Don’t put Junk in your Mouth: Pop Quiz!

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I confess.   I’ve been on vacation for a couple weeks, and vacated my nutrition blog along with everything else. So now we need to take a little quiz to get us back on track.

Let’s review before the quiz.  “Don’t put junk in your mouth” is the only six-word diet you’ll ever need.  If that thing in front of you is calorie heavy and nutrient light, it’s junk.  Don’t put it in your mouth.  I think you know what I’m talking about, but just in case you don’t, take a couple minutes to quiz yourself by circling the following items if you think they fit the definition of “junk:”

Hot Dog                         Milk                 Chicken Breast

Hamburger                    Broccoli           English Muffin

Sirloin Steak                  Spinach          White Rice

Pecorino Cheese          Lentils             Cheddar Cheese

French Bread                Kale                 Wild Brown Rice

Coca Cola                     Olive Oil           Garbanzo Beans

Mayonnaise                   Mustard           French Dressing

Most of the above items are just delivering dietary fat; most of them saturated dietary fat.  Very little nutrition.  Just calories, and bad calories at that – bad in the sense their consumption would not be innocuous in the absence of calories.

If you’re looking at saturated fat, just don’t eat it: meat, cheese, milk, butter, coconut milk, pastries full of butter.  If you’re looking at refined carbohydrates and simple sugar, just don’t eat it: white rice, white bread, pastries, soda.  If you’re looking at condensed unsaturated fat, don’t mainline it: olive oil, most salad dressing.

Which items above are not junk?  Wild brown rice, broccoli, spinach, garbanzo beans, kale, and mustard.  But you knew that!  You know the difference between junk and food.  Don’t put junk in your mouth!

A Final Word on Craving Junk Instead of Food

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What do the last blog post and the “Mills Brothers” post say to a culture that craves high-fat junk, and that suffers all the diseases of excess that attend to that feeding and craving?  They say that we can transition from eating and craving junk, to eating and craving healthy food.  Yes, really!  That means that the broccoli and spinach and garbanzo beans and brown rice and whole grains that you disdain, can and would become the broccoli and spinach and garbanzo beans and brown rice and whole grains that you crave!  It also means that as much as you now love and crave and savor the junk you put in your mouth every day, you would love and crave and savor healthy food even more.  It means that you would look forward to that evening meal even more than you do now, because a palate adapted to real food is more rewarded by eating than a palate adapted to junk.

Do you remember when Japanese tourists first started to visit America by the multitudes in the 1960’s and 1970’s?  Aside from carrying a lot of camera gear, they routinely dined together in Asian restaurants.  Americans used to wonder out loud why those tourists didn’t experiment adventurously with the typical American cuisine.  Why would they travel all the way to America in order to dine on the same cuisine they were used to back home?  The reason was that their palates craved a very different cuisine.  They craved what they were used to, and wanted to continue to enjoy the foods that their palates knew and craved.

Now that the SAD (Standard American Diet) has been introduced to the Japanese palate – and enthusiastically received by many of its youth – their tourists are far more flexible in their choices for dining while abroad.  And, sadly, the SAD has taken a notable toll on the public health of their country.  Our American epidemics of obesity, diabetes, coronary damage and cancer spread with the spread of the SAD.

And that is very SAD!

Your Fickle Palate

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Just in case my February 12, 2015 post didn’t sink in deep enough (the “Mills Brothers” post!), here’s another try at it, in different words.  It’s way too important to your health to skip this review of the fickle palate..

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “but I could never give up …” – followed by one of the following:  cheese, fish, chocolate, Thai curry, or whatever!

If only people knew how fickle their palates were!  This is the sadly kept secret that gives diets a dead-end outcome.  Diets are always seen as a temporary boot-camp regimen for shedding unwanted weight, after which the patient can return to eating those things that “I could never give up” – only at a reduced level in order to not regain those hard-fought lost pounds.

I guess that’s why we speak of dieting instead of nutritional improvement.  That’s why we speak of “going on a diet” rather than changing what we regularly eat.  If you’ve never really weaned yourself from high-fat, low-nutrient eating, then you cannot contemplate a time when you would have little if any craving for fat.

We crave what we are used to.  If hamburgers and bacon and cheese and cream sauces are what we regularly consume, then they will be what we chronically crave. If legumes and vegetables and fruit are what we regularly consume, then they will be what we chronically crave.  We crave what our palate is used to.  Don’t fight this statement.

It is true.  We crave what our palate is used to.  Make what your palate is used to healthy.  Then you will crave what is healthy — even more than you’ve been craving what is not good for you.  And let’s be clear, the SAD (Standard American Diet) is not good for you!  Get accustomed to something else!

Saturated Fat is Good. Exercise is Bad. The World is Flat

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Maybe it was our obsession with body fat that distracted us from sound nutrition.  After all, people did lose weight – at least out of the blocks – by adhering to the moronic Atkins Diet!  I guess the lessen from observing Atkins dieters, aside from proving that some people will fall for anything, is that if we are able to simulate the biological effects of type I diabetes, we are then able to produce weight loss – at least in the short term.  Remarkable!  Who really cares if it’s healthy or not, as long as it produces weight loss!

Be honest with me.  When you first heard about the Atkins Diet, you thought it was a joke, right?  I mean, when you were told that a board-certified cardiologist wrote a book recommending that you dope on animal fat – you thought someone was making this up, right?  And then you gradually realized that the earth was, indeed, flat, and that you might be able to fly if you jump from a 40-story building!  And the great thing is that we’ve thought all along that dietary fat was bad, gravity holds, and the earth is round – to finally discover that we’ve been duped!

I am finally coming out of denial on this food message that has been all the rage since Dr. Atkins stopped practicing medicine and started his experiments with human gullibility.  And since cavemen became the ultimate source for healthy eating behaviors!  And since gluten eclipsed cyanide as the worst thing you could put in your mouth!

People really are capable of believing that saturated fat is good for us.  That anything can be good for us if we savor it, and fondle it, and enjoy it, and think about where it came from, and how it got here, and whether it enjoyed grazing in a bucolic pasture or was tortured in a fattening-up factory.

P.T. Barnum was right.  And maybe Lincoln, too, if he ever really did say “you can fool all of the people some of the time, etc.”  Honestly, do you really believe that consuming saturated fat is not bad for you!  Are we so enthralled with the prospect of overturning time-worn conventional wisdom, as well as rejecting virtually all of nutritional science, that we will actually believe this silliness?  Or is it that we are so hopelessly addicted to the taste of fat that we will grasp at any thread of hope that doping on saturated fat might actually be a good thing?

Disease?  Or Self-Inflicted Damage?

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I mentioned coronary artery disease a couple times in the preceding posts, and every time I write those three words it feels disingenuous.  I think what I should be writing is coronary artery damage.

If I fall on the sidewalk and skin my knee, I don’t look at my knee and say “look, I have abraded skin disease!”  No, I look at my abrasion and see it as an injury.  And if I had caused the abrasion by intentionally sandpapering my knee, I would stupidly look at what I’d done and called it a self-inflicted injury.

And yet, when our arteries become clogged with plaque caused by choosing the SAD (standard American diet) over healthy eating – by choosing fat over starch – we conclude that we have contracted coronary artery disease.  And yet, the damage to our arteries – and it is damage, not disease – has been willfully and deliberately inflicted by our decision to consume excessive levels of dietary fat.

Okay, to be fair, for most people living in America this damage would be caused by an unconscious and uninformed decision to eat what is normal in our culture – to follow the SAD and the guidelines we are so gratuitously gifted by our U.S. Department of Agriculture and congressmen and senators who are owned by lobbyists of the junk food industries.

But now you know.  From now on the exacerbation of damage to your arteries will be self-inflicted.  And — listen to this carefully – if you are over twenty and have been faithfully eating in accordance with the SAD all your life, the chances are very good that you do have coronary artery damage.  Sadly, we have compelling autopsy evidence to know that artery damage in America begins early in life, and too often ends with a surprise heart attack that is fatal.  Most people who have heart damage don’t even know it.  A good rule of thumb is to assume that you do if you’ve been eating like an American for twenty or more years.

And – stop eating like that.  It’s not worth it.

Nutrition is a Science – Really!

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Nutrition is a science.  Epidemiology is a science.  Of course these research disciplines continue to evolve.  There is much we still don’t know.  But what we do know is found in the meta-analyses of unsponsored (see January 26, 2015 blog and laser focus on the word unsponsored), scientifically sound research that has stood up to the scrutiny of serious reviewers.  And, regrettably, as shown in my January 22, 2015 blog, we cannot presume that research accepted for publication by either the Journal of the American Medical Association or the New England Journal of Medicine meets an appropriate standard for scientific inquiry.  And this is a human tragedy.  We need to rely on the top journals in medicine to uphold a high bar for research methodology, for unbiased inquiry, for freedom from political and mercenary influences.  In short, we need integrity from our scientific journals – not prostitution.

If you sort out the meta-analyses that are unfettered by sponsorship and prostitution, you will find something very interesting.  You will find that, in a general and broad sense, fundamental nutrition has changed very little over the past fifty years.  Sadly, fundamental, science-based, nutrition has never found its way to the food pyramids and other sundry gimmicks for influencing the standard American diet – the SAD.  And that truly is SAD, for, among other carnages, this decision to ignore sound nutrition has given us a culture where diabetes, obesity, coronary artery disease, and myriad cancers are deemed normal, and, most devastatingly, out of our control.  We expect these disabilities as part of being American.

Here’s the SAD summary:  Disease and disability are normal.  Relax.  We have drugs and dietary gimmicks to get you through it.  Just follow the money and behave the way you are told to behave.  It’s just business. It’s nothing personal.  What matters are the vitality, profitability, and longevity of the drug industry and the industries that sell us junk to put in our mouths.

Nutritional Prostitution

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Have you read some of those very detailed and complicated explanations on metabolism encased within the popular tomes on diet – and wondered how the journalists who authored those books were such amazing geniuses in the biological sciences?  Have you been mesmerized by the erudite (I would suggest “convoluted” as the proper word here) explanations that the Paleo prostitutes offer for how the human body – especially the human brain – disintegrates in the presence of gluten (heaven forbid!)?

Well, here’s the secret.  If you are a special kind of “writer for hire” (e.g., an unprincipled and amoral one!), you can get those esoteric descriptions of digestion and bodily desecration from the industries whose fortunes are fanned by the eating regimen you are promoting in your book.  So if you are writing on omnivore angst or on how we are getting fat eating vegetation, you can secure the most sophisticated-sounding primers on food metabolism from the dairy industry.  Check with Gary Taubes (see my January 29, 2015 blog) to see where he gets his esoteric digestive tripe.  Or with Michael Pollan (see my February 4, 2015 blog).

I believe that nutrition is home to most of the world’s prostitutes, from myriad categories:

Institutional prostitutes — like the American Dietary Association

Government prostitutes — like the Department of Agriculture

Academic prostitutes — like most university departments of nutrition and epidemiology

Regulatory prostitutes – like the Food and Drug Administration

Individual prostitutes — like the “nutritionists” that the dairy industry employs and makes readily available, at no cost, to provide nutritional consultation to schools, legislative committees, and journalists.

Does this sound too cynical?  Then just take one of the “industry / nutritional information” propinquities mentioned in the last paragraph.  Look, for example, just at the American Dietary Association – after all, who, if not the ADA, should be clean and ethically uncompromised on matters of nutrition?  Look carefully at the interlocking influences between the ADA and the dairy industry, just to start with one perversion.

But beware.  You are about to tread on painfully cynical territory.  And you may begin to understand why you grew up with a conventional wisdom that deified milk – at a frightful carnage to the public health of our country.