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Common Myths About Food & Nutrition

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Are you a person who believes low-fat foods are healthier than those with fat in them? Have you ever starved yourself or limited your calories thinking that if you did this, you would lose weight? It has become a common misconception that if people eat low calorie and fat-free foods they should be able to lose weight because they are eating less fat.

Although in theory, this sounds like a logical conclusion, nothing could be further from the truth! With that idea in mind, have you ever wondered whether the food in your kitchen that reflects those ideas is healthy to eat? It can be confusing to try and sift through all the information available on food and nutrition. So much is available. How do you know what to believe? Don’t worry, I’ll answer this question later on in this post.

Right now, let’s go over some of the most common myths about nutrition as well as detailed explanations as to why those are untrue.

Here’s a short quiz you can take to determine how nutritionally aware you are about the foods in your kitchen:

  • Do you count calories?
  • Do you believe “lean meats” are healthy to eat?
  • Do you believe red meat is not healthy to eat?
  • Do you eat soy products because you’ve been told they are health foods?
  • Do you maintain a vegan diet?
  • Do you eat boxed cereals because the labels read “low-fat”, or “high-fiber”, “all-natural” or “no sugar added”?
  • Do you believe eggs and butter are bad for your health?
  • Do you choose vegetable oils because you have been told they are healthy to consume (canola, cottonseed, corn, and safflower oils)?
  • Do you take synthetic vitamin/mineral/dietary supplements to “fill in the gaps”?
  • Do you pay no attention to organic, sustainable, antibiotic/hormone/spray/pesticide-free meats and produce because conventional is “cheaper” and “it doesn’t really make a difference”?
  • Do you buy processed foods such as enriched breads, crackers, cereals, bagels, English Muffins, pretzels, rice cakes, tortillas, croissants because you believe they are low-fat and healthy?
  • Do you eat highly-processed lunch meats, sausages, hot dogs and other similar items?
  • Do you eat products containing hydrolyzed and/or textured proteins  or protein powder (read the labels on the foods you buy and see if you can find either of these two ingredients)?
  • Do you buy “food” and “protein” bars and powdered drink products because you believe they are an acceptable substitute for a real, balanced meal?
  • Do you believe that raw milk is unsafe to drink, and pasteurized is superior?
  • Believe salt is bad for your health?

If you answered no to most of these, hopefully you are on the right track!

If you answered yes to more than 2 of these questions, it might be time to re-evaluate what you are keeping in your cupboards and refrigerator.

Here are some things you may not know about the food you eat:

  • Fats and cholesterol are healthy and necessary for your health. All humans need real, unadulterated fats in their diets. Fats contain some of the most necessary nutrients and enzymes for us to maintain all types of bodily functions – even more than many vegetables, believe it or not!
  • Butter is good for you! A slice of real butter is delicious, filling, and provides Vitamins A & D, and K, and also Omega 3 essential fatty acids – especially butter from healthy cows on pasture.
  • The kind of meat you eat is important – learn the differences between conventional and sustainable-raised, grass-fed meats. Conventional meat is really the culprit of many of our health problems.  Animals in conventional environments are usually fed grain, soy. These animals are not made to eat these substances – but should be eating grass instead. As a result, animals become ill and often develop the pathogenic variety of E. coli and other diseases, are administered antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, are given growth hormones to make sure they grow fast enough to turn a profit quicker. The balance of Omega 6s to Omega 3s in conventional meat is grossly out of balance, and eating this kind of meat causes degenerative disease over time.
  • As a rule, supplements don’t replace healthy eating - but sometimes we need them, and if you are going to take them, good quality is critical!
  • Remember when grandma used to give you cod liver oil? Cod liver oil with butter oil is really good for you, and is an important source of Vitamins A & D. Cod liver oil with butter oil contains the important Vitamin K2 that is so lacking in much of our diets. Fermented cod liver oil is the best type of this oil to consume.  Here is a great resource of information on the importance of cod liver oil in our diets.
  • Sprouted, soaked, and fermented grains, nuts, and seeds are more digestible to the human body.  Howevergrains have been the cause of many modern health issues from weight gain and heart disease to behavior disorders and autism, to bone problems and digestive disorders of many kinds. Wonder why so many people have wheat and food allergies, and why obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses are so prevalent? In modern times, the grains most of us consume are processed and extruded. Extrusion involves grains being forced through a very small hole in a machine and subjected to extremely high temperatures, which damages the grain. For thousands and thousands of years, our ancestors prepared grains by soaking and sprouting to increase the digestibility of these foods.  When eaten sparingly and properly prepared, grains, nuts and seeds can be a part of a healthy diet. Still, some people cannot tolerate grains at all for any reason. You might be one of those people. Read this post: The truth about wheat and grains: are they good for your health?  Also read The big gluten-free lie which talks about why gluten-free products often aren’t a better choice. 
  • Cheap food is not really cheap – cheap foods are full of chemicals and toxins, and are not really food – so you can eat it all day and not be full. We are seeing more and more of these foods on recall lists every day. Eating these kinds of foods will actually result in a net deficiency of nutrients stored in your body. We also pay more for these foods when we are taxed in the form of government subsidies.  The more cheap, processed foods you eat, you will spend more money for conventional health care costs, medication, etc. and you’ll end up spending more anyway.
  • The Food Pyramid (designed by the USDA) actually tells us to eat the wrong foods! UPDATE: As of Summer 2011, the USDA changed their recommendations yet again. The Food Pyramid has now been discarded and in its place is now My Plate – an even more ambiguous and vague recommendation about what we should eat to be healthy. These new recommendations say  absolutely nothing about healthy fats, which are absolutely critical to all aspects of health.
  • The most unhealthy oils to consume are those that are promoted by the medical/health/food industries, and also are the cheapest (such as canola, corn, sunflower, peanut, cottonseed, and soybean) - and you will find these everywhere you look : in grocery stores, restaurants, and in processed foods everywhere. These oils are deodorized, subjected to high-heat temperatures, and are usually rancid by the time they reach the shelf. They are also often from genetically-modified sources and contain too much Omega 6 essential fatty acids which cause inflammation and disease. They contain polyunsaturated fats that are easily damaged in cooking. They are not traditional fats and should be avoided at all costs.
  • The healthiest oils are virgin and extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oils from a sustainable-source. These oils are extremely healthy and contain various nutritious elements. Coconut oil is high in healthy saturated fat and lauric acid which helps the body deal with viruses and bacteria such as influenza, herpes, cytomegalovirus, and even serious auto-immune disorders such as HIV. It is a great natural antifungal and antibacterial food.  Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat (Omega 9 essential fatty acid, and helps to maintain balance between Omega 3s and 6s), and antioxidant value (from Vitamin E).  It helps to keep digestion healthy to prevent colon cancer and gallstone issues. Palm oil is a healthy saturated fat and also contains the ever important cancer-protecting Vitamin E, which is also critical for protecting arteries and brain cells.  Best bets for oils are are organic, cold-pressed, extra virgin, unfiltered, handcrafted, and sustainable-produced.
  • Soy is not a health food unless it is in fermented form. Ninety percent or more of soy sold on the market is highly-processed, industrial waste – and beyond that can cause severe disruptions in the body in the reproductive, digestive, endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. Soy milk, cheese, fake meats, most tofu and soy sauces, soy “mayonnaise”, and soy filler ingredients you will find on the market are not good for your health, despite the claims made by food companies on labels. Natto, tempeh, and miso that are naturally fermented are good choices for health.
  • Table salt is an industrial waste product - the heating process during refinement takes temperatures upward toward 1200 degrees in processing, which destroys the majority of naturally-occurring elements. Mostly comprised of sodium chloride and no more than one or two other elements, table salt is toxic to our bodies. Unrefined sea salt has a balance of trace minerals our bodies need, which we currently don’t get from many of the foods we eat. Because conventional farming methods destroy our soil and mineral levels, the earth becomes depleted of many important nutrients that would otherwise greatly improve the nutritional content of foods that are grown (produce, grains, legumes, etc.) and raised to graze (animals for meat and meat products). The best choice is a good quality unrefined sea salt. Read this post about how the food industry labels products with terms like “low-sodium” or “no salt” as a way to convince you they are healthier than their sodium-filled counterparts.

Overwhelmed? Confused? You are not alone!

Manufacturing and processing methods remove nutrients from foods and denature them so that our bodies cannot recognize those substances. Modern food processing uses heat, pressure, and industrially-produced oils and fats to make foods more convenient and easier to package and sell. If your digestive system cannot absorb something, it will have a difficult time delivering something nutritious that will actually do your body benefit. What’s more, these foods can actually increase the toxin load and deplete existing nutrients, which cause long-term health problems.

Remember at the beginning of this post – I asked a very important question - how do you know what to believe?

When you aren’t sure, a good rule of thumb to follow is that if your grandmother doesn’t know what it is, you probably shouldn’t be eating it!  People have eaten real, traditional foods for thousands of years and survived very well.

It’s only been in the last 160 years or so that human beings have developed processing and automation to mass produce packaged foods. And yet since that time, disease rates and illnesses have changed considerably. For example, our records in the study of heart disease show that death from heart problems was a rare occurrence in pre-industrial societies.

Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution (19th century), the incidence of heart disease began to increase sharply, and since then more people have died from heart-related disease.  If you are a person that needs statistical data to be convinced, just take a look at this graph of statistics on heart disease from Google showing heart disease rates since the 1860s to now. It’s quite startling to see the change in this disease since that time on this graph.

If you are new to real and traditional foods, here are some great starter articles that can help you understand all the different types of foods, what to buy and what to avoid:

What are traditional foods? 

How well do you know your food? Find out!

Find out what’s in my kitchen:

My kitchen staples – how I keep my family healthy

What’s in the food you are eating?

Fortified and processed foods: are label claims about nutrition true?

Organic is only part of the story

Reading labels in the store – don’t be fooled by marketing lingo!

Does the Food Food Pyramid give good recommendations?

 



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Lesson 1: What is Real Food & Where to Find It

Lesson 2: Soaked Grains: Pilaf & Scones

Lesson 3: Homemade Sourdough Bread

Lesson 4: Salads: Vinaigrette and Enriched Dressing

Lesson 5: Seasonal Vegetables: Roasted and Braised

Lesson 6: Fermented Vegetables: Sauerkrauts & Sour Pickles

Lesson 7: Pasture-Raised Meats: Roasts and Slow-Cooked

Lesson 8: Mineral-Rich Broths: Soups

Lesson 9: Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese

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Lesson 12: Menus & Meal Planning

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