When I offer a patient my medical opinion that for whatever ails them they should eliminate grains, I often hear from the patient or the family, “But aren't grains an important part of a balanced diet?”
Food fights have moved from the college cafeteria to scientific journals and daytime talk shows. Is saturated fat good or bad for you? Do multivitamins do more good or harm? What about that study I heard about on the way to work today? Your HealthWorks follows emerging controversies in the field of nutrition and finds the heart of the matter, the kernel of truth that can improve your health. We start with the subject of cholesterol.
I understand loving the taste of grains.
Twice over the last month, articles in the general media have reported that the link has been found between certain foods (red meat and eggs) and heart disease, as if that causation is known and undisputed. The real “behind the headlines” story is that the titles of the articles and the impact of the actual science seem quite far apart.
The Paleo Diet has been inspired by the study of our own human history. The Paleolithic Period began about 2.6 million years ago with the first use of stone tools by pre-historic humans and ended about 10,000 years ago. In the Paleolithic Period, humans formed small groups and survived by hunting and gathering food. The end of the Paleolithic Period is marked by human groups settling in one era, introducing agriculture, religion and culture that has survived to the current day. Humans clearly evolved during the long Paleolithic period, developing physically and genetically. The successful survivors of that era thrived because they were eating and living in a way highly compatible with their genetic structure. It is possible our genes have evolved to some degree over the more recent 10,000 years, but it is most likely that this change is small.
People mutter that phrase as if it’s a bad thing, but isn’t learning one of life’s great excitements? I’ve been a student of nutrition for almost fifty years, learning from both old masters and new innovators.
From 2004 to 2012, federal and state agents have conducted armed sting operations across America, raiding farms and issuing criminal warrants for farmers and shopkeepers from California to Pennsylvania. A few were even arrested. Were they after drug smugglers, perhaps? Or pursuing a threat to national intelligence?
Agents also seized and confiscated property. Was it contraband? No, it was raw milk, the same substance our ancestors and maybe even grandparents drank on a daily basis, when heart disease was almost unheard of and cancer was still a rarity.
Today, raw milk refers to unprocessed, untreated milk straight from the cow. The milk you buy from the local supermarket nowadays is a different substance altogether. It has been pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, or homogenized. This liquid is not really milk. It is a chemically altered substance, heated to remove pathogens and bacteria and to prolong its shelf life. The resultant low-enzyme activity makes it difficult to digest, the altered fat content renders the vitamins and minerals difficult to absorb, and the residual drugs and antibiotics pose a threat to human health. On top of this, the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria have been destroyed.
For decades, we have been pummeled by the message that saturated fats such as those in butter and meat are bad for us and that a low-fat diet is good for the heart and blood vessels. But where did this information about fat and cholesterol come from, and is it really accurate?
Before we answer that question, let's take a look at the different types of fats and the foods from which they are derived.
Types of Fats and How They Affect Your Health
Fats are divided into two basic groups: saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fats can be further subdivided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, sesame oil, cashews, pecans, peanuts, and avocado.
Within the polyunsaturated oil category, omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids (EFA) since they can only be derived from diet and are not synthesized by the body. Omega-3 fatty acids make the blood vessels elastic; have a beneficial effect on the eyes, brain, and nerve tissues; and help reduce your chances of contracting cancer or arthritis.
Polyunsaturated fats such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, algae, and krill. English walnuts and vegetable oils such as flaxseed/linseed, olive, canola, and soybean contain the ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) type of omega-3.