I just completed reading “The Big Fat Surprise” by Nina Teicholz. It is one of many books I have read to understand what a “healthy” diet should be.
Despite almost 100 years of nutrition science, there is still no clear consensus on what a “good and healthy” generic diet would be for humans. This makes sense to me. After all, we are extremely complex organic systems bundled into one organism. Moving the bead on one row of our abacus will affect other rows and their beads in order to maintain homeostasis within our body.
The book discussed more than what type of fat or how much fat I should or should not eat. It revealed a century’s worth of political, governmental, scientific, academic, and financial pressures that came to bear on developing our current American diet.
The book also discussed the affect carbohydrates have on human disease and weight gain. Not just sugar and processed flours but fruits, vegetables, and whole grains!
Another major subject in the book are unsaturated vegetable oils. Since these are not found in large quantities in nature, Big Food created them to replace lard, butter, suet, and tallow. Big Food’s first iteration of these replacement fats involved hydrogenation, which created trans-fats.
When science showed trans-fats created health problems Big Food had to replace them with other chemicals to make the food taste and look the same. This required more processing and usually more added sugar and salt to keep the products palatable. Big Food had to do this with A LOT of their processed foods.
Consequently, since the majority of food in any grocery store is processed that translates to Americans eating A LOT of chemicals, sugar, and salt over the last few decades. Small wonder we are dealing with increasing amounts of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity as compared with our ancestors.
Also, vegetable oils now used by Big Food and restaurants to fry food cannot tolerate repeated use at high temperatures. Vegetable oils break down into toxic compounds like aldehyde and formaldehyde. Yep, the stuff for storing specimens and listed in our MSDS book as a human toxin to be handled with gloves!
The book gave me a good understanding of why we have the American diet and food supply we do today. And it makes me sad. There are so many viewpoints about what we should and should not eat. Many of these viewpoints are maintained for the purpose of generating revenue. Humans for millennia before us did not have this quagmire to slog through. They just ate the food available to them without all this crazy discussion and debate!
The information in the book gives me the confidence to continue eating whole foods (this includes meat) and avoid anything processed or fried whether it is oil, meat, grain, vegetable, or fruit. The fewer middle men and chemicals between me and my food the better for my body.
For my purposes I learned saturated animal fats (full fat dairy, cheese, meat, butter, etc.) are not going to affect my cholesterol levels and can help me lose weight by providing satiety and lower insulin levels. So, I will be gradually adding these foods back into my diet while monitoring how they make me feel.
Lucky for me I can purchase food that is sustainably sourced, humanely handled, free of antibiotics and hormones, and fed a healthy and organic diet. My ancestors would never have had to consider all this!
This week’s topic ended up being an intensive book review. I don’t find it useful to glom onto someone else’s ideas because they sound new and exciting. After gaining information from the book I had to recognize what it meant and how it affected all the other beliefs I had about my diet. In fact, if you want to go down a rabbit hole, you can see how difficult it is to learn from a book and synthesize the information!
However, I did the best I could and am passing it on to you this week.