Yum! Why Beef, Butter, and Eggs Are Back on the Menu
If you’ve banished red meats and egg yolks from your diet for health reasons, there’s reason to rejoice. I think the notion that saturated fat and cholesterol are the demons in the diet is 100 percent wrong. When you look at the data, it’s very clear: Most of what we’ve been told about saturated fat and cholesterol is simply not so. Recent research has shown that there’s no connection between saturated fat in the diet and the incidence of heart disease. Instead of saturated fat and cholesterol, most leading-edge experts are now looking at inflammation as a prime mover in the development of heart disease.
Forbidden foods that are okay to eat
>> BUTTER was never bad to begin with. It was banished from our tables because of our ill-advised fear of saturated fats, and we replaced it with something much worse!
>> GRASS-FED BEEF contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and less omega-6s, which are inflammatory. It’s also free of hormones, a very big plus indeed.
>> TROPICAL OILS are good. When we reduced our intake of saturated fat and replaced it with vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in our diets became wildly out of balance. Omega-6s are the building blocks of inflammatory chemicals in our bodies, and we are consuming six to 25 times more of them than we are the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Substituting Malaysian palm fruit oil for some of that inflammatory omega-6 will help right the balance. Malaysian palm fruit oil won’t cause inflammation and won’t break down into toxic substances when you cook with it.
>> EGG YOLKS are back. What a relief that you don’t have to suffer through one more tasteless egg white omelet. The advice to eat egg white omelets is way past its expiration date!
>> DARK MEAT POUTLRY, USDA data shows, has mere milligrams of difference vs. white meat. It does have more fat, but there’s no need to fear it. Just be cautious of the skin, which is calorically dense.
>> CHEESE AND NUTS: One ounce of nuts a day is associated with lower body mass index, so these are absolutely healthy. But they are also easy to overeat—and can contribute to weight gain when overindulged in—so be careful about the amount you consume.
The irony is that the foods we were taught are good for us—breads, cereals, pasta, rice, and potatoes—are the very ones that are killing us. Our bodies convert these foods to sugar almost instantly. Sugar raises insulin, which causes inflammation, which is the fundamental cause of heart disease.
Among those supposed “health foods” there are quite a few impostors lurking behind some really good marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at some of the top offenders.
“Healthy foods” that aren’t that healthy
>> MOST SUPERMARKET CEREALS, with few exceptions, are fiber lightweights. The overwhelming majority are loaded with sugar. Most have a very high glycemic impact, meaning they raise blood sugar quickly, contributing to mood swings and energy dips. Whole grains are better, but those who are sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations will have still have to be careful. The best cereals are old-fashioned oatmeal, and a few standouts like Fiber One and All-Bran. Most of the others: not so good. Look for those that pass the “five and five” rule: less than five grams of sugar, more than five grams of fiber.
>> GRANOLA BARS are candy bars masquerading as a health food. While some “energy” or “protein” bars are the genuine article, most are simply chewy versions of candy bars, with very little fiber, lots of processed carbs, and a ton of sugar. You’re better off “rolling your own” out of raw oats, chopped almonds, coconut flakes, raisins, and a dollop of raw organic honey.
>> FROZEN YOGURT is a prime example of the triumph of marketing over good sense. The only thing frozen yogurt has in common with real yogurt is that they’re both white. Real yogurt—one of the healthiest foods on earth—is loaded with live cultures which support your digestive health. The live culture content of most frozen yogurt is precisely zero. What’s more, frozen yogurt is usually filled with chemicals, and the artificial sweeteners in the nonfat yogurts can cause cravings just like sugar. You’re better off with real, creamy, organic ice cream—just don’t eat too much.
>> APPLE JUICE. Apples are healthy, but apple juice? Not so fast. One cup of apple juice has zero grams of fiber, 117 calories, and 29 grams of carbs, 27 of which are sugar (and your typical serving is a lot more than a cup). Sorry, but that’s not a health drink, it’s sugar water with apple flavoring. The implications of giving our kids eight cups a day of this stuff are just now beginning to be understood. An apple a day keeps the doctor away: Wish we could say the same about apple juice, but we can’t.
>> CANOLA OIL, though it may sound sacrilegious, isn’t a health bargain after all. Conventional canola oil is processed by high temperature mechanical pressing. It goes through caustic refining, bleaching, and degumming. The high temperatures needed to extract the oil from the rapeseed plant make its highly touted omega-3s rancid and foul smelling, requiring them to be deodorized, a process that creates some trans-fatty acids. Unless it’s cold-pressed and organic, stay away.
>> FARM-RAISED SALMON, I am sorry to say, don’t compare favorably with the wild variety. Farm-raised salmon have up to eight times the level of carcinogenic PCBs and they’re lower in omega-3 fats. Penned salmon are fed grain and fishmeal and a ton of antibiotics, and they don’t have nearly the nutritional value as their wild relatives. In addition, wild salmon get their red color from astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that comes from their natural food source, krill. Farmed salmon get their color from a color wheel.
Though fat has been villainized for decades now, the truth is that we all need fat in our diets. People who follow low-fat diets are hungry all the time because fat is one of the main things that makes you feel full. Also, if your body learns to run primarily on sugar instead of fat, your metabolism is compromised. Sugar is far more damaging to the heart than fat ever was. The world’s focus on cholesterol has been incredibly destructive because it took our focus away from the real promoters of heart disease: inflammation, oxidative damage, sugar, and—number one with a bullet—stress.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, also known as “The Rogue Nutritionist,” is a board-certified nutritionist and the best-selling author of 13 books on health. This article is adapted from his latest books, The Great Cholesterol Myth, cowritten with cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, and The Great Cholesterol Myth Cookbook.