This one is a little iffy.  Low carb diets can be dangerous, especially if you find yourself in the catecholamine honeymoon and you start regaining weight you previously lost, your temperature drops, and you gain other symptoms of poor metabolic function.  Click here to see how to improve metabolism.
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  10. Sugar is Unhealthy Because it Contains “Empty” Calories.  Oh boy, where do I go with this one?  This needs to be a whole new post!  The short answer is this: sugar is not inherently unhealthy.  And sugar is certainly not extra unhealthy because “it’s not only empty calories, but so so damaging!”  The author of the original link really gets this one wrong.  Sugar gives you energy.  And wholesome sweeteners are even better.
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    Use raw honey, coconut sugar, and other whole cane sugars.  Eat them in the morning, or before 3pm or so.  And don’t feel guilty.  In conjunction with a healthy, balanced diet, you can eat sugar happily and without regret.

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  11. High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat: I agree! This is a lie!  Similar to the false idea that eating cholesterol raises cholesterol, high fat foods will not make you fat.  They are simply another nutrient that you can absorb for energy.  There are more calories per gram of fat than carbohydrates or protein, but they also keep you fuller longer, and contribute to a healthy body.  So skip the skim milk and drink the whole milk!  Click here to find raw milk in your area.

So now let’s take those red numbers and ponder a bit.  In fact, go reread them one more time.  Did you do it?  I trust you!  These are what the author calls “lies”, but I think they deserve more critical thinking.  I have changed them to reflect the REAL lies that mainstream nutrition tells us.  Want to know?  Keep reading!

SO WHAT IS THE REALLY REAL LIST?

Drumroll please!  (My changes are bolded.)

  1. Eggs Are Unhealthy: False! Pastured eggs are healthy.
  2. Saturated Fat is Bad For You: False! Traditionally sourced saturated fat is good for you.
  3. Everybody Should be Avoiding Grains: False! Grains are healthy.  Avoid them if you are truly allergic (but please still eat carbs and starches!)
  4. Eating a Lot of Protein is Bad for Your Bones and Kidneys: False! Your body is perfectly capable of digesting it without hurting your bones or kidneys.
  5. Low Fat Foods Are Good For You: False! Foods with unnaturally lowered fat content are NOT good for you.  Eat whole milk cheese, full fat butter, and drink whole milk.
  6. You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day: False! Eat three square meals a day.  
  7. [Fill-in-the-Nutrient] Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories: False! Stop worrying about your biggest source of calories.  Eat a mix of macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins) and see which combination you prefer.
  8. High Omega-6 Seed and Vegetable Oils are Good For You: False! Opt for lower omega 6 foods, instead of eating more omega 3 foods.
  9. Diets are Good For You: False! Diets are bad for you.  Eat the food.
  10. Sugar is Unhealthy: False! Sugar is just another food you ingest.  Eat it or don’t eat it. Listen to your body.  It’s not “bad”.  Use wholesome sweeteners whenever possible.
  11. High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat: False! High fat foods are simply a different macronutrient ratio than low fat foods.  Eat them or don’t eat them, but fats are not “bad”, nor will they make you fat.

So there you have it.  My pristine, truly vetted list of 11 biggest lies that mainstream nutrition tells us.  Don’t swallow the lies of conventional health wisdom.  Listen to your body.  Challenge your opinions and check them against the facts.  But most of all: find vibrant health in eating wholesome real food!

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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Comments

  1. Thanks Kendahl for this. 100% agree. If all would just eat food and forget “diets” life would b much simpler. I tell people eat what their great grandparents ate and they will prolly hit it pretty close to perfect. Also, if you feel horrible after eating something every time you eat it then DON’T eat it. Simple. I smiled at the small meals. I hate this advice for the most part. Really, I’m sure our grandparents spent all day eating small meals. I see many staying overweight or becoming overweight by eating all those small meals to keep blood sugar level. Has never made sense to me. When u eat it affects blood sugar so the more times u eat the more times ur blood sugar is affected. Prolly missing something important about that but I’ve started applying the common sense test to things. Found it works.

    • Great comment! I agree. I think eating needs to become more intuitive, and less about “rules”. Hopefully we can get there with real food!

    • Most of what you say is OK. But suggesting we need Grain is not. Why I quit eating grains is because your so called organic food unless grown indoors is not really organic. And The GRAINS are All GMO totally wrong for our bodies. check it out.

      • We have been eating grains for at least tens of thousands of years. Buy organic grains and soak, sprout, or sourdough them and you will likely be just fine digesting them (provided your metabolism is in working condition). If not, try using gluten-free options like oatmeal, rice, quinoa, etc.

  2. I agree with most of the things you state since I also enjoy “real” food. However, when you state we “evolved” to eat meat, you need to realize that is not a fact. When I read books about eating real food and they state evolution as a fact, it makes me question all the other “facts” they state in their book. I never recommend or keep a book that states we “evolved.” If you want the true facts about the hidden lies of evolution, let me know and I would love to give them to you. Just as we need the lies exposed about the “healthy” lowfat diet “studies”, we need to know the lies and true facts about evolution. Just as we have not given the whole story about nutrition, we have not been given the whole story about evolution. Thank you.

    • Evolution is a fact. The evidence is all around us. And we most certainly evolved to eat meat, since the evidence of meat proteins in the diets of indigenous peoples and earlier peoples is well documented. The word “fact” is not a word we get to redefine. It is simply something that is measurable and provable. Facts are not debated. They are facts! If you don’t like that I use the fact of evolution as evidence for the way I eat and explain real food, then this may not be the place for you.

      • I agree with your list! I just hope your not saying that humans “evolved” from apes or anything along those lines. I do think as humans our diets and therefor our digestion has changed over time, although I wouldn’t say it evolved.

        • I am only saying what I actually said: evolution is a fact. That our digestion “changed over time” is literally definition of evolution. Evolution is

          “the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.”

          I will defend the proper use of the word evolution, because it is different than the evolution debate which I do not wish to have here. When I say that we evolved, I am talking about the factual evidence of evolution: our ancestors ate animal foods, including meat.

          Any more comments about the use of the word “evolve” will be deleted as they are off topic from the post which is about mainstream nutrition lies.

  3. My body says no to sugar, or wholesome sweeteners – except for raw honey! Otherwise – agreed, thanks for a wonderful post.

  4. Hey Kendahl, I agree with most of your points, and I especially agree that we need to pay attention to our bodies to know what we need to feel our best. I disagree to an extent that we should only avoid gluten if we have a true allergy. I think that for a healthy person, properly prepared grains should be an important part of the diet, however there are many who don’t tolerate them well do to poor digestive health. My family started gaps in the new year to help our six year old with digestive issues and I am amazed by the changes in him and me. This is what our bodies seem to need right now even though we don’t have an allergy. Of course we hope to return to our regular traditional diet in a year or two, but I just wanted to point out that some people do need to be off gluten (and carbs and starches) for reasons other than allergies. 🙂

  5. I am needing concrete answers on sweeteners. What mineral-rich ones are you referring to and what do you use most often? We already use local honey for smaller needs but for larger amounts I am in a whirlwind as to what is best. I am not a fan of stevia and the like.

    • When I say mineral-rich sweeteners I mean whole cane sugar, coconut sugar, date sugar, molasses, maple syrup, local raw honey, and any other sweetener that is as unrefined as possible.

  6. Can I tell you how much I love this post! I have been looking for a post like this to share with family and friends for about a year now and you write everything in a clear and easy-to-understand way. It’s tough broaching the “real food” topic with family and I love posts like this that I can share.

    Thanks for writing this!
    Katie

  7. I had no idea that gluten gave me digestive trouble until I stopped eating wheat. Now whenever I eat wheat (even the smallest amount) within minutes and then for hours onward I have bloating and other digestive disturbances. I would suggest that people instead of going thru expensive and long tests to find out if they are allergic, they simply avoided a substance and discovered how well they fare without it. Refined sugar is another substance that bothers me… I get headaches and digestive trouble. If I have honey or fruit I have no problem, but refined sugar is a no-no. Again I discovered that just by abstaining from it for weeks and then adding it back to my life.

    • I disagree. I think that it is important to get tested to see if you are truly allergic, because they you will know whether or not you need to refrain from gluten or some other food for the rest of your life. If you aren’t allergic, then the problem is not the food that you are eating. It’s most likely a compromised metabolism. If you have a metabolism that isn’t working properly, then you will see “improvement” when you remove harder-to-digest foods, but it won’t solve the underlying problem.

      Gluten-free and sugar-is-the-devil are two of the latest darlings in the health food community, and I think people are far too willing to say they are gluten intolerant when they are not, and far too willing to cut out food after food to the point that they “live” on a restricted diet that isolates them from society. You know your own body better than anyone, so listen to it and see if there is more to this story than you think.

  8. Good list, but sugar IS bad for you. Unless you are of equatorial ancestry, you probably can’t tolerate a lot of sugar (carbs).

    • Sugar is not necessarily bad. That’s the point. Sugar is just sugar. Eat as much or as little as you would like. It is not the root of all evil, it doesn’t single-handedly cause illness and disease, and if your metabolism is healthy then sugar doesn’t matter. It’s minutiae.

      • Just to add to everything you have already said in regards to sugar – sugar is sugar. Your body does not recognize the difference. Your body has an enzyme that turns sugar into glucose for your body to readily use. The most common forms found in food are dextrose, fructose and galactose, all of which your body turns to glucose. Except for cellulose found in fiber – we do not have an enzyme to break that down. Therefore, the cellulose just passes through unaltered as we all know fiber does.

        Additionally, I really like your post. Thanks for the info! Great stuff!

  9. Mark Land says:

    Both right and wrong on grains. Yes we should be eating grains, but they are not the same grains of yesteryear, They are all GMO modified and are causing harm to the intestinal track, they are unsafe to eat. It is a difficult thing to deal with but untill Monsanto and other GMO corporations are outlawed. We are not safe Organic foods are also non-existant and organic in name only.
    The only safe food is what you can grow in your garden, if it isn’t illegal in your area to have a garden.
    I believe if people had time to do some indepth they would be shocked at what they find is going on in the food industry.

    • Grains are not “all GMO modified”. If you check the marketplace you can find ancient and even modern non-GMO grains for purchase there: http://ournourishingroots.com/einkorn-wheat

      As for the idea that food is unsafe unless grown in your own backyard, I beg to differ. The root of a lot of our digestive and health woes are linked to metabolism, not the food itself. If you have a healthy metabolism, you should be able to eat normal real food from local farmers, health foods stores, and your own backyard without any troubles. Read the metabolism bundle for more information.

  10. Mark Shields says:

    Good article, but you seem to make the same error that you’re critiquing… “Sugar is not inherently unhealthy”… maybe, but then you go on to say “Grains are healthy”… well, they’re not inherently healthy 😉

    • I don’t see how it’s an error to say, generally: eat food. I’m not going to condemn grains or sugar like the original author did. They are both healthy!

  11. Mark Shields says:

    Also, last I checked, sugar is indeed bad… for tooth health… though I guess some (many) are more prone than others to it. If ti’s bad for the teeth, it’s likely bad for the rest of the body… just my thoughts on that one.

  12. Hi,
    Just another point of view about the grains issue. I have leaky gut, and a host of food sensitivities. I don’t eat rice at all, it give me massive indigestion and brain fog. I’m not the only one with this issue, as I even have another friend with an autoimmune disorder who can’t stomach any grains, and I know from my naturopath and others on the internet that we’re not alone in this.
    So, yes, everyone does not have to eat grains. I’ve been off them for two years. I feel amazing.
    From the research that I have done on them, I also don’t think they are an essential part of our diets. Most of them seem to be causing problems for a large chunk of our population, so minimizing or eliminating them is a great option for a lot of people.

    • I think there is a lot of validity to healing the gut with a restrictive diet if you are sick. But eating grain-free isn’t sustainable, and is not the root of the sickness. Grains have been a part of human diets for over 10,000 years, depending on the research you look at. Some grains have been found in human diets as long as 100,000 years ago! It doesn’t get more traditional than that. That being said, you are the expert on your own body. You don’t need to eat grains if you don’t crave them or you are getting enough carbs and starch form other sources. I think that’s quite doable with gluten-free grains at least. The trick is to get a good mix of the macronutrients: fats, carbs, and proteins.

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