What constitutes a “good eater?” In my opinion, it’s one who eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, relies on a consistent source of protein (dairy, nuts, lean meat, legumes), consumes an adequate source of calcium and vitamin D, and has water as the beverage of choice. Real food. For years Americans have been told to cut down on saturated fats (especially meats) in order to decrease the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease. Anahad O’Connor says new research indicates that that advice is wrong:
For decades, health officials have urged the public to avoid saturated fat as much as possible, saying it should be replaced with the unsaturated fats in foods like nuts, fish, seeds and vegetable oils.
But the new research, published on Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, did not find that people who ate higher levels of saturated fat had more heart disease than those who ate less. Nor did it find less disease in those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including monounsaturated fat like olive oil or polyunsaturated fat like corn oil.
But if you think it’s OK to eat all that saturated fat in meat and butter, O’Connor says to think again:
But Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the findings should not be taken as “a green light” to eat more steak, butter and other foods rich in saturated fat. He said that looking at individual fats and other nutrient groups in isolation could be misleading, because when people cut down on fats they tend to eat more bread, cold cereal and other refined carbohydrates that can also be bad for cardiovascular health.
“The single macronutrient approach is outdated,” said Dr. Hu, who was not involved in the study. “I think future dietary guidelines will put more and more emphasis on real food rather than giving an absolute upper limit or cutoff point for certain macronutrients.”
Of course, no study is perfect and few are definitive. But the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.
This doesn’t mean you abandon fruit for beef and cheese; you just abandon fake food for real food, and in that category of real food you can include good meat and dairy. I would argue, however, that you might not include most industrially produced animal products[…]
Bittman gives good reasons why we all should eat less meat:
It’s possible to eat as much meat as we do only if it’s grown in ways that are damaging. They’re damaging to our health and the environment (not to mention the tortured animals) for a variety of reasons, including rampant antibiotic use; the devotion of more than a third of our global cropland to feeding animals; and the resulting degradation of the environment from that crop and its unimaginable overuse of chemicals, soil and water.
Even if large quantities of industrially produced animal products were safe to eat, the environmental costs are demonstrable and huge. And so the argument “eat less meat but eat better meat” makes sense from every perspective. If you raise fewer animals, you can treat them more humanely and reduce their environmental impact. And we can enjoy the better butter, too.
Katie Couric is “Fed Up” by what she’s seen regarding America’s obesity epidemic, especially as it relates to children:
This is the first generation of children expected to live shorter lifespans than their parents. If that doesn’t upset you, you have ice water running through your veins. The mantra of “eat less, exercise more” just doesn’t seem to be cutting it, though no one disputes the importance of fitness for your overall health. But it’s really about the food we’re eating every day and the sugar that’s hidden in so much of it.
Incredibly, from 1977 to 2000, Americans doubled their daily intake of sugar. The only reason it started to decline after 2000 was because of the increasing use of high fructose corn syrup – which, by the way, is metabolized by our bodies exactly the same way as sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends we eat no more than 6-9 teaspoons of added sugar each day, but the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons, often without even knowing it. That’s because 80% of the products you’ll find on grocery store shelves contain added sugar, even items like tomato sauce, yogurt, and salad dressing. Low fat often translates into high sugar. Furthermore, sugary snacks and beverages are now ubiquitous: they’re being hawked in gas stations, toy stores, and office supply stores, often by appealing cartoon characters basically shouting “eat us, eat us” at every turn.
In her documentary, Couric pick’s the brain of pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, who says that if you are thin, you’re not out of the woods:
Here’s the kicker. Being thin is not a safeguard against metabolic disease or early death. A full 40% of normal-weight individuals harbor insulin resistance—a sign of chronic metabolic disease—which will likely shorten their life expectancy. Of those, 20% demonstrate liver fat on MRI of the abdomen. Liver fat, irrespective of the rest of body fat, has been shown to be a major risk factor for the development of diabetes. You think you’re safe? You are SO screwed. And you don’t even know it.
More PediaBlog about Dr. Lustig’s research here.
Trailer from Katie Couric’s documentary “Fed Up” below: