Being a nutritionist makes me feel all kinds of emotions, but this past week, it made my heart hurt and blood boil all at once.
We have seen a very saddening (and scary) turn of events with the introduction of a global initiative by Swedish non-profit EAT-Lancet. Their proposal is for everyone to eat a plant-based diet in order to save the world. And they are going to fight for it. Here it is for those of you interested.
I suspect they’ll lose (I mean what will McDonalds, Burger King or KFC do?!) but just the mere fact that they have everyone’s attention is scary. They are surely exciting all the vegans as well as making people currently on the fence regarding meat consumption question everything without all the facts, or with facts that have large holes in them (you know those people who believed What the Health was a good doco!).
But this post isn’t about the EAT-Lancet Commission’s proposal, it’s about the world we live in today and how we are all affected by it. It’s about common sense prevailing and paying attention to the basic human needs and functions that we are aware of (and we are always learning more).
It’s about nutrition and what we should eat for health… according to me, a Nutritional Therapist.
Every day we’re being bombarded with negative messages. To me, they are sometimes said to my face, or sometimes I read things said to my peers. But ultimately, a lot of these messages are about how RIGHT someone is and and how WRONG they think someone else is. (I’m obviously in the field of Nutrition, so I’m referring to diet here, but this is pretty common regarding all topics discussed online…).
Maybe I’m being sensitive but this week I started to notice a lot of verbiage, a lot of negativity, a lot of debate and a lot of misinformation. It’s no different to any other day online in the world of Nutrition really, but today, I thought I’d write something about it.
Yep, I’m someone who sticks to one way of eating and I advise people on how to do this. You may think that means then that I think I’m right and others are wrong. But hear me out before you judge me please.
This is my simplistic take on the current situation in the world:
- People today are SICK. Sicker than they’ve ever been.
- They have uncontrollably high blood sugar.
- They eat food that is NOT food (us NTPs call it frankenfood).
- They are fat but malnourished.
- They are stressed.
- They have massive digestive issues.
- They are not getting healthier and their lifestyles and choices are changing their genetic expressions impacting greatly on the health of their offspring and their offsprings, offspring (NTAs call this “Pottenger’s People” based on the Pottenger’s cats study).
- People feel confused and constantly under attack because of the food choices they make. There are constant mixed messages.
- “Fad diets” are everywhere BECAUSE people are seeking a resolution for their health issues. These health issues have come by these people eating based on the current guidelines.
- Some of these “fad diets” are not as bad as people think and may be better than the dietary guidelines.
- We have doctors giving poor nutrition advice without any training, we have University qualified dieticians also giving misguided advice.
- We still have that bloody food pyramid, the US has MyPlate and Australia has their Dietary Guidelines. No matter the country, they often have a focus on whole grains, fruits and veggies, an emphasis on very little animal protein, particularly red meat and eggs. Either way, it’s a one-sized-fits all approach that has been developed on very poor scientific research.
- We have people with vested interests who are in the game solely for the profits, they don’t care about the people at all. (Think drug companies, junk food companies, producers of farmed food and industries like Monsanto controlling farming practices and the sale of the GMO seeds planted.) These vested interests (who I see as literally EVIL people because they can’t know what they know, harm the people they harm and continue getting out of bed each day and NOT feel bad about it…) are infiltrating powerful organisations and government. Here is one example but it’s happening worldwide.
- We have people fighting for change to the “one-size-fits-all” nutrition policy that doesn’t work for most human beings. They have been accused of misconduct and had their license/registration taken away from them because they advised patients to change their diet outside of the guidelines. Long story short, they were sick because of the guidelines. Alternative advice healed them.
The health industry is a troubled place to be in and I sometimes wonder if I’m cut out for it the more I experience it – but I figure that’s exactly why I have to be here! Keep fighting the good fight, no?!
But back to my take on things…
Because everyone is sick, we need to RESET.
We have an EMERGENCY need to lower blood sugar (our bodies are not equipped with the mechanisms to do so on an ongoing basis – ok there’s insulin but that is short-lived, it’s not like gluconeogenesis where our body has a mechanism to safely RAISE blood sugar whenever it needs to)…
In order to lower blood sugar, to remove this emergency state, we need to eliminate foods that cause it to rapidly spike. These include largely sugar and processed foods but also things like grains, starchy vegetables and sweet fruits. In this case, these are the foods that MUST be eliminated for people to reset their health. Continuing to eat/drink them = a blood sugar rollercoaster.
There is no denying this, no changing this, it’s what happens.
Once, twice, three times is ok, our bodies can cope. But this is happening to people EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. Every single time they put something in their mouth. This is why it’s an emergency. The body can no longer cope.
Our body literally starts to change the way it functions and this is not a positive adaptation. It’s responding the only way it knows how and it mostly results in people getting sick.
And this manifests differently in different people and different genders.
Elimination diets, low carb, paleo, keto or carnivore diets are all effective in lowering blood sugar, which is why I promote them. They keep blood sugar low and they allow the body to burn fat for fuel, heal the digestive system, and consequently release stored body fat, which results in weight loss.
To be clear: I’m not promoting these diets. I’m not selling them. What am I saying?
If blood sugar is high and that is making us sick, then we need to lower it.
If we could safely eat whole grains and legumes and lots of fruit and starchy vegetables and achieve this (like the food pyramids recommend), then that is what I would suggest.
But we can’t. It’s not how the body works. These foods are made up of carbohydrates and sugars and the body has to break them down quickly and insulin is required to do so. So eating these foods three times a day requires the pancreas (which releases the insulin) to work hard, ALL. DAY. LONG.
This is STRESS on the body.
There are also many other factors with eating only those foods. This includes the anti-nutrients they contain which make them difficult for us to digest. They also contain phytic acid which binds to minerals so we can’t extract as much of the nutrients out of those foods. Finally, it’s the overall nutrition profile. These foods don’t nourish us the way animal proteins and fats do.
So I eat this way (keto/carnivore) because it works for me and I recommend people TRY a similar lifestyle because I know the current state of people’s health and how they got there. BUT, I understand that people find this restrictive. The only people who tend to understand the need to be restrictive are the people who have been unwell and chose to listen to their bodies because they were tired of being sick. Or maybe their partner was unwell and they chose to support them and then recognised how great they felt without the processed, sugary stuff.
When you experiment for years, you naturally progress and evolve in your understanding and learning. I was sick in 2013, quit sugar. In 2014, quit processed foods, went low carb. Later in 2014, quit the pill and started eliminating toxic substances from my life. Added in more healthy fats and tried keto. In 2015 was full blown keto. In 2018, tried carnivore. In 2019, went back to keto, kept the high protein element. (Read my full health journey here).
Key message: If you never experiment, then you never learn, so you never evolve.
So going from eating a SAD (standard American diet) to a keto/carnivore diet seems absurd. I totally get that. There’s no evolution there. A good first step is elimination, a sugar detox.
But let me summarise some more key points regarding nutrition here:
1.A SAD (Standard American Diet) is not sustainable for health.
People will ultimately end up sick eating this way. People may not acknowledge themselves as “sick” but may suffer from allergies, depression, acne, sore joints, hormonal issues or a bunch of other things and just believe these to be NORMAL. You can’t eliminate those sugars, processed foods, get healthy and then go back. You’ll find yourself in the same boat again.
2. Veganism is NOT a long-term diet or lifestyle.
No, I’m not attacking vegans here, full respect for people so disciplined and invested in their health and the well-being of the animals. I come in peace. But, if we break down health into necessary macronutrients, the TWO essential ones are protein and fat. These make up our cells, enzymes, muscles, bones, skin, hair, brain etc etc. Carbs don’t. Yes, they are quick sources of energy but they are NON-ESSENTIAL. This is one reason why people do well on low/zero carb diet because the body doesn’t need carbs for fuel, we can make our own glucose endogenously (in the body).
One fear is that red meat (usually because of saturated fat) causes disease. There is not enough evidence to prove that meat causes cancer or any other illness, disease or leads to poor health. The studies done have not shown causation and those that claim to do so have too many variables.
The nutrient deficiencies on Vegan are concerning. We can go without animal protein for a while but eventually, the body becomes deficient. Common deficiencies include B12, calcium, iron, zinc, iodine and omega 3s. Fat soluble vitamins are also an issue. Eating plant-based means that a person’s body can’t absorb as much of the nutrients also, so not only the above mentioned vitamins and minerals are of concern, but many more.
When is a vegan diet not harmful (for some people)?
As a elimination diet or “detox” where foods are removed to allow the body to heal and identify problems upon reintroduction.
But the reality is that we NEED animal protein to build our cells, digest our food, help us fight disease. It prevents aging and the breakdown of muscle and bone, which is why long term vegans look so skinny and malnourished. They are literally starving their body of the animal proteins they need to grow and thrive and their body is consuming their own muscle. Depletion of nutrients will occur for all long term vegans.
Again, to reiterate: I’m not attacking vegans this is just science. Biochemically, we ALL need ANIMAL protein for our body’s functions.
So, people who try out being Vegan feel good usually because they’ve cleaned up their diet and are no longer consuming processed foods. But over time, their highly elevated blood sugars, along with the lack of protein will see deficiencies that lead to an extreme lack of energy, infertility/hormonal issues, aging, malnourishment and illness/disease, amongst many other things.
It’s not true health when done long term. That said, many cultures do this as a religious practice – giving up meat for a period of time – that is. Just think about Lent for example. But it’s for a PERIOD of time, not a permanent dietary change.
So what should we eat to be healthy? I like to eat a diet that does NOT include these foods:
- Refined sugars.
- Processed foods.
- Dairy that is pasteurised and homogenised.
- Hydrogenated oils (trans fats, think margarine, coffee creamer etc).
- Vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, soybean, canola, corn etc)
- Artificial fillers or any additives.
- Vegetables grown from GMO seeds. Non organic.
- Chemical agents used to spray foods or make them grow faster.
- Foods that are fortified (think bread that has added vitamins etc)
- Animals that come from a feedlot (CAFO) and are not allowed to roam (grass-fed) and are pumped with antibiotics and hormones to keep them alive and make them grow big to produce more meat.
- A diet solely of raw foods. We have evolved to eat them cooked too.
- Too much fruit.
- Foods like nuts/seeds/legumes/grains/vegetables that have NOT had their anti-nutrients (phytates) largely removed via soaking, sprouting or cooking.
There are a couple that are really hard to control but in an ideal world, I would also follow these and not consume:
- Foods from a different climate/part of the world (unless I’m there on holiday).
- Foods out of season. How many times a week, every week, do you eat broccoli, cauliflower, avocado and bananas?
So if you ate the way I’m suggesting, what would that leave you with?
- Whole foods.
- Unprocessed, unrefined, not out of a package foods.
- Things that need to be prepared at our homes.
- Foods that don’t assault our pancreas and spike our blood sugar over and over again.
- Animal proteins from reliable and safe sources.
- Healthy fats.
- Sprouted, soaked, cooked foods that we can easily digest and don’t irritate the gut lining.
- Healing foods like bone broth.
- Foods that feed the microbiome and enable the good bacteria to thrive (fermented/pickled foods)
- A balance of cooked vs raw food.
- Healthy carbohydrate options.
- Ancient grains prepared well.
- Foods your ancestors ate.
- Foods you gravitate towards (for me this is pork, beef, butter and eggs).
So there you have it, my 2 cents on how to be healthy and what to eat and avoid based on how the body works and the current state of people’s health.
I think the caveat here would be to listen to and know your body. Know what it wants and needs (and by that I don’t mean McDonald’s) to maintain a happy functioning system where you poop daily, have plenty of energy, don’t have brain fog constantly, don’t look older than you are, can move without pain and don’t get sick too often, or when you do, recover nicely.
I do believe that everyone should be eliminating these foods BECAUSE the other choices are NOT healthful foods (some are not foods at all. I mean, what even is white bread?
Most people are sick and in order to get healthy, they should work on eliminating these foods.
Once these foods have been eliminated and that person resumes full or near full health, should they go back? Well, try it and see.
I ate some sugary sweets in Thailand recently over New Years because I was curious about their taste and wanted a Thai food experience (and some were totally delicious) but 20 mins later, I felt a headache coming on. I ate too much sugar and my body let me know really quickly. It was ok, I recovered by hydrating and nourishing my body but once in a while is ok, you’ve just gotta know your limits.
So let’s say it’s your birthday and you want to have a cake or some ice-cream? Have some. If you’re not doing it every week like most people are who have their daily afternoon sweet treat and coffee, then you’ll mostly be fine (you’ll know if it’s something you can never eat again). But honestly, once most people shift over to a whole food diet, they view their health with fresh eyes and usually opt to make their own cake with almond meal or avoid altogether!
Want some more tips?
- Think for yourself. If you think someone is onto something, figure out if it’s for you before you try it.
- Experiment. It’s the only way you’ll know what works for you. BUT do it with research, support and give it time (months) to see if it’s for you.
- Decide WHY you want to try a new diet/lifestyle and if it’s sustainable or how long you see yourself committing for. Re-assess to see if you achieved your goals.
Do be aware that health can take a long time to improve and rectify. Some things heal quickly, others take years, and some things cannot be reversed (too much damage sustained for too long).
Food is key but food is not everything. Some other things I believe are huge factors in our health:
- Sleep (quality and quantity).
- Red light therapy.
- Using blue blockers to reduce blue light exposure (link).
- Staying hydrated.
- Minerals and supplements (because our food cannot always provide enough).
- EMF pollution/exposure (from technology mainly).
- Community, passion, love, care, support, hugs, smiles.
- A chance to decompress.
All of these are stress on the body. And stress on the body is never good (as we’ve seen with high blood sugar, a huge stressor). So monitoring these aspects of your life are also very important.
So what do you think? Do you agree with anything that I’ve said? Do I make sense? Am I being too sensitive? Restrictive? Demanding? Unreasonable? Awesome?
As I mentioned earlier, diet is a VERY individual thing. We are all at very different stages in our journeys and what works for one, may not work for another. However, in the case where someone is sick, elimination of the worse “foods” (sugar/processed stuff) is the best first step. Once your body has had the chance to resolve its blood sugar issues, then you can decide how you feel and progress towards the next step. That may be taking away more of the carbs like rice, pasta and grains (maybe you want to lose a lot of weight or have diabetes or high LDL and a lot of inflammation) leaving you with loads of low sugar fruits, veggies and lots of great meats, fish and healthy fat sources. If you still find yourself with digestive issues, you may need to eliminate all high fibre foods like vegetables. However, if you’re doing great there, then that may be where you stay.
It’s all about figuring out where you’re at and what works for you based on your needs. Not everyone needs to be low carb but it certainly does help people bring their health back on track and allow them to see things from a new perspective.
If you made it all the way to the bottom, thank you and please feel free to leave a (mature) comment.
To finding your inner glow,
For an honest breakdown of the reality of the EAT-Lancet’s report, check out the following links:
Belinda Fettke’s take on things…
Zoe Harcombes’ take on things…
Marty Kendell’s take on things… (hugely detailed)
Georgia Ede’s take on it…
Sustainable Dish podcast discussing whether methane really is the big issue people make it out to be…
In addition, Diana Rodger’s also discusses the villifying of meat here
The hypocrisy of it all…