Have you noticed lately that the dietary Dictocrats have declared “sugar, salt and fat,” (in any order) the new trio of “bad boys”? Notice they are linking sugar to the previously demonized salt and fat. Adding sugar is a clever way for them to pivot and I commend them for that, but salt and saturated fat have never been on my “bad boy” list.
Mary Enig had trumpeted the dangers of artificial trans fats since the McGovern Select Committee hearings of 1977. In that, of course, she was “spot on,” as the government finally acknowledged in 2003. But, not without wrongly linking the danger of artificial trans fats (made from corn and other vegetable oils) to saturated fats from animals. They also conveniently ignored the natural trans fat (conjugated linoleic acid or CLA) that is found in animal fats and is very good for our health. Chemically these two fats are very different. Natural CLA is good.
Further differentiation among fats has occurred more recently: our government has declared that SOLID FATS (again lumping together both the naturally occurring saturated fats and the artificial trans fats) are “bad,” but VEGETABLE OILS, which are highly processed food products, made from seeds and grains, are “good” for you. You’re asked to ignore the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture is the federal agency responsible for both promoting corn and soybeans, the mainstays of the U. S. agricultural and food manufacturing industries, and protecting the public health, in that order. It’s pretty scary, when you think about it.
Anyway, sugar has now been added to this nefarious group and with good cause –sugar is indeed a “bad boy.” Note, however, that sugar is not identified as a carbohydrate. It is a simple carb, either a mono or disaccharide. Glucose is the most common component of the molecule. It is easily used for energy. The body “prefers” to burn glucose first so it can conserve fat in storage for the coming famine. Don’t we all know this? If we become “sugar burners” by grazing on carbs all day, we (our body, through the action of insulin) will not burn any of our stored body fat. As long as there’s sugar aplenty, it will pile more fat on our bodies to prepare for the “lean times” ahead.
Fructose is another component of the common sugar molecule sucrose. Consumed in large amounts it is also a “bad boy.” A chronic toxin, it isn’t burned like glucose. It is shunted to the liver to be detoxified. If the liver can’t handle the load, it converts it, in steps, to fat by lipogenesis, and we get NAFLD – nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
So, what’s wrong with the new triumvirate the government has created? If you believe that salt and saturated fats are bad for you, then nothing. The government has invested billions in vilifying salt and fat, and lumping sugar (sorry) together with salt and fat condemns it by association. The problem is that salt and saturated fats are not bad for you, but excessive simple sugars are. And if you’re a Type 2 diabetic, as I have been for 33 years, then anything that becomes glucose in the blood (simple or complex carbs) has to be eaten in very limited quantities.
I hew to the injunction articulated for me by Kurt Harris, MD, in his defunct Archevore Diet: avoid as much as possible the “NADs (Neolithic Agents of Disease): wheat, excess fructose and excess linoleic acids.” The latter are “the grain and seed derived oils (cooking oils): Eat or fry with ghee, pastured butter, animal fats, or coconut oil. Avoid temperate plant oils like corn, soybean, canola, flax, walnut, etc. Go easy on the nuts, especially soy and peanuts.” For me, this translates to a different triumvirate: Wheat, corn and soy. And legumes, except green beans.
Harris adds: Eat “whole foods from animals. Favor grass-fed ruminants like beef and lamb for your red meat. Animal fats are an excellent dietary fuel and come with lots of fat-soluble vitamins. It can work very well to simply replace your sugar and wheat calories with animal fats. If you are not diabetic, you can eat more starch and less animal fat. A low carb diet can rely more on ruminant fat and pastured butter.”
I add salt to most things. An argument in favor of this practice is made by Michael Eades, MD, and by Volek and Phinney in their excellent book, “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Eating.” See Retrospective #74.
So, by all means, avoid sugar, but not salt and saturated fat. Both are good and necessary for your health.