Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Nutrition Debate #13: Is Our Diet Really Changing? Have You Noticed Lately?

Why, you ask, do I see the ship of state-guided nutrition turning slowly? There is lots of evidence that can be pieced together to demonstrate the slight shift that I see away from carbs to – dare I say it? – fats. First, the news about carbs:

The current AHA guideline point out that added sugars (note: all sugars are 100% carbohydrate) should be limited. To see how much sugar is in everyday foods, the website is a quick link and very illuminating.

“Good Carbs and Bad Carbs.” The Glycemic Index differentiates between quick acting carbs, from simple sugars and highly refined carbohydrates, and the slower digesting “complex” carbohydrates. The food industry picked up on this right away, and we are now deluged with entreaties to eat this or that processed food product made with the slower-digesting whole grains. The latest guidelines suggest that half of all the grains you eat should be “whole.” That’s a start.

However, a carb is a carb is a carb, and the area “under the curve” is the same no matter the source of the carbohydrate. Whether it spikes the blood sugar, or it takes longer for the blood sugar to rise but then stays high for a longer time until the glucose is all “taken up,” it still works the pancreas. Still, spikes are best avoided as they can lead to neurological damage as well as the development of glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

Unfortunately, the Glycemic Index just tells us there are “spiking” carbs and “non-spiking” carbs; it does not tell us to eat fewer carbs, and it does not make it clear that the Glycemic Index is not “one size fits all.” It also neglects to mention that fats will not spike your blood sugar; in fact, they won’t even raise it.

“Good Fats and Bad Fats”: We all know to avoid trans fats. Margarine, as originally constituted, was made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that were constituted as trans fats. We ate margarine to avoid butter, which is a mostly “saturated” fat (66% saturated, 30% monounsaturated, and 4% polyunsaturated). But, trans fats are also found in common vegetable oils used for frying, and in baked goods on the grocery store shelf. Look for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” in the ingredients list and don’t buy foods that contain these trans fats!

The processed food industry/big government cabal are now trying to lump trans fats together with saturated fat, and by association taint, indeed vilify, saturated fats (as if they thought the public needed to hear it further declaimed!). So, saturated fats remain the “bad boy” of allowed fats, and are “limited” in the establishment guidelines to no more than a 3rd of total fats, which are themselves limited to no more than 30% of total calories. Interestingly, to further limit saturated fats, which are only found in animals and tropical oils, the newest HHS/USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010,” released on January 31, 2011, recommends a shift away from these “solid” (saturated) animal fats to “a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.” Translation: a “vegan” diet! Are you ready for that? More on the new Dietary Guidelines in the next column in this series.

Omega 3 vs. Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are both polyunsaturated fatty acids, which along with monounsaturated fats (olive oil, etc,) are the two types of unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats, generally in the form of oils, are viewed in the conventional wisdom as preferable to saturated fats. Olive oil and the other monounsaturates are good. The problem is we are eating too many of the polyunsaturated fats in processed foods made with the Omega 6 vegetable oils, and too few Omega 3’s. The ratio needs to be corrected. So, in this latest shift in guidance, we are being encouraged to eat fewer 6’s, and to supplement our intake of Omega 3’s, usually in the form of fish oil capsules. But, how much fish oil can you eat? The solution: drastically reduce the amount of Omega 6’s in your diet. Much more on that later too.

This brings us to eggs: Egg yolks are high both in saturated fat (36% by weight) and cholesterol (212mg/large egg). The latest guidelines still reflect the mistaken idea that the cholesterol you eat directly affects your blood cholesterol levels. So, two large eggs contain more than the recommended daily amount of cholesterol (300mg). But, eggs contain all of the essential amino acids for humans. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, they are an inexpensive source of protein and fat.

But there’s hope. Butter sales are on the rise again, and eggs from pastured (“free range”) chickens are in the farmers’ markets. I even overheard a segment on the Today Show recently that advocated “eat fat to lose fat.” Now, I ask you: How far off can the shift to healthy eating be if a mainstream network like NBC is willing to promote a crackpot idea like that?

© Dan Brown 2/25/11

1 comment:

  1. I believe it's changing. It's easier to be successful in dieting because of the vitamins and supplements that we take.